With 21 days of training camp practices now in the books, where the Buccaneers are in their development in Year Two of Greg Schiano’s reign is still up in the air. On paper, this is a much more talented football team than one year ago, but no team plays games on paper only.
PewteReport.com reporters have been at every practice in Tampa from start to finish, and share our thoughts in the daily Inside Training Camp and Bucs Camp New To Know reports.
In this feature, editor-in-chief Mark Cook lists a number of impressions he has taken from the camp practices and one preseason game so far – some good and some bad.Banks Is A Keeper
PewterReport.com was high on cornerback Johnthan Banks over his final two seasons at Mississippi State, but a slower than expected 40-time at the NFL Combine at his pro day (4.55) raised some concerns. The Buccaneers wound up selecting the former Bulldog in the second round of the NFL Draft in April, and so far Banks hasn’t disappointed.
The first thing that is noticeable about Banks is his combination of humbleness, maturity and swagger – a unique set of qualities for any rookie player. Banks grew up working hard taking care of horses and cows on his family’s farm, and loves the country life. He is polite, accommodating and driven to succeed. Banks on numerous occasions has spoken that his motivation to succeed comes from a desire to provide for his new bride and young child. He also acknowledges that despite being a high draft pick, nothing can be taken for granted. At the same time, Banks has an air of confidence about him when he speaks, and when he sets foot on the football field.
Banks was reportedly schooled by New England All-Pro QB Tom Brady the first day of joint practice between the Bucs and Patriots this week, but that is exactly what the rookie needs. Seeing the best in the league and holding his own a few times will add to the confidence that he already possesses.
Like running back Doug Martin, safety Mark Barron and linebacker Lavonte David, Banks appears to be, by all early impressions, the real deal. And when attempting to overhaul the worst secondary in the league, the Buccaneers need Banks to have the same impact the above-mentioned 2012 rookies had last year.The Muddy Tight End Battle
The tight end position was one that was expected to be one of the better battles in camp. But so far it has been a dud.
Projected starter Luke Stocker just recently returned to the football field after an injury cost him nearly two weeks of camp. With Stocker riding the exercise bike, Tom Crabtree has been getting the most first team reps. Even with the extra opportunities, Crabtree maybe hasn’t distanced himself as you might expect. Crabtree had a 61-yard reception in the Bucs' first preseason game, but hasn’t been overly dynamic in practice, keeping the door open for Stocker.
Nate Byham, early in camp, was getting some first-team reps but a number of drops seems to have caused him to slip on the depth chart. Converted receiver Tim Wright has shown glimpses at times, but is undersized, very raw and needs more work improving his blocking skills.
Will Stocker wind up the starter? Who knows? And in the grand scheme of the Mike Sullivan-led offense, it may not matter, as chances are both Crabtree and Stocker will see the field equally. But for fans wanting to see a legitimate competition and a single winner emerge, it appears that won’t happen. The Bucs most likely will once again this season go with a tight end by-committee approach.Bowers Is No Bennett
When the Buccaneers allowed defensive end Michael Bennett to walk in free agency, the talk was all about the confidence that the organization had in third-year defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Nearly six months later the move appears to have been a mistake. That isn’t to say that Bowers can’t or won’t rebound and live up to the expectations put on him by the front office and coaching staff. But so far Bowers has struggled becoming a full time starter, as opposed to his role as a relief pitcher – as Greg Schiano referenced recently – over the last two seasons.
The Buccaneers invested a first round draft pick and $16 million dollars to acquire cornerback Darrelle Revis, but unless the team finds a way to generate a pass rush, then the Revis trade may be in vain. You could clone four of Darrelle Revis and start them in the secondary, but without a pass rush, quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Brady will still pick apart the Tampa Bay defense.
The team needs Bowers to assert himself and need him to do it quickly. With defensive end Adrian Clayborn still recovering from a torn ACL the ability to get to the quarterback at this point looks like it will have to come from blitzes, which will leave the secondary exposed. Certainly not what the Bucs envisioned last March when Bennett signed with the Seahawks as a free agent.McCoy May Be Even Better In 2013
Ten years ago, five sacks from the defensive tackle position would have hardly raised an eyebrow, but things in the NFL have changed. Last season it was enough to earn a Pro Bowl berth for Gerald McCoy, who made the annual all-star game in Honolulu in his first season playing a full 16-game schedule. From everything we've seen in camp thus far, the former Sooner is poised to at the very least, duplicate last year’s accolades and sack totals.
McCoy is leaner and even faster than he was in 2012, and has a confidence unseen by a Buccaneers defensive player since the legendary Derrick Brooks roamed the halls at One Buc Place. And McCoy isn’t talking nearly as much this camp. He is a leader, which is something sorely missed over the last three seasons in Tampa Bay. This year it isn’t by words, but instead by stellar play and an attitude of swagger.
If McCoy can manage another 16 games on the field, Bucs fans can expect big things from the Tampa Bay defense.Dotson Is Currently The Bucs' Best Lineman
How many NFL teams can boast that both of their cornerstone offensive tackles were undrafted free agents? Not many, if any.
Donald Penn has come into camp in the best shape of his career, pleasing Schiano and offensive line coach Bob Bostad. But Penn may no longer be the only Pro Bowl-caliber tackle on the roster anymore, as from all indications we have seen at camp, Demar Dotson has asserted himself as the most physical and dominating offensive lineman on the team right now.
Dotson admits he still needs to improve his run blocking, but the former Southern Miss basketball player has been dominating in pass protection, losing few, if any, one-on-one battles we have observed since training camp began. Dotson has never had a great lower base and struggled with getting low and winning the leverage battle in the past, but those flaws appear to be a thing of the past.
Dotson started 15 games in 2012, which was three times the amount of games he had ever started in football prior to last season – combined. The nearly full year of experience should bode well for Tampa Bay’s right tackle, and most likely right tackle of the future.A FEW MORE OBSERVATIONS ... Greg Schiano
has in fact lightened up to a degree as promised in the spring. Tampa Bay’s head coach is still vocal and intense, but is allowing his players to patrol themselves more and allowing the veterans to set the example. ... While Mike Glennon
may very well one day be a quality NFL quarterback, if we see No. 8 on the field this season the chance for the postseason is most likely down the tubes. Glennon certainly appears to have grasped the complex offense, but knowing it mentally and performing it to a high degree are two different things. Glennon’s accuracy and confidence on passes more than 20 yards is shaky at best. ... Special teams
were a bit of a struggle for the Buccaneers last season. The punt block and field goal units were superb, while punt and kick return left much to be desired. So far in 2013 things are not looking any better, and in fact it may be worse. With kicker Connor Barth out for the season with an Achilles injury, and no one asserting themselves as a clear cut winner of the return specialist battle, special teams coach Dave Wannstedt has his work cut out for him over the next three weeks.
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.