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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Three things to watch as Bucs mini-camp gets going

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field on Tuesday for the first of their three-day mandatory mini-camp. We have well-documented that the Bucs are anxious to put 2017 and their 5-11 season behind them.

And, they’re free agent additions and draft picks being added into the mix, that are giving them optimism headed towards training camp in July.

With all of that in mind, here are three things that we will be watching for this week:

-How does Rookie running back Ronald Jones (above) fit immediately into the running back plans?

Jones, who was drafted in the second round out of USC, is a speedster and definitely represents a game-breaking threat that the Buccaneers have not had in at least a few seasons. That being said he does not know the offense and has yet to demonstrate one specific aspect that will dictate playing time colon pass blocking.

The Buccaneers playing to feature Peyton Barber an undrafted player a couple of seasons ago, as their starter. Veteran Jacquizz Rodgers is also there, but the assumption is Jones will be on the field a bunch. How much and how soon? We shall see.

– Who will play right tackle in this minicamp and what does that foreshadow for the season if veteran Demar Dotson isn’t fully healthy or the team decides to go in another direction?

Dotson you may remember, suffered an offseason knee injury and has had surgery and is still a question mark, as to when he can return come training camp time and the preseason?

The Buccaneers have previously used former UCLA draft pick Caleb Benenoch as a replacement at right tackle, but also drafted Division II offensive lineman Alex Cappa from Humboldt State in California in April. And GM Jason Licht made it no secret earlier this offseason that they will try Cappa at right tackle.

Will we see him some in that position this week? Likely. If he and or Benenoch excel, could the team decide to use them this fall or will they wait it out for the veteran Dotson?

– Finally, with all the additions through free agency and number one draft pick Vita Vea, will the Buccaneers defensive line start coming to life this week?

This is especially with new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, who has already asserted himself as a vocal teacher to that group that includes veteran Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy.

In particular, the Buccaneer pass-rush was almost non-existent and dead last in the NFL in sacks last year. However the additions of Vinny Curry, Jason Pierre-Paul, Beau Allen, Mitch Unrein and Vea enhance the chances to succeed.

It has to all start coming together now to be ready for later this summer and the preseason

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Titans DB Adoree Jackson stood out against Bucs receivers Thursday

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Day two of practices in Nahsville for the Bucs and the Titans concluded around lunchtime and one player for Tennessee that made an impression was on their defensive side.

Second year defensive back Adoree’ Jackson, the Titans first round pick a year ago, went head to head repeatedly with Bucs WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson and more than held his own.

Here was an example of Jackson going against the Bucs’ Jackson in the redzone:

What Jackson, listed at 5’11 185 lbs., has demonstrated is that he can play much taller than his stature, if needed.  And Titans media continued to take note while watching him battle at the Titans facility:

Granted, these were in a lot of cases drills and 7 on 7 repetitions, but still when it was 11 on 11, at times, Jackson was standing out. This is interesting, because big free agent acquisition Malcolm Butler has been having some trouble one on one with Evans and Jackson over the two days.

During new Titans coach Mike Vrabel’s news conference, he was asked after briefly about Jackson:

“I didn’t see the backflip. Saw the ball get batted down. If he wants to backflip after he intercepts the ball, bats it down, I’m all for it.”

Jackson did not have an interception but did have 17 passes defended and 61 tackles, while playing in all 16 games in 2017. And, one of the other reasons that Tennessee spent a first round pick on him is his kick return ability. He was near lethal on both punts and kickoffs while at USC.

In his rookie year, Jackson averaged 8.5 yards per punt return and 23.1 yards on his kickoff returns, but his longest return was only 25 yards in 2017.

Now the question becomes: will Jackson take the next steps to become a great corner and dynamic returner this year in his career? We should get a good sample from him playing against the Bucs for a lot of the first half on Saturday night.

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Bucs QB Winston on practice with Titans- “We’re out here competing”

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Aug 9, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) calls a play at the line against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Day one of workouts with the Buccaneers and the Titans concluded on Wednesday and by all accounts, the Buccaneers offense was solid.

And for quarterback Jameis Winston it’s especially important to get good work in for a lot of reasons.

As you probably know by now, Winston is suspended for the first three games of the upcoming season for violation of the NFL personal conduct policy. However there’s also extra motivation while his team is practicing against Marcus Mariota’s team.

