It is time for another edition of the Bucs’ Monday Mailbag, where PewterReport.com answers reader submitted questions each and every Monday. You can submit your questions via Twitter by using #PRMailbag.
Question: When Hard Knocks starts they always like to focus some on an undrafted player trying to make the team. Who do you think it will be?
Answer: While he wasn’t undrafted, defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu is the perfect storyline for Hard Knocks this season. His story of living in his car with his wife after transferring to USC is well documented in California, and here in Tampa, but HBO could really get a lot of traction of of it nationally I believe. On top of his struggles to make it to the NFL, Tu’ikolovatu has a cool personality and I think would work well in front of the cameras. I would be really surprised if his story isn’t told.
As far as an undrafted guy, tight end Antony Auclair is one who also has had an interesting path to an NFL camp. Playing college football in Canada, and being French aren’t things you normally see in NFL training camps. Auclair also is good in front of the camera, and his position battles in a competitive room would make for a great inside look in my opinion.
Question: Is Ryan Smith in a “break out or bust” situation considering he wasn’t able to make an impact on a weak safety rotation in 2016?
Answer: Far from it I believe. You don’t talk to many of the coaching staff or front office about Smith without their eyes lighting up when his name is mentioned. As far as not making an impact in 2016, part of that was he was slowed in the offseason a little bit with an injury and feel behind a little, and on top of that, was coming from a small school. Getting up to speed in the NFL is difficult enough for a defensive back, and when adding falling behind and small school experience, it isn’t the most conducive way to gain instant success in the league. Trust me, this organization is very high on Smith, and they look forward to seeing how good he can be playing cornerback.
Question: I think Bucs fans wanted a safety prior to draft. Does the safety group seem to be healthy for training camp?
Answer: That is a good question but hard to answer. The team doesn’t have to update the media on injured players and didn’t really give out much info on rookie Justin Evans or J.J. Wilcox during the offseason workouts. But, both did participate in some things since arriving in Tampa, so neither appears to have a significant injury. Keith Tandy and Chris Conte have taken the lead in the safety battle, but there is still plenty of time between now and September, when the season opens for things to change.
One thing that should be better is the overall safety play. Partly because the organization thinks the talent is better, but also because the overall defense should be improved with another season under their season under thier belt in Mike Smith’s system.
Question: Why does running back Charles Sims seem like the odd man out?
Answer: I don’t know that he is the odd man out right this second, but he needs to stay healthy during camp and the preseason, and show the team at least some glimpses of the 2015 Sims. He most certainly is a talented back, a great receiver out of the backfield and an excellent open field runner, but after missing chunks of two of his three seasons, the team is hoping the injury bug is behind him. They most likely keep just four backs and it is already a crowded room. On paper Sims is one of the most talented four backs on the roster currently, but it is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of league. He also has the most unique skill set and so far they don’t have anyone to really feel that third down role, but they didn’t draft Jeremy McNichols to cut him. It will be fun battle to watch starting later this month.