TAMPA – The Buccaneers arrived at One Buc Place for the start of training camp on Thursday amid great expectations, greater perhaps than any Bucs team has had since the 2007 team went to the playoffs.
The reasons are rather obvious.
Coming off a 9-7 season in 2016 and an offseason devoted largely to improving the arsenal around quarterback Jameis Winston, the Bucs are for once a very chic pick to break their long playoff drought.
A lot will have to go right for that to happen, though, and no one seems to know that better than coach Dirk Koetter, who has wisely tried to quell some of the enthusiasm in an effort to keep his players focused.
With the start of camp workouts now less than 24 hours away, here’s a look at three situations that will factor heavily into the Bucs chances of playing up to the expectations everyone seems to have for them.
The kicking battle
It’s really remarkable that amid all the struggles that rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo suffered through last year, he never once cost the Bucs a game by missing a field goal or an extra point. In fact, he actually won them a couple of games.
It’s unlikely the Bucs will be that lucky this year, especially if Aguayo remains as inconsistent as he was last year, which is why the Bucs wisely brought in veteran Nick Folk to challenge the second-round draft pick for the kicker’s job.
What the Bucs are looking for here is consistency, so every kick – whether it’s in a training camp drill or an exhibition game – will count. Considering what’s at stake it’s a good bet the Bucs will go with the veteran in the end but if Aguayo can regain his college form he could easily save his job.
The deep ball
One of the things that has everyone so excited about the Bucs, of course, is the addition of wide receiver DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard. Together they will provide Winston with two long-range weapons that should result in more explosive game-breaking plays.
The key to success here, though, mostly lies with Winston, who despite having the arm strength to capitalize on those deep threats, has only completed 48.1-percent of the passes he’s thrown more than 10 yards down the field since coming to the NFL.
The Bucs have spent two years trying to correct a lot of the mechanical flaws Winston came into the NFL with and have challenged him to be more precise this year. He’ll have to be if the Bucs are going to get the most out of all the new toys he has to work with.
There were very few days when the defense didn’t seem to get the better of the offense during offseason workouts this spring and while that doesn’t necessarily speak well for the offense, it speaks volumes for how far the defense has come since this time last year.
Bucs players readily admit that for more than a month or two they were absolutely lost in coordinator Mike Smith’s scheme last year. It wasn’t until the second half of the season that they finally started to figure things out, and when they did the defense took off.
The Bucs allowed an average of just 17 points and less than 350 yards per game during their last eight games last year and they’re probably going to need that trend to continue to get to the playoffs, so if you hear that the defense is dominating in camp drills again, don’t fret. In the long run, it’s probably a good thing.
Bucs coach Arians again non-committal Tuesday on QB Winston
It’s become increasingly apparent, that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to move on from potential free agent quarterback Jameis Winston. And Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, coach Bruce Arians gave the latest example that he and the Buccaneers front office will look at the other options available first.
Arians spoke at a podium on numerous subjects, but the most prominent is what Tampa Bay will do in the coming days with Winston?
— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) February 25, 2020
Arians was asked directly about potential for a franchise tag for his starter a year ago and what the Bucs might proceed to do? But, he refused to endorse that option on the former number one overall pick Winston. And, the Bucs coach maintained that the team will possibly us the franchise tag for defensive end Shaq Barrett.
Further, Arians gave a pointed specific answer on Winston’s poor play last December as the team finished 7-9 and that has the team looking at other options,
Arians on Winston and why it’s still uncertain: “December wasn’t what I wanted to see.”
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) February 25, 2020
Arians has consistently refused back Winston since the off-season began. This included at an NFL coaching seminar earlier this month in Tampa. He said to the media at that time:
“Really nothing has changed,” Arians said. “What’s Door No. 2? You know? Can we make the one we have better? All those things you go through right now.”
“You’re just sitting there waiting to see is there someone available? … Is he a better option?
The Buccaneers faltered in the middle of the season to drop to 3-7 and then, Winston and Co. blew its final two games to finish 7 – 9 with Winston throwing a career-high 30 interceptions.
After their final loss at home to Atlanta in overtime, where Winston threw the game losing “pick six,” Arians was candid after the final game by saying about Winston’s play that it would have to be evaluated pass by pass and game by game in the off-season. Further, he told the media then, that there “was some great and some terrible…. and you have to decide, if the great outweighs the terrible.”
While Winston did throw for a career-high 5000 + yards in 2019, his interceptions and total turnovers continued to be his downfall throughout the season. The Buccaneers finished 1 – 6 in games against teams with winning records and Winston had 17 total turnovers in those seven games. He finished with the 30 picks that included 10 of them in the Bucs final four games.
Tampa Bay obviously will have the opportunity to go after a free agent quarterback or two, as there is much speculation about the likes of Tom Brady with the Patriots. Plus, Philip Rivers will not be re-signed by the Chargers and is available come March. And, now that Drew Brees has announced he wants to play at least one more year for the Saints, their backup Teddy Bridgewater will be in demand on the market.
The Bucs are also continuing the evaluating the QB class for the Draft the next few days in Indy, which could have some interesting names still available in the second and third rounds and beyond.
Bucs confirmed Monday they will have new uniforms in 2020
On Monday, the Bucs confirmed what they have been hinting at, they will have new uniforms in 2020. But the real question is: what does “new” mean in this instance?
We heard you!
New uniforms coming April 2020. pic.twitter.com/e7qNUsNWZb
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) February 24, 2020
The Bucs also released a statement through their website confirming that April will be the unveiling of the new uniforms, as well as, potential new color scheme, logo, etc. and had these comments from co – owner, Ed Glazer:
“We have heard the feedback from our fans loud and clear and have been working with the NFL and our league partners at Nike to usher in a new look as we enter this next decade of Buccaneers football. We look forward to revealing more details in the near future about our official unveiling event which will take place later this spring.”
As we wrote earlier this month, the Buccaneers have been hinting at trying to enhance their uniforms and there is some belief there will be more orange, the original color of the franchise. There is also educated speculation that the team may go back to a white helmet, which will enable them to have “throwback uniform games” that they’ve not been able to have for the last seven seasons.
This is because under league concussion protocol, players must have the same helmet all season and the Bucs primary one has been pewter in color since their chance in colors and logo in 1997,
The Bucs last altered their uniforms in 2014 by brightening the color red and slightly changing the logo and making it bigger on their pewter helmet. Teammates Ryan Jensen and Mike Evans are shown in the current color scheme, etc. above.
NFL teams have to submit changes in their colors and logos a year in advance. So obviously, this has been in the works for the Glazer family that owns the team for some time.
It should be noted that the Buccaneers NFC South Rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, have already made mention that they are changing their uniforms and color scheme. And, it’s believed that they will go back in 2020 to their original base color of red including possibly red helmets and potentially, primarily gray pants that they wore for over twenty years.
The Falcons have had black helmets for the better part of 30 years going back to Jerry Glanville changing the color scheme to primarily black jerseys in his days at the Falcons coach in the early 1990s.
Back to the Bucs. There is no other team in the NFL that has orange as their primary jersey color. The Bengals Broncos and Browns have occasionally worn orange “alternate jerseys” but not full time.
So, if the Glazers are again embracing a change to mostly orange jerseys, it will be unique. The video Monday showed a red jersey on a sewing machine, which could be a clue or could be misdirection of what the team actually intends to unveil in April.