The Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially reported to training camp last Friday as preparations began in earnest for the 2019 season.
There are a lot of question marks on this Bucs team as the season approaches.
Safety Justin Evans, linebacker Jack Cichy, and linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul are just a handful of the Buccaneer players who opened training camp on the PUP list. Evans is recovering from foot surgery during mini-camp, Cichy is still recovering from his torn ACL, and Pierre-Paul is still wearing the neck brace as a result of a car accident in May. Pierre-Paul could miss the entire 2019 season.
With Bruce Arians as the new sheriff in town and Todd Bowles taking over as the defensive coordinator, expectations are high for this Bucs team to show immediate improvement.
Arians has been quoted numerous times in the off-season saying that he is not into re-building. He believes he can win with Jameis Winston as his quarterback and believes that if not for a little bit of bad karma by the football gods, the Buccaneers would have been better than their 2018 5-11 record.
Here are some questions that need to be answered for all Buccaneer fans.
- Can Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich elevate Jameis Winston’s game? Arians seems to think that a lot of Winston’s problems with turnovers come from poor mechanics and that Winston’s high number of interceptions comes from the fact that the Bucs were behind so often in games that Winston had no choice but to throw the ball to get the Bucs back in the game. The more you throw the ball, the more interceptions you have. An improved Jameis Winston is what the Bucs will need to get to that next level.
- Will Vernon Hargreaves ever be the player in the NFL that the Bucs thought they were getting when drafting him out of Florida? To say Hargreaves has struggled would be an understatement. Hargreaves plays well in a man-to-man in-your-face aggressive coverage, not the soft zone scheme that was employed by Mike Smith. The Bucs did pick up the option on his contract for 2020, so let’s hope Bowles can get Hargreaves’ play back up to the level that is needed to help the defense.
- Is the secondary better than last year? On paper, yes, they are much better. Jamel Dean, Mike Edwards, and Sean Murphy are guys that can excel in man-to-man coverage which Bowles will deploy a lot. These guys also bring a physical presence to the game which was lacking the last few years.
The big question marks are Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis. Hargreaves and Davis are the starters at corner going into trading camp but don’t be surprised if Dean or Murphy win a starting job.
The safety position will be challenged the first part of the season with Justin Evans starting on the PUP list and Ryan Smith being suspended the first four games of the season for substance abuse.
Mike Edwards has a good chance of starting opposite Evans. Evans should be healthy enough to start the season, but with foot and ankle injuries, you never know.
Cairo Santos seemed to bring some stability to the kicking game last season after he was signed, connecting on five of six field goals and also making five of six extra points. Santos will compete with Matt Gay, the rookie from Utah, for kicking field goals and extra points. Gay has a strong leg and was a Lou Groza Award winner in College. Gay will be the kicker barring an injury in training camp this season. The Bucs would not have spent a fifth-round pick on a kicker and cut him in training camp.
Punter Bradley Pinion signed a four-year contract in the off-season and will handle the punting duties and could also handle the kickoff duties.