TAMPA – Week two of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp is in full-swing, with the home squad still doing the “bigger picture” work in all three phases. The “here-and-now” of their first preseason game in Cincinnati on Friday is starting to creep into the picture though, evidenced by the reveal of the first “official” (we use that term extremely lightly in most cases) depth chart of the 2017-18 season. We started this journey last week with some overall musings and backstory from the 2016-17 season, now let us get you up to speed with a little more of the same, plus a little peak at the mindset of the squad as they prepare to head north for their first contest of the preseason.
The defensive side of the ball seems to be falling into place nicely for the Bucs, and one switch from last week is Head Coach Dirk Koetter and Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith starting to get better looks at who will provide the depth at their safety positions within their various packages. It appears that JJ Wilcox and the rookie Justin Evans from Texas A&M are those guys that will make things happen behind Keith Tandy and Chris Conte.
Speaking of Evans, his camp as been really good and should he make the squad, that would give the Aggies a total of four players representing them on the roster, just one behind FSU with five. Evans was A&M’s second-leading tackler in 2016 with 87 tackles and four interceptions. The others from College Station are Mike Evans, OL Justin Harrison and WR Derel Walker–who has had a very nice camp for himself in the early stages as well. Rookie Josh Huff from Oregon is another high performer at the WR spot thus far and with the presence of Penn State wideout Chris Godwin, the Bucs could be on to something very special with this crop of youngsters.
While it’s quite apparent that Doug Martin will be the feature back when he returns from suspension week three, then it’s equally non-apparent at who will be the backup quarterback behind Jameis Winston, as well as who will get the undying confidence of Coach Koetter to perform the kicking duties. While Roberto Aguayo is listed as the #1 at this point, this battle is far from settled. The depth chart simply lists Ryan Fitzpatrick OR Ryan Griffin at the backup spot. That’s—not exactly a vote of confidence, right? Right.
A little more about that depth chart. While the Bucs may be one of the NFL’s youngest teams in age, they’ve listed just one rookie on the starting offense in advance of the Bengals game this Friday. That would be OJ Howard. Starting opposite of Howard will be Cameron Brate. Luke Stoecker and Tevin Westbrook (from UF) are listed as their backups respectively. There are zero rookies on the first team defense listed, but there are two on the second unit, and they are LB Kendell Beckwith and Safety Justin Evans. Since the depth on this team is what’s of biggest importance, we will most certainly keep our eyes peeled at every single battle as it pertains moving forward to week one.
“My hope is that we quit talking about it in my daily press conference. That’s my main hope, because my job is to coach the football team, not to worry about that.” DIRK KOETTER IS NOT HERE FOR THE NONSENSE YOU GUYS. It’s hot. Like, unreasonably hot. We know, we get it. It’s August in Florida. That’s the reason why we will wholeheartedly endorse Head Coach Dirk Koetter’s indigence and frustration with answering the same topical questions under the stifling summer sun. His quotes bare witness that sometimes you’ve simply got to walk away. That gem was regarding the season premiere of HBO’s Hard Knocks, and this one regarding the depth chart and what we should read into its first installment: “The thing that’s worth reading into is I spent about 19 seconds working on that, trying to fit 90 guys into a two-deep.”
Starting QB and face of the franchise Jameis Winston’s a little more jacked-up to watch ‘Hard Knocks’, but we’d much rather hear about his feelings about camp and their business trip to Ohio on Firday. “I’m just ready to play. I’m ready to play against somebody other than Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald and Kwon Alexander [laughs]. I love those guys – and obviously, they’re the best in the game – but I’m happy to play against someone else now. I think that’s the fun part.” said Winston.
The first week of camp is unique in that it’s the only other week of the season besides the bye week that players are not prepping for a contest at the end of it. The first week of camp has come and gone, and so the grind TRULY begins. “It’s more about knowing what we’ve got coming up. It’s game time. If you think about it, from now on, we are going to be playing football. We are going to have a game every single week, so the message is: Now it’s time to execute, now it’s time to put behind all the mistakes, all the [mental errors], it’s time to play some football man. Now, it’s starting to count. It’s going to be here before we know it.”
Stay tuned for Friday’s installment as we breakdown what we are (specifically) watching for as the Bucs put their 2017-18 version of themselves on display for the first time.