Slowly, but surely, football is inching closer. In the last few days players have begun to report to camps and later this week the Buccaneers will do the same. And while camp isn’t really football, there are still plenty of storylines to follow. For the Bucs there are actually quiet a few as they look to take the step from a good team to a playoff team. Here are my top five things to watch.
Bucs' Roberto Aguayo: "My biggest competition is myself. I know what I'm capable of and what I can do. When I'm on, I can nail everything."
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) July 28, 2017
5. The Kicking Game
It’s no secret that rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo struggled in his first season. So much so that the Bucs brought in some serious competition in the form of Nick Folk. While the Bucs may want Aguayo to win the job after investing a second round pick in him, they won’t let that stop them from cutting him if he doesn’t earn the job. Games can be won and lost on the kicker’s leg and the team can’t afford to have a bad one if they want to return to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. So it’s put up or shut up time for Aguayo. He’ll either validate the pick the Bucs spent on him (to some degree) or he’ll be one of the biggest busts in franchise history.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) July 29, 2017
4. O.J. Howard
Howard is a once in a generation type talent at tight end. His size, speed, sure hands and ability to block make him a perfect specimen to dominate in the NFL. However, we have to keep in mind that he is only a rookie and it will take him time to adjust to the NFL game. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy watching him as he starts his NFL journey. He will battle with incumbent Cameron Brate (who was one of the best pass catching TEs in the league last year) for the starting job. Even if he doesn’t win the job in camp, he should make plenty of plays and really impress everyone in attendance. So basically sit back and enjoy watching this potential superstar in the making.
RELATED: O.J. Howard Scouting Report
3. Linebackers Depth
The Bucs moved back into the end of the third round to draft Kendell Beckwith. However, he tore his ACL in November and he will likely miss time in the upcoming season. So until he is healthy and ready to take the reigns of the starting SAM linebacker job someone will have to step up and fill in. Devante Bond, a sixth round pick from the 2016 draft, seems to be the leading candidate at this point. But with him missing much of last season with a hamstring injury he is hardly a lock for the job. The Bucs initially signed several undrafted linebackers following the draft including Michigan State’s Riley Bullough and Arizona’s Paul Magloire. It’s likely they bring in a few veterans once camp is in swing who could very well take this job as well. It will be interesting to see the competition and who will emerge in this race, but really I just want to know if the Bucs have any depth at all behind the projected starters.
2. J.R. Sweezy
The Bucs received criticism in the offseason for not making moves to improve their offensive line. They didn’t bring anyone in to fight for a starting job and they will have four starters returning. The one new fave will be last year’s free agent signing, J.R. Sweezy. Sweezy will be taking over at right guard with Ali Marpet moving inside to center, after missing all of last year with a back injury. He has the reputation of being a nasty, physical run blocker. If he can return to form after missing 2016 then the Bucs could have an excellent combination on the interior of their line with Marpet being one of the best run blockers in the league. His progression will be something to keep an eye on.
1. The Secondary
There are so many storylines here. How will Vernon Hargreaves progress entering his second season? Can Brent Grimes continue to play at a high level as he approaches retirement? Can second round pick Justin Evans compete for the starting free safety job? How good is the cornerback depth? Really, every position in the secondary comes with some kind of question. While I think the Bucs have talent to work with in the backend, I’m still not sure how it will all come together when the regular season rolls around. We will know more with each passing day of training camp.