The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a Tampa Bay Buccaneers-related topic each Wednesday.
This week’s topic: Which Bucs Player Has Had The Best Camp?
Scott Reynolds: LG Ali Marpet
The best and most consistent Buccaneer in training camp has been left guard Ali Marpet in my opinion. Marpet is playing his third position in the last three years – making the transition from right guard (2015-16) to center (2017) to his new home next to left tackle and good friend Donovan Smith – and he’s made an incredibly smooth transition. Marpet has been a rock for the offensive line and always seems to shine in pass protection in 1-on-1s and in team drills.
Bucs LG Ali Marpet – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
It came as no surprise that Peyton Barber’s touchdown run to cap off the Bucs’ first drive of the night last Thursday in Miami came off the left side of the offensive line where Marpet and Smith dominated their blocks and cleared a path for a Tampa Bay TD. That’s a sign of things to come in the regular season, folks. Now that Marpet is back at guard where he is most comfortable, I truly believe that he could wind up in the Pro Bowl if the team performs well and makes a playoff run. Yes, Marpet is playing at a Pro Bowl-level this summer.
It comes at a great time as the Bucs are working on contract negotiations with Marpet’s representatives on a contract extension that will make him one of the league’s highest-paid guards. The team is trying to get the extension done prior to the start of the regular season. From what we’ve seen in training camp and in the preseason opener, Marpet has taken his performance to a whole new level. While six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy routinely whips right guards Caleb Benenoch and Alex Cappa in pass-rushing drills in training camp practices, Marpet gives McCoy all he can handle and routinely stonewalls him. That’s a clear sign that Marpet is on the rise.
Mark Cook: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Each week it seems someone different steps up and impresses. Jason Pierre-Paul was
Photo by Mary Holt / PR
dominant that first week or so of training camp and you really got to see up close what all the hype was after the Bucs made the trade for the former Giants star.
Then it was wide receiver Chris Godwin who blew up the second week of camp and it seemed there wasn’t a pass he couldn’t catch. He was literally a highlight-reel in the flesh every practice. But from an overall consistent performance, while it is hard to argue Ali Marpet, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has had the best overall camp. And boy did the Bucs need that.
Go back 365 days or so ago and I was convinced Fitzpatrick was going to get beat out by Ryan Griffin. He was that bad early in the 2017 camp. He looked out of shape somewhat, lost in the system and I think my arm was stronger than what he showed early last August. This year, it is the complete opposite. He is clam, cool and in command. Fitzpatrick sees and visualizes what the defense is going to do and where he is going with the ball before it is even snapped. He still isn’t going to chunk it 65 yards in the air, but that is okay. He doesn’t have to. There are plenty of weapons to utilize underneath and shorter routes where he can get the ball out quickly and allow the playmakers to do their thing.
There is nothing flashy about Fitzpatrick, but flash isn’t always needed under center. Smarts and his calm presence have made this offense hum pretty good so far, and that has to make Dirk Koetter and his staff sleep a little better entering the first three weeks of the season.
Trevor Sikkema: DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Buccaneers general manager does not give up his draft picks very easily. This is a guy who rose up the ranks in the NFL via the scouting department, so the NFL Draft is something he pays close attention to personally. So when it came to trading one of those precious draft picks for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, he needed it to be worth it.
Bucs LT Cole Gardner – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
So far, he is.
Pierre-Paul has been on another level this training camp. He’s been going up against Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson on the edges when playing defensive end, and has even gone up against and had success against Ali Marpet and Ryan Jensen on the inside, as they’ve lined him up at defensive tackle. Pierre-Paul has been schooling the young guys with veteran pass rush moves and has been stoning the run game as a stout defender against the run.
To this point, he’s been well worth that draft pick.