Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ten observations from Week 1 of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp

TAMPA

My first (and 10) observations from the initial week of camp under first-year coach Greg Schiano.

1. This team will be in great shape in September — those who still can play, that is. After another hot and humid workout, the sweat formed puddles inside defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's cleats and squished out the sides with every step. Heat-related injuries and illnesses have been too commonplace. Tulane and Howard aren't on the schedule, and the only breather is a too-early Week 5 bye.

2. The team might have pulled the trigger too soon on Brian Price. It's possible Price's physical and emotional problems will prevent him from doing much for the Bears. But a team that has no depth at defensive tackle should not so easily dismiss one with talent. Amobi Okoye is limited after arthroscopic knee surgery. Gary Gipson? Roy Miller? Rotational guys, but do they start for any other team?

3. Demar Dotson is surprisingly effective. Considering he only played one season at Southern Miss, Dotson has done an adequate job filling in for injured starting left tackle Donald Penn, who might not play until the third preseason game. Of course, the quarterback can't be hit during camp. We'll see what happens when he faces the Dolphins' Cameron Wake on Friday.

4. The secondary will be a work in progress. Rookie Mark Barron has missed time with a toe injury. Ronde Barber needed a few days off because he's in his 16th season. Neither have played an NFL game at safety. Cornerback Eric Wright has had back tightness. In a few weeks, they'll be targeted by Cam Newton.

5. Josh Freeman is right on schedule for a bounce-back season. The quarterback struggled a bit during the first few days of camp, but his accuracy and command of the offense has improved each day. He's making better use of all his weapons; not just locking in on receiver Vincent Jackson.

6. Speaking of Jackson, if you want to see what a No. 1 wideout in the NFL looks like, watch him. Other than Keyshawn Johnson, who had pedigree and production but didn't stretch the field, Jackson might be one of the best receivers the Bucs have ever employed. If he stays healthy, pencil him in for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.

7. LeGarrette Blount and rookie Doug Martin could become a pretty good one-two punch at running back. First-year offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan believes in ground-and-pound, play-action football. Competition has brought out the best in Blount, and Martin is a complete back.

8. There could be close to a 50 percent turnover of the roster. A new set of eyes has been good for cornerbacks Anthony Gaitor and Myron Lewis and safeties Larry Asante and Ahmad Black but not so good for safety Cody Grimm, who is running with the third team. A broken leg in 2010 and torn right knee ligaments after three games last season have derailed his career, but Grimm says his body has felt good over the past month. Said Schiano: "I definitely think Cody's strength is when you get in game situations and when you can play live because he'll put his face on you and go get you."

9. The best battle in camp is at receiver. Arrelious Benn is recovering from a sprained right MCL. After Jackson and Mike Williams, there's a logjam with Preston Parker, Sammie Stroughter and Tiquan Underwood.

10. First-year defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan has a much harder job than Sullivan. It takes more than a new scheme and rookies at linebacker and safety to turn the worst defense in franchise history around. Newton, Eli Manning and Tony Romo will lick their chops during the first three weeks, to say nothing of meetings with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.

Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.

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