The Bucs had some positives in their preseason opener in Pittsburgh on Friday night. And that includes, what may be their biggest asset, their receiving corps.
Starting with the opening drive with quarterback Jameis Winston, it became obvious, quickly that Tampa Bay has a multitude of talented pass catchers that can be utilized throughout the season.
Winston went 5 for 6 for 40 yards on his throws, including two completions to third year receiver Chris Godwin. The second of which, Godwin scored on (above) from nine yards out to cap the opening 81 yard TD drive. Godwin came on strong at the end of last season with 59 catches and 7 TDs, as the compliment to Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans.
And, it’s obvious, that the new coaching staff of Bruce Arians with his play caller Byron Leftwich look to utilize his talents more this season.
Tampa Bay also boasts having two of the best pass-catching tight ends in football with Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. Brate battled a hip injury through much of last season, but appears to be back fully healthy during this training camp. And, he has been a favorite target of Winston, especially in the red zone, throughout his career.
Howard, the Bucs first round pick two years ago, is a big talented tight, end but has suffered ankle injuries at the end of each of his first two seasons in NFL. Yet, when healthy, he is a dynamic large down the field pass-catching threat, as well.
Throw-in Speedy second-year receiver Justin Watson out of Penn, who had four catches for 37 yards against the Steelers Friday night, and a free agent veteran deep threat in former Cleveland Brown Breshad Perriman They will be competing to see the field with one of the several young receivers trying to land one or two of the final roster spots.
Those include third year player, Bobo Wilson, who played with Winston at FSU or an undrafted free agent like Spencer Schnell ,who caught seven balls for 119 yards against the Pittsburgh second and third team Friday.
Again, the Bucs have no shortage of guys to go to.
And, that also opens the possibility that Tampa Bay might look for a trade with a team in need of one of those receivers, especially if the Buccaneers could get a solid draft pick. Then again, GM Jason Licht, and a new coach in Arians may choose to keep five or six of the best ones in the event of injury, quality of competition, etc.
The Bucs may have concerns in other areas like offensive line and with a young inexperienced secodary, but catching footballs?
That apparently won’t apparently be one of them.
Bucs will put former defensive coordinator Kiffin in Ring of Honor
The Bucs are looking forward to their future with a second year under new coach Bruce Arians, but on Friday night, they reached back to their past to honor one of their top assistant coaches in franchise history. And. this fall they will put him in their “Ring of Honor.”
Monte Kiffin, who along with coach Tony Dungy were the architects of the Buccaneers “Tampa 2” defense will become the team’s 14th member of their Ring of Honor in the 2020 season:
Monte Kiffin has been selected as the 14th member of the Buccaneers Ring of Honor!
The Glazer Family surprised Coach Kiffin with the news tonight at his 80th birthday party at Raymond James Stadium.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) February 22, 2020
The Buccaneers made the announcement Friday night as Kiffin was being honored by the organization, his former players, friends and family, as part of his 80th birthday celebration.
Kiffin who came with Dungy in 1996 to the Bucs and led the defense for 13 seasons, helped Tampa Bay’s defense become one of the youngest fastest and fiercest in all of the NFL in just a few short seasons.
Led by now Hall of Famers, Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, plus Hall of Fame finalists John Lynch and Ronde Barber, the Bucs defense rose to the number one in the NFL in 1999 and again, in 2002. That season, led by new coach Jon Gruden in his first year and Kiffin’s defense, Tampa Bay won their first and only World Championship cementing Kiffin’s legacy.
Kiffin left the Bucs to go coach at the University of Tennessee, when his son Lane became the head coach for one season in 2009. He then left Knoxville after that season when Lane Kiffin took the USC job. He has spent recent years, as a defensive coach/consultant with the Cowboys and also the Jaguars.
The last couple of seasons he had been with Lane Kiffin in an advisory role at Florida Atlantic.
The Bucs have put 13 previous former players, coaches and even owner Malcolm Glazer, in their Ring of Honor. And, that list includes Sapp, Brooks Lynch and Barber, who was inducted a year ago. Kiffin will be the first assistant coach to be honored. Previously, Gruden (2017) and Dungy (2018) have also both been put in as head coaches, with the architect of the original Buccaneers, John McKay also being inducted also back in 2010.
Should RT Jack Conklin be on Bucs free agent radar?
As NFL teams continue to do their due diligence on not only their own potential free agents, but what others might be out there too, an interesting name has emerged that could give the Bucs, and other teams, some offensive line help.
It appears that the Titans, fresh off a tremendous playoff run into the AFC Championship game may be willing to part with former number 1 pick, starting right tackle Jack Conklin. And if they’re going to let the former Michigan State star test free agency, Tampa Bay may have a real interest.
First, the Bucs are looking at options on their line, as the senior member of their roster, right tackle Demar Dotson, who’s played his entire 11 year career in Tampa and will be 35 years old this fall, is slated to be a free agent, as well.
And while Dotson has been a mainstay over the course of the last decade on the Bucs offensive line, GM Jason lick and Coach Bruce Arians maybe looking to get younger and some better play out of that position.
Tennessee elected not to pick up Conklin’s fifth year option on his rookie deal and there are some concerns about his ability to pass block. However, there’s no doubting that with power back Derrick Henry, Conklin was part of the unit on offense that played “smash mouth football” throughout the postseason. And, they scored upsets of the Patriots and the Ravens in part behind their tough ground game before falling at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.
Conklin did suffer an ACL injury in his second season but is fully healed from that now, and he could be a very cost-effective option four teams looking to solidify their offensive line. Conklin made only $2.7 million in the final year of his initial four year deal with the team declining his $12.9 million option.
As for the Bucs, they already have massive money invested in center Ryan Jensen, guard Ali Marpet and left tackle Donovan Smith on their line, but at the same time, the Bucs also have close to $85 million under the cap once free agency begins.
Clearly, their top priorities are figuring out whether to bring back QB Jameis Winston (and at what price?) and also, how many free agent to be defensive linemen out of Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre Paul and Ndamukong Suh they can also fit under their cap.
Still, you cannot have enough good lineman, and perhaps grabbing the Titans former starter off a playoff team would improve their run game, which sputtered a lot of 2019.
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