TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to begin their first day of training camp on Wednesday at the AdventHealth Training Center.
Unlike many other teams in the NFL, the Buccaneers' roster still has very few holes in it, but that does not mean some players will have a point to prove when they put on their football gear.
Whether it's players competing for a starting job, keeping their name on the roster or taking their game to the next level, here are five things to look out for during Tampa Bay's training camp.
New tight ends
After losing Rob Gronkowski to retirement and O.J. Howard to free agency, Tampa Bay selected two tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft and recently signed veteran Kyle Rudolph to a one-year contract, but how exactly will they fit into the team and what kind of roles are they expected to play on the field?
Fans pretty much know what they are going to get out of tight end Cameron Brate; a consistent player who can make the tough catches, block players and be an important target in the red zone.
Rudolph, along with the rookies, has never played a game with Tom Brady and if the team wants to make another Super Bowl run, it's important for those players to get on the same page quickly.
Rudolph has proven himself to be an elite tight end in the league during his time with the Minnesota Vikings, and his experience may be the reason he carries the load that was once handled by Gronkowski.
As for the rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft, this season will serve as a development year more so than being 'the guy.' Otton is expected to be used in the slot and Kieft as a blocker and both will get reps in the game to give both Rudolph and Brate a rest when needed. There is a possibility Kieft lands on the practice squad if the Bucs need an extra roster spot elsewhere.
Starting guard battle
Brady has had a consistent offensive line the past two seasons. This year, however, Brady will possibly have two new faces protecting him in the pocket.
Tackles Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs, center Ryan Jensen and guard Shaq Mason, who was signed in the offseason, will be the for sure starters heading into Week 1, but who will be the fifth man alongside them?
The candidates fighting for the last starting guard position are Aaron Stinnie, Nick Leverett and rookie Luke Goedeke.
Stinnie has the most experience in the team between the three and also played a role in the postseason during Tampa Bay's Super Bowl LV run. He may be considered a solid starting option and has shown he can compete on the same level as other guards in the NFL.
Leverett is in his second year in the league and has shown he can play different positions on the offensive line when needed. He also impressed coaches and fans in games when called upon last season.
Goedeke was selected in the second round in this year's draft and the Buccaneers traded up a few spots to ensure he was theirs. The rookie has been in preseason mode since minicamp back in early June and will be thrown into the mix immediately to see what he can do.
If all three perform at their highest levels, it will not be a bad thing for Bowles to have a headache on who to choose for his starting guard.
Depth with wide receivers
Wide receiver Julio Jones reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with the Buccaneers a day before training camp. Russel Gage was also signed in the offseason with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin returning. That is a pretty darn good Big Four.
But what about the depth?
If the team decides to keep a total of seven wide receivers, the Bucs cannot keep Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden and Cyril Grayson. One or two of those guys might get cut at the end of camp.
Perriman and Grayson made a big impact towards the end of last season, but both were hampered by injuries, along with Miller who failed to rekindle his deep threat relationship with Brady that was evident in the Super Bowl season.
Johnson has not been called often to operate as the No. 3 receiver on the team but has shown moments of elite-level playmaking. Still, he has failed to provide them with a consistent basis.
Darden was used on the Buccaneers' special teams last year, but failed to make much of his opportunities.
The five wide receivers will head into training camp feeling optimistic about their chances to make the final roster, but it will take a few big moments to impress offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich to ensure their spot on the team.
Tampa Bay has not resigned outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and assuming things stay the way they are, 2021 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will be expected to step into a starting role in his second NFL year.
He recorded four sacks and 18 solo tackles in his rookie season in a limited role, but showed flashes of being a reliable outside linebacker.
Defensive coordinators Kacy Rodgers and Larry Foote will try to make sure the 23-year-old can reach the next level in his game throughout training camp and hope no money will be needed to splash on a new outside linebacker.
Roles for new safeties
Safety Mike Edwards is expected to earn the starting safety spot alongside Antoine Winfield Jr., according to safety coach Nick Rapone, despite the arrivals of offseason signings Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal.
However, it does not mean that Ryan and Neal will remain on the sidelines. Bowles and Co. will come up with creative formations to make sure both of the players' presence is known out on the football field.
During his time with the Atlanta Falcons, Neal operated as the prototypical Cover Three box safety. Ryan will reunite with Brady during their time in New England where he mainly played both safety and slot corner with the flexibility to play inside and out.
Bowles said he wanted strong competition for Edwards, and the two veterans will provide exactly that with their various skill sets.
Here are the following training camp dates and which are open to members and other groups:
- Wednesday, July 27, 8:30 a.m. — Season Pass Members
- Thursday, July 28, 8:30 a.m. — Season Pass Members
- Friday, July 29, 8:30 a.m. — Stadium Club Members
- Saturday, July 30, 8:30 a.m. — Season Pass Members
- Monday, August 1, 8:30 a.m. — Military Day presented by USAA
- Tuesday, August 2, 8:30 a.m. — Season Pass Members
- Wednesday, August 3, 8:30 a.m. — Community Day – Special Olympics/Foundations
- Saturday, August 6, 8:30 a.m. — Stadium Club Members
- Sunday, August 7, 8:30 a.m. — Season Pass Members
- Tuesday, August 9, 8:30 a.m. — Women of Red Day at Training Camp presented by AdventHealth
- Wednesday, August 10, 10:00 a.m. — Season Pass Members
- Thursday, August 11, 10:00 a.m. — Season Pass Members
The first preseason game for the Buccaneers will be against the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 13 at Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa Bay's first regular-season game of the 2022 NFL season will be against the Dallas Cowboys at 8:20 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11 at AT&T Stadium. Their home opener is scheduled at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25 against the Green Bay Packers.
For information on how to purchase game tickets, click here.