The start of training camp is definitely a time for optimism (which I already pointed out), but for a team that started 0-8, the Bucs are far from perfect.
Here are my main concerns for the Bucs as they head to training camp on Friday:
Quarterback Play: It’s been the hot debate all off-season. Once the Bucs signed Josh McCown in free agency, I received a message from Greg Cosell of NFL Films who thought the signing of McCown meant the end of Mike Glennon in Tampa. Since then, the Bucs have all but named McCown the starting quarterback for the 2014 season, passed on drafting a quarterback in May, and have named Mike Glennon their “future quarterback.” The duo of McCown and Glennon does not scream confidence across the NFL landscape. Ron Jaworski ranked McCown 25th among starting QBs, while NFL coaches and executives had a 24th ranking on McCown. A lifelong backup or a 3rd round pick who struggled to make the clutch throws his rookie season. In a quarterback driven league, the Bucs might be forced to be driven by some other position.
Depth Behind Gerald McCoy: I try to not be the guy that harps on the lack of talent behind the stars on your team. The stars are the stars because they are the best players, and the backups have that position because they just aren’t as good. With that being said, in Lovie Smith’s defense, Gerald McCoy will be a key cog and the motor that makes it all run. While McCoy has stayed injury-free the past couple years, freak things happen in the NFL. If McCoy goes down, the Bucs could go from a top 10 defense to a bottom feeder in the NFL. With Akeem Spence and Clinton McDonald both considered nose tackles, the potential backups for McCoy on the current roster include Matthew Masifilo and Euclid Cummings. That’s it at DT. Would you feel confident if DaQuan Bowers was forced to play significant time at McCoy’s position? I didn’t think so.
Interior Offensive Line: I’m not holding my breath for Carl Nicks. Odds are the Bucs will be looking to inexperienced young players and journeymen to fill their needs at both guard positions. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith comes in after starting just one full season for the Packers and probably being best known as the Packers offensive lineman that Ndamukong Suh stomped on. A combination of rookie Kadeem Edwards, Dietrich-Smith, and Patrick Omameh could possibly be the starters on the interior offensive line for the Bucs. While on paper they do not look like the forces that Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph were supposed to be, some athleticism on the interior might be intriguing to how the Bucs might run their offense.
Safety Play: I see Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron’s names in my secondary and on the surface I feel good. As I dig deeper, I wonder if possessing two strong safeties is the best approach for a defense. Goldson’s guaranteed money runs out after this season, so I wonder if this will be his last season with the Bucs, but Barron was the 7th overall pick just 3 years ago and needs to become an elite player on this defense. Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier will need to figure out which of these two big hitters in the secondary is better suited to play centerfield and capitalize on the turnovers they hope their defensive line can produce. Likely, Goldson will be the Bucs centerfielder and Barron can progress as a true strong safety in the Bucs new defense. Big pass plays continued to plague the Bucs last season, and if Lovie Smith wants to eliminate those big plays, the safeties must play better.
New Faces Everywhere: Every fan loves a busy off-season, and no team was busier than the Bucs. It’s always exciting to see your team bring in a new coach with new hope, sign top free agents, and draft top players, but it also means your team was pretty bad last season. At least half of the Bucs roster has changed from last season, and it usually takes some time for new players and coaches to all gel with each other. This gelling period could lead to the Bucs getting off to another slow start this season.