As we wrote earlier on Wednesday those two will be forever linked for a lot of different reasons from college and now the NFL.

And Winston did not shy away from questions about comparisons to Mariota and other subjects when he met with the media Wednesday afternoon:

On working against the Titans defensive backs for the first workout,

“First of all, I’ve just got to thank the Titans for letting us come out here and compete against them. I think it’s so much fun playing against different guys every day. When you’ve got guys like Mike (Evans) and DeSean (Jackson) paired against Malcolm Butler and the 25 (Adoree’ Jackson), oh my gosh, he’s incredible. So, it’s just good to get out here and compete.”

Here was an example of Winston hitting WR Chris Godwin in one of one on one drills:

Winston then talked about the value of getting to practice with “live reps,” against another defense:

“Yeah, it’s the closest feeling to a game that you get. We play against our guys every single day and sometimes they can predict some things that we’re throwing at them and sometimes make it unfair, especially on the defensive side when they’ve seen the same guys every single day. When you play against new guys, we get as much work done as they get of playing against us, too.”

And most of Winston talked about improving all the time, even with looming time off:

“I’m getting better every single day….Again, I’m just out here to compete. When you are out here competing, you don’t think about stuff (not being available for first three games) like that.”

It is expected that Winston will get the chance to compete some in the first half of the game on Saturday night. However, his work with the likes of Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin in these practices with Tennessee is also very valuable, as well.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs practicing with Titans- Winston/Mariota debate continues

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As the Buccaneers and the Titans hit the practice field together on Wednesday, the ongoing highly-publicized debate rekindles about who was the better choice three and a half years ago to lead a franchise?

The Bucs held the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and had a very intriguing and also controversial decision to make. Should they take the regional favorite and former Heisman trophy-winning and National Champion quarterback, Jameis Winston, from Florida State?

Or should they take the Heisman Trophy winning star quarterback from the University of Oregon in Marcus Mariota?

As you know by now, the Bucs took the risk, despite Jameis Winston’s background problems, including a sexual assault allegation at FSU, and drafted him anyway with that first pick.

Tennessee wasted no time and took Mariota to lead their franchise with the second overall pick.

And as the rotation of the NFL schedule would have it, and the NFL wasting no time to seize the opportunity, the Buccaneers hosted the Titans in week one of the 2015 season.

Weeks and weeks of built up to that opening game, which lead to Mariota playing brilliantly throwing four touchdown passes and having a near perfect quarterback rating. Meanwhile, Winston’s first NFL regular-season pass was intercepted and run back for a touchdown.

Winston would go on to have a shaky day with another “pick six,”  and, the Titans blew out the Buccaneers 42-14.

From then on, there has been” back and forth” scrutiny over which player is better for their franchise, and in the Bucs case, how might things have been different, if they had simply taken Mariota?

Both players would go on to have their teams on the verge of the playoffs at the end of the 2016 season. But, despite Winston having a good season, the Bucs could not capitalize on being 8-5 and lost two critical games at the end of the year at Dallas and at New Orleans virtually eliminating them from the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Mariota also had Tennessee in position, but was injured in week 16 suffering a broken leg in a defeat at the Jaguars, which basically eliminated the Titans from playoff contention.

Fast forward to the 2017 season, where Winston suffered a shoulder injury that cost him parts or all of five games. Tampa Bay floundered and were never relevant in 2017, finishing 5-11. Meanwhile, Mariota had a strong season and helped by Tennessee strong run game with Derrick Henry and a good defense, the Titans earned a wild-card spot.

Mariota then led a second-half comeback in the AFC Wildcard win at Kansas City. Thus, cementing his legacy for now, in Nashville.

Meanwhile, as has been heavily reported, allegations surfaced in November that Winston had inappropriately touched an Arizona female Uber driver in March of 2016. The NFL essentially believed the accuser and suspended Winston for the first three games of this upcoming season.

This further casts doubt as to Winston’s future in Tampa Bay.

So while it is just training camp, and these are just practices before a preseason game upcoming on Saturday night.

Nevertheless, get ready for much more debate and talk about which quarterback was the better choice then, which quarterback is the better bet now, and how big of a mistake did the Bucs truly make three years ago?

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