Buccaneers gear up for minicamp

Jameis Winston has drawn praise from coaches for his work ethic and ability to learn a complex new offense quickly. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Jameis Winston has drawn praise from coaches for his work ethic and ability to learn a complex new offense quickly. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published June 16, 2015

TAMPA — After three weeks of voluntary practices, the Bucs gather this week for three days of mandatory minicamp starting today, then they won't practice again for six weeks until the start of training camp.

It's still non-contact — which does not excuse Lovie Smith saying the word "underwear" as often as he will — but there are many storylines to watch as the Bucs get their last full-team session in before the start of camp, which should be in late July. Here's your primer:

HOW'S JAMEIS DOING? This will be the first question for any Bucs fan for quite some time: Just how well is former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston picking things up? Coaches have praised the No. 1 overall draft pick for his work ethic and ability to learn a complex new offense quickly.

Two weeks ago, he was working more with the No. 2 offense, but there was a normal rotation between Winston and third-year pro Mike Glennon at Thursday's session, which was open to the media. The team clearly recognizes the buzz surrounding Winston, sending out video clips via social media that show him completing passes in practice.

The Bucs will have Winston on the field learning as a starter from Week 1, barring an injury or significant setback in his progress. He'll be prominent in marketing promotions, but fans want to know how he's developing and how ready he'll be for his NFL debut in three months.

MORE ROOKIES: Donovan Smith, the Bucs' second-round pick from Penn State, is already working as the starting left tackle in practice, so the question this week is whether Tampa Bay's other second-rounder, guard Ali Marpet from Division III Hobart College, can join him as a starter.

Marpet, transitioning from tackle to guard as well as small school to NFL, has been working with the second-string line, with seldom-used Garrett Gilkey working as the first-team right guard. Gilkey's top challengers at right guard — Marpet and Kadeem Edwards, who essentially redshirted last year between being inactive and injured all season — have never taken an NFL snap.

How quickly can Marpet work into the starting lineup? If it doesn't happen this week, it'll be one of the position battles to watch in training camp.

SAFETY SHUFFLE: Newcomer D.J. Swearinger has turned heads and was working extensively with the starters last week. That sets up a four-player battle for playing time at safety, with Bradley McDougald and Major Wright back from last season, and free agent Chris Conte also getting significant snaps.

With Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson traded away in the past nine months, safety is a position of major turnover. Can Lovie Smith find the best rotation among those four?

WELCOME BACK: The Bucs were fortunate to claim tight end Tim Wright off waivers from the Patriots on Friday, getting back a promising young player they had traded away last fall in the Logan Mankins deal.

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Wright had six touchdowns for the Patriots last year, and Lovie Smith had talked last summer about him being part of a dangerous two-receiver, two-tight end set with Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Wright is the smallest of the four at 6 feet 4, 220 pounds.

The Bucs have good returning depth at tight end in Seferian-Jenkins, Brandon Myers and Luke Stocker, but a young quarterback can't have enough big targets.

MORE TO WATCH: Right tackle Demar Dotson will be back after sitting out two weeks of voluntary workouts. How soon can he and the Bucs mend things and finalize a new contract? …New punter Spencer Lanning, a waiver claim from the Browns, will challenge veteran Michael Koenen for the punting job this fall. Lanning had better averages last year and is much less expensive. … Rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander, still just 20 years old, has made a quick impression and will make a push for playing time. … Sterling Moore, presumed to be the starting nickel after signing in free agency, is getting plenty of work at corner, where he could be the No. 3 behind starters Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks. … Matt Masifilo, converted from defensive tackle to guard this spring, has taken well to the new position and is pushing for work with the second-team offensive line.