The time has come for training camp to commence with Bucs players reporting on Friday for the start of another campaign.
When camp gets under way, there will be much to see and plenty to analyze. But we're here to help you make sense of it all.
Here's a training camp primer on some of what you should look for.
What the Bucs referred to as their offense last season was more of a hodgepodge scheme put together on the fly.
That's what happened when Greg Olson was promoted to offensive coordinator less than two weeks before the season opener on the heels of Jeff Jagodzinski's firing. Olson admittedly threw together a revamped, scaled-down scheme that included plays designed by Jagodzinski and former coach Jon Gruden. It was far from ideal.
Now Olson is promising a better-conceived offense because he has had an entire offseason to work on it.
But what will it look like?
That is not entirely clear. We know Olson is capable of exhibiting two philosophies. The same guy who has vowed to keep some of Gruden's dink-and-dunk, west coast principles coached Drew Brees at Purdue and was known for airing it out while the Rams offensive coordinator.
Perhaps this offense will wind up being somewhere in between.
Can McCoy hold his own?
Everyone from coach Raheem Morris down says expectations for linemen can't be based on the touch football of the offseason, when full-contact hitting is not allowed.
So all eyes will be on first-round pick Gerald McCoy once the pads go on. And among the matchups considered must-see is the defensive tackle against veteran offensive interior linemen Jeff Faine and Davin Joseph.
They will provide a stiff test for McCoy, something 2009 rookie Roy Miller learned last fall. Faine, especially, gave Miller fits in training camp, but it made the defensive tackle better.
McCoy's quickness will test Faine and Joseph. He is lightning fast off the ball and shoots through the gap in front of him. Faine and Joseph will counter with their athleticism. It should make for pretty entertaining battles.
Five players you don't know but will
Dekoda Watson: The rookie linebacker from Florida State, a seventh-round pick, likely won't play a lot during the regular season. But Morris has some ideas about using Watson as an edge rusher in certain situations.
Micheal Spurlock: No one will forget he recorded the first kickoff return for a touchdown in club history in 2007. But he remains an unknown as a position player. Spurlock has greatly improved as a receiver and bears some watching.
Tim Crowder: The defensive lineman appeared in 15 games last season (recording 31/2 sacks) and is the most experienced left end. Kyle Moore seems to have the inside track at starting, but Crowder should not be overlooked.
E.J. Biggers: This second-year cornerback faces long odds to crack the rotation, especially with third-round pick Myron Lewis on board. But Biggers had a great camp last year before missing the season with a shoulder injury.
Brent Bowden: It's easy to overlook a sixth-round pick, especially when he's a punter. But Bowden is basically being handed the job. And field position will, in part, be dictated by his performance.
Like Olson, Morris has had an entire offseason to devise strategies after taking over the defense from Jim Bates in November.
Though the Bucs will use the Tampa 2 as a basis, Morris is going to add lots of spice. That might come in the form of a three-man front, safety blitz or funky 3-3-5 configuration.
Whereas former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was a staunch opponent of blitzing, Morris doesn't mind one bit. He's hardly a traditionalist, and that should show after an offseason of thinking things over.
The Bucs aren't stressing over tight end Kellen Winslow's offseason knee surgery, and it's probably not warranted. But the real exhaling will take place once they see Winslow put the pads on, run around and take hits.
So much of the Bucs offense relies on the defense accounting for Winslow that he is among the most critical pieces of the roster. Winslow caught one out of every four Bucs completions last season, so one can imagine what things would be like without him.
Winslow will be broken in slowly, but coaches will be watching closely on every snap.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]