For most NFL fans, Summer is a dreadfully quiet time of year. NFL Week One countdown clocks are ticking on our desktop and the occasional MLB game might pop up on our big screen. For Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans, the month of June has been a little ‘louder’ than the rest. Any recent visit to a Buccaneers website and you will find yourself engulfed in Miko Grimes stories; rightfully so, as this is the time of year where even the smallest of crickets can make the front page.
In exactly 13 days, screenshots of Miko and her Twitter rants will be buried to the bottom and the Buccaneers will be putting on their pads to begin the 2016 Training Camp. Not only have the Bucs made some key additions in Free Agency but they also landed a few highly touted prospects in this most recent draft. Let’s take a look at a five players to keep an eye on during the upcoming Training Camp.
In the past few years, the biggest issue for the Buccaneer defense has been its pass rush. I believe that it was scheme that mainly hurt this defense but I can’t put all the blame on Lovie for this one. Outside of Gerald McCoy and Jacquies Smith, consistency from the pass rush has been nonexistent. Although the Bucs brought in Robert Ayers Jr. to assist, which I think he will, Noah Spence will be the true x-factor of the defensive-end group.
If it wasn’t for a few poor decisions at Ohio State, Spence was arguably a top 10 pick in this past draft. The Bucs did their homework and were extremely lucky to be able to draft him in the second round. Rookie DE’s typically take some time to develop but with his speed and athleticism, Spence is the biggest upgrade on the defensive side of the ball.
Multiple media outlets reported that Mike Smith had Spence not only rushing the QB, but also dropping back into coverage on several occasions during the mini camp. We will get a better idea of what he can do when the pads come on. I think McCoy can sleep a little better knowing that he will have some consistent help on the outside this season.
Vernon Hargreaves III
Brent Grimes clone, ay? Along with all of the NFL scouts, I have been drooling over this kid since he first joined the Florida Gators in 2013. He put on quite a show in the SEC, locking down some of the best receivers in the nation. Never did I think the Bucs would be in the position to draft him – boy was I wrong! The cleats he wore during the combine should have been a telling sign. He fell right into the Bucs lap this year with the #11 overall pick. Hargreaves gets to stay in Florida and will join a talented group of DBs in Tampa Bay.
This is truly the first time in many years that the Bucs drafted the best player available instead of drafting their biggest need. Although Hargreaves was not starting with the first team during minicamp (no rookies did, FYI), it will be impossible to keep him off the field come Week One. Whether he locks down the slot or moves to the outside, expect him to harass QBs of the NFC South for years to come.
Kenny Bell is an intriguing name to have on this list. Right now, he is known more for his afro than for his gameplay (not a knock on the ‘fro!). Bell was placed on Injured Reserve before he could even take part in his first NFL preseason in 2015. This hurt the Buccaneers last season, as they surely could have used him with all of the injuries to this position.
He can show us if being drafted in the 5th round was worth the pick. Jenna Laine of ESPN reported that Winston and Bell have “developed quite the chemistry,” and I am eager to see more. Bell is one of the fastest WRs on the roster. If he can cement himself as the slot receiver, he will be a great compliment to the twin towers, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, on the outside. Bell is also a great return specialist, an area that the Bucs have lacked strength in recently. Getting a healthy Bell back on the field will be a big boost for both the offense and special teams.
Welcome back to the NFC South, Brent! Although I would rather not hear the last name ‘Grimes’ until Week One, it is only right that we speak of their ‘better half.’ Brent Grimes was one of the Buccaneers most notable additions in this past Free Agency. Although he may not be the same caliper of player that he was under Mike Smith the last time around, Grimes can still perform at a very high level.
Even though he was a part of an underwhelming Dolphins defense last season, he still amassed 4 interceptions which was good for third most in his career. He will come in and immediately solidify a secondary that was torched regularly last season. Grimes most likely will start as #1 on the depth chart, which will add to a relatively deep cornerback position including Alterraun Verner, Vernon Hargreaves III, Johnthan Banks, Jude Adjei-Barimah and Josh Robinson.
Mike Smith has a great track record as a Defensive Coordinator and there’s no reason why this defense won’t improve. Throw in Grimes on a team’s top wide receiver and we should see dividends paid rather quickly.
This is the player that I think has the most potential out of any young TE in the league right now. The question is, as with most, if he can live up to the hype. Seferian-Jenkins is a mismatch nightmare and it only helps that he has two more giants playing WR on the outside. With the tallest combination of starting WRs/TE in the NFL, Winston should be salivating at every jump-ball opportunity he sees. The issue with Seferian-Jenkins is whether he can stay injury-free, keep his head in the game, and stay ahead of the competition.
Seferian-Jenkins was reportedly sent him home from a mini-camp practice for not being prepared. This is a good move by the new regime: setting the tone rather early. Concerning his injury-rattled history, he has only played 16 games in his two combined seasons, but has showed glimpses of his potential. He averaged a generous 16.1 yards on 21 catches last year and was a nice comfort blanket for the rookie Winston.
When Seferian-Jenkins went down, Cameron Brate came in and did absolute wonders. Brate has hands like glue and was clutch during some key moments in the 2015 season. Seferian-Jenkins must compete hard during the training camp sessions to stay ahead of Brate on the depth chart. Competition is a good thing though, right? In Seferian-Jenkins defense, let’s hope his best is yet to come.