With Bucs training camp quickly approach the PewterReport.com staff asks – and answers – 15 critical camp questions that need to be answered this August as Tampa Bay prepares to embark on the 2019 season. Over the next 15 days PewterReport.com will offer up its thoughts on the topics that the Bucs will need to sort out in order for the team to be successful this season and possibly compete for a long-awaited playoff berth.
These are the things that the PewterReport.com staff will be following closely in camp, and invite our readers to share their thoughts as well in the comment section.
Bucs’ Critical Camp Question No. 14:
Will Nick Fitzgerald make the team and at what position?
Yes, as an athlete contributing at tight end on special teams and as an emergency quarterback. Fitzgerald is going to do something at the Bucs’ training camp that’s one of the toughest things to do in this league – make the battle for the No. 3 quarterback spot a thrilling narrative.
When the Bucs signed Fitzgerald as an undrafted free agent quarterback out of Mississippi State, fans and media outlets around the country all posed the same question, “will Nick Fitzgerald be the next Taysom Hill?”
Will he become the Hill, who is the third-string QB in New Orleans? Probably not. It takes the right situation, a special player and a risky, innovative offensive mind all coming together to see what Hill did for the Saints this past season.
While it’s possible that offensive play-caller Byron Leftwich and offensive mastermind Bruce Arians draw up some plays to utilize the SEC’s all-time leader in rushing yards from the quarterback position, it won’t happen regularly. Fitzgerald’s 4.64 speed and athleticism are well documented with 3,607 rushing yards and a 6.0 yards per carry average throughout his college career, adding another 6,207 yards and 55 touchdowns through the air, but the Bucs offense this season will sink or swim with the ball in Jameis Winston’s hands.
The question at hand for Fitzgerald is if he can make the Bucs’ final roster, and at what position?
Fitzgerald might make the team officially listed as the third quarterback, but his ability to add a different skill set on offense and the versatility to work on special teams could be the deciding factor that helps him to beat out the six-year veteran, Ryan Griffin, who has yet to throw a regular season pass.
For young players trying to make a 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent, playing a key role on special teams is what allows them to make the team. The Bucs have seen it with Adam Humphries, an undrafted free agent out of Clemson, who found his way onto the roster primarily as a return specialist and turned that job into one of Winston’s most reliable, sure-handed targets as a slot receiver.
It’s also happened with Justin Watson, last year’s fifth-round pick, who became a regular among the Bucs’ special teams unit in 2018 and is now primed for a spot in the wide receiver rotation if everything goes right for him in training camp.
During rookie mini-camp, OTAs and the team’s mandatory mini-camp, while Fitzgerald would go on to work with the quarterbacks later in the day, he and his orange non-contact jersey could be seen working with the special teams groups every day at the beginning of practice. Look for the same type of routine to occur in training camp as he continues his battle to make the 53-man roster.