The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the most complete teams in the NFL. With so few holes on the roster, what sort of intrigue surrounds them heading into training camp? Tom Brady retired for a spell after the season but then quickly decided it wasn’t time to spend all of his time at home yet.
The Bucs’ 2021 campaign ended in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs against the eventual Super Bowl-winning Los Angeles Rams. They made a valiant effort to get back into the game after being down 17 at halftime, but they couldn’t finish the comeback. They should be able to contend for a Super Bowl again in 2022. But first, they have to get through August.
5 storylines for Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp
Tampa Bay lost most of their defensive backfield for large chunks of the season. Carlton Davis played 10 games, and Sean Murphy-Bunting played in nine. They’re still thin from a depth perspective, so getting through training camp with their health intact will be huge for them.
The Buccaneers also have a few new pieces that will need to fit into the puzzle, while at least one returning player must shave some off the sides to fit in properly. Can Tom Brady retire on top with his eighth Super Bowl win as an NFL QB, doubling Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw’s marks?
Is Leonard Fournette the elephant in the room?
Fournette is entering his sixth NFL season, reportedly heavier than ever. Rick Stroud reported that coaches weren’t happy that Fournette weighed in at nearly 260 pounds during mandatory minicamp.
But how much will that affect Fournette in September? While the report is relatively new, the minicamp was back at the beginning of June. That gives Fournette an entire two months to start losing weight and then a month during training camp and the preseason to lose the rest.
For a professional athlete, that is not a monumental task. It will take a lot of dedication to a strict diet and a heavy caloric deficit. However, 30 pounds in three months is not impossible.
The more significant issue than his weight will be his training intensity while in that steep caloric deficit. For a while, he will be okay, but sustained energy deficits will negatively affect his output in the gym. But he should be in playing shape by the time Sept. 11 rolls around.
Can the defensive backfield stay healthy until Week 1?
Murphy-Bunting hadn’t dealt with injury issues before last season, but we cannot say the same about Carlton Davis. While Davis missed significant time for the first time last season, he’d also missed games in the previous three years due to injury.
Antoine Winfield Jr. is one of the best young safeties in the NFL. But the young safety is no stranger to injuries either. He remained healthy in his rookie season but missed games in Year 2 with a concussion and a foot injury.
Winfield missed most of the 2017 season with a severe hamstring strain in college. He then missed most of the 2018 season with a Lisfranc injury before going ballistic in 2019 to skyrocket his draft stock.
Can the offensive line remain dominant?
Roster construction is a very slight issue when the only proper sore spot on the starting 22 is at left guard. But this is new territory for Tampa Bay. They’re going from one of the best interior blockers in the league in Ali Marpet to a complete mystery in either Aaron Stinnie or rookie Luke Goedeke.
But that won’t be the only new face on the offensive line. Shaq Mason is an outstanding right guard, but continuity is vital in offensive line play, making both starting guard spots new for 2022.
Luckily, Ryan Jensen decided to stick around for a solid $39 million over the next three seasons. Having a veteran at left tackle and one of the best blockers in the league on the right side should also help things stay smooth.
Tom Brady’s age-defying arm
There is no reason a 44-year-old man should have a better arm than most of the prospects half his age just making their way to the league. There is no reason to believe Brady will lose any juice as he heads into his NFL record 23rd season.
Morten Andersen actually has the longest NFL career, but he was a specialist. George Blanda has an argument, but he barely played QB after he turned 40.
Brady is an alien. And if one is to go to Bucs camp, all eyes should be on his arm because it’s special and won’t be around forever.
How will the defense differ with Todd Bowles’ promotion?
Todd Bowles was integral in Tampa Bay’s defensive ascension after the 2018 season. A few home runs in the draft certainly helped, but his coaching style and defensive philosophy fit the talent like a glove.
But now he’s in the head coach’s chair and must divert his eyes away from that side of the football to coach the team. Kacy Rodgers and Larry Foote were named co-defensive coordinators in Bowles’ place. Some would say that having two defensive coordinators means they don’t have one. It’s not something we’ve seen be successful often on either side of the ball.
But this doesn’t often happen on good football teams, either. Rodgers was formerly Bowles’ defensive coordinator with the Jets. Foote is a former linebacker who has been coaching for the past eight seasons.
There has been a lot of continuity since 2019, and the defensive practices should almost mimic how they’ve looked in the past. Because the offensive side of the ball is pretty stable from last season from a coaching perspective, there’s a chance Bowles is still the lead on defense from a messaging standpoint.