The Buccaneers players are off until they have to report back to Tampa on July 23 to begin what many are hoping and expecting to be a rebound season from the 4-12 disaster of 2013. Excitement abounds with Lovie Smith now in place as the team’s head coach and an influx of new players that the organization hopes fills holes in the roster have fans excited about the possibilities in 2014. While the mood surrounding the franchise is as positive as it has been in a number of years, there are still some areas of concern on the roster.
This week PewterReport.com counts down the five biggest questions heading into training camp. While there are certainly more than five, these are the ones that we have the most questions about and will intently be watching once camp opens.
NO. 3: WHO STARTS AT THE GUARD POSITIONS?Players In The Mix: Patrick Omameh, Jamon Meredith, Oniel Cousins, Kadeem Edwards, Jason Foster, Andrew Miller and Carl NicksOf all the question marks, this is the one that has seemed to draw the majority of inquiries on sports talk radio, in the PewterReport.com chat and on the PewterReport.com message boards. The Buccaneers didn’t make any splash free agency signings at the guard spot other than Cousin, a reserve from Cleveland, where offensive line coach George Warhop came from, and re-signing Meredith, followed by drafting Tennessee State’s Edwards in the fifth round. A couple of insights can be taken from that lack of activity.
First, perhaps the front office thinks Nicks will be able to step back in at the start of the season after spending most of last season dealing with a MRSA-infected toe. Secondly, the team may feel the talent on the roster isn’t nearly as bad as some fans and members of the media thinks.
A source recently told PewterReport.com that while the Bucs may not be jumping for joy over the talent level of the guards on the roster, they also aren’t as concerned as some are. The source said that position can be developed easier than center or tackle and plenty of late-round draft picks and even undrafted free agents can contribute and be quality starters in the NFL.
In the mini-camps and OTAs, the Bucs ran a number of different guard combinations out with the first team. Early on it was Cousins and Meredith, but later in the offseason workouts, Omameh and Edwards were getting first-team reps. Omameh, who came from San Francisco last year, drew some praise from the coaching staff, but has yet to start an NFL game, and obviously it’s the same situation with the rookie Edwards. It seems unlikely that the Buccaneers would start the season with two unproven players taking the field on September 7 against the Panthers.
And while many still have major doubts about Nicks – and rightly so – the best case scenario would be for Nicks to be able to get through training camp without any major setbacks with his toe. But even if his foot is medically sound, there is still the question how what type of shape will he be in from a conditioning and cardiovascular standpoint, especially with Jeff Tedford’s uptempo style of offense.
PewterReport.com’s Early Bet For Starters: Meredith and CousinsWhile Cousins does little to excite the Buccaneers fan base, he does have a relationship with Warhop from their time in Cleveland. Warhop and the Bucs front office obviously see something in Cousins that others don’t. Meredith played solid over the last two seasons when pressed into duty and battled a number of injuries, yet didn’t miss a game after being inserted in the starting lineup. Edwards has a shot, but is more of a developmental player. The one wild card could be Omameh. While raw, he was a surprise star in college at Michigan after being one of the lowest rated players in his recruiting class as a freshmen. But once inserted in the lineup, all Omameh did was quietly becoming a fixture for the Wolverines and improve each season. Look for Meredith and Cousins to win the job with Omameh pressing for playing time.
TRAINING CAMP QUESTIONS SERIES SCHEDULETraining Camp Question No. 5 – Nickel Cornerbacks (Monday)Training Camp Question No. 4 – Left Defensive End (Tuesday)Training Camp Question No. 3 – Guards (Wednesday) Training Camp Question No. 2 – Running Backs (Thursday)Training Camp Question No. 1 – Third Wide Receiver (Friday)
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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