Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers to throw rookies into fire of NFL season opener

TAMPA — Alabama is the envy of college football today. But when Mark Barron arrived on campus in the fall of 2008, the Crimson Tide was coming off two seasons in which it went a combined 13-13.

Two national championships later, the Bucs' first-round pick has fond reflections.

"At Alabama," Barron said, "my class was really the one that started the turnaround."

Wouldn't it be interesting if the Bucs' current rookie class had a similar impact?

"I hope I can look back one day and say that," the strong safety said.

The Bucs rookies get their first exposure to regular-season NFL football Sunday against the Panthers at Raymond James Stadium. Three will start, and three others are expected to see action.

Barron has been a starter from the day he walked through the doors, drafted seventh overall. The Bucs traded up to land Boise State running back Doug Martin at No. 31. He dazzled during the preseason and also will start Sunday.

Then, there's second-round pick Lavonte David, a linebacker out of Nebraska whom the Bucs targeted for his diverse skill set and also traded up in order to draft.

He'll start on the weakside, having already created high expectations.

The remaining draft picks on the roster — fifth-round linebacker Najee Goode from West Virginia, sixth-round safety Keith Tandy from West Virginia and seventh-round running back Michael Smith from Utah State — have a chance to make contributions on special teams or as backups.

"I feel like we have some players who can come in and have immediate impact," Barron said. "I feel like we can all really help this team."

The Bucs aren't bringing these rookies along slowly, either.

And that begs the question: How do they know the rookies are ready?

Coach Greg Schiano said the team targeted players from major programs for that reason.

"If you look at the common denominators, these are guys who played in big venues and really had performed at a high level at the highest level of college football," he said. "I think that certainly gives you an advantage.

"Mark Barron, coming from Alabama where there's … 100,000 people every week, I'm not sure this is going to be too big for him."

Many rookies showed promise during the preseason, even in limited playing time:

• Martin led the team in rushing.

• Barron returned an interception for a touchdown and was a reliable tackler.

• David had two tackles for losses and an interception.

• Smith grabbed hold of the kickoff-return duties, averaging 31.7 yards.

• Tandy led the club in tackles (22).

"I think we kept showing up in practice, then we kept showing up in preseason games," Smith said. "We kept showing up and showing up, and after a while, it's not a coincidence. But we have to come out and earn it and keep playing hard to show them we belong in the NFL."

The Bucs hope this rookie class can be a part of a turnaround for a team that was 4-12 last year, including 10 consecutive losses to end the season.

"We have a whole new coaching staff, and things are kind of starting over," David said. "I think we have a great chance to be something special."

Said Smith: "I want to look back one day and smile and say, 'Oh yeah, that was us. We came in and did our thing.' "

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]m. View his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bucs and follow him on Twitter at @HolderStephen.

Comments
NFL draft: How the Bucs can grab hold of the NFC South

NFL draft: How the Bucs can grab hold of the NFC South

TAMPA — From the department of the weird, also known as Bucs marketing genius — also known as if it bombs, we can blame Ed Glazer — the Bucs will use a … parrot to announce their fourth-round pick in the NFL Draft, which kicks...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Q&A with Bucs tackle Donovan Smith: On bowling, charity work, team expectations

Q&A with Bucs tackle Donovan Smith: On bowling, charity work, team expectations

Bucs tackle Donovan Smith has a big season ahead, going into a contract year as part of a reshuffled offensive line. Still only 24, he has started all 48 games in his three NFL seasons, and has made it a priority in the offseason to be more active in...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

TAMPA – This is the Rubiks Cube of NFL drafts. It can be twisted and turned it in any direction. Not many know how everything will line up.For the Bucs, the puzzle is simple.  Since they have the No. 7 overall pick, they need four quarterb...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Mock draft consensus: Who the experts have Bucs taking at No. 7

Mock draft consensus: Who the experts have Bucs taking at No. 7

We've linked to a lot of mock drafts over the last four months.We went back and assembled mocks from 40 different NFL writers we've linked to — this isn't the most recent for some of these who are in Mock 9.0 mode, but it's meant as an unscient...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Who will the Bucs take with the No. 7 pick?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Who will the Bucs take with the No. 7 pick?

Rick Stroud answers your NFL draft questions in this mailbag segment, including who the Bucs might take with the seventh overall pick, which running backs they might be looking at, whether Taven Bryan could slip to them in the second r...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

For months, NFL fans have wondered what the Bucs might do with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's draft, producing a wide range of answers, each with passionate support from some of their fans.But as draft nears, and as the interest level in a talented gro...
Published: 04/24/18
Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Vita VeaPosition: Defensive tackleSchool: WashingtonHeight/weight: 6-4, 347Draft projection: Round 1Why Vita Vea makes sense for the Bucs: Vea's combination of size and quick feet is rare. He ran a 5.1 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 40 tim...
Published: 04/24/18
Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

The final days leading up to the NFL draft can be a busy time, but rarely do you call someone you trust from a team and say: "What can you tell me about the parrot?"Yes, the Bucs will have a parrot — specifically a Catalina macaw named Zsa Zsa ...
Published: 04/24/18
Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

So much of the attention Monday surrounding the Bucs' announcing who'd be announcing their late-round draft picks was, of course, that a parrot would be delivering the name of the fourth-round pick to the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium.But late...
Published: 04/24/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

On today's Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast, Rick Stroud breaks down the NFL draft with the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer.Farmer coordinates a mock draft with beat writers around the league, and it's usually one of the most accurate prognostications...
Published: 04/24/18