Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:
One thing I’m certain of: Nothing and no one is sacred. We’ve already seen new coach Greg Schiano unload safety Tanard Jackson and tight end Kellen Winslow. They were talented, but their personalities didn’t fit with Schiano’s disciplined environment. The weeding-out process might not be over. Schiano is going to use camp to make sure the 53 players on his opening-day roster all have bought into his philosophy.
Players such as receiver Mike Williams, running back LeGarrette Blount and linebacker Quincy Black are talented, but their play was inconsistent last season. There’s no question Schiano and his staff are looking for talent, but they’ve also made it clear they’re looking for “Buccaneer Men." Other than his draft picks, Schiano isn’t wedded to anyone. If he sees players who don’t want to do things his way, they’ll get a chance to play for someone else.
One thing that might happen: While a disciplined approach will be the norm for everyone else, the Bucs might use training camp to try to get Josh Freeman to loosen up. The quarterback has admitted he was trying too hard and often forced things in a disappointing 2011 season. If the Bucs are going to improve at all, they need Freeman to be better.
The best way to accomplish that is to get Freeman in a relaxed mode and let him have some fun. The arrival of receiver Vincent Jackson and the drafting of running back Doug Martin instantly improved Freeman’s supporting cast, and the signing of guard Carl Nicks solidified the offensive line. The Bucs also made some moves that should lead to improvements on defense. Freeman has a better team around him than he did last year. He needs to realize that he doesn’t have to carry a franchise. He just needs to go out and have fun and positive results will follow.
One thing we won’t see: An overabundance of tight end Dallas Clark on the practice field or in preseason games. The Bucs are extremely young just about everywhere, but tight end is the one position where they got older. They let Winslow go because he didn't fit with the new regime. The Bucs replaced him by signing Clark, who is 33 and missed 15 games in his final two seasons in Indianapolis. Clark obviously needs some time to bond with Freeman, but it shouldn’t take him long to pick up the offense, and the Bucs plan to throw to him a fair amount during the regular season.
But this camp is even more important for second-year pro Luke Stocker. Given Clark’s age and the fact that he’s never been used extensively as the blocker, Stocker is going to have to fill that role. He needs the camp repetitions more than Clark. Stocker had only 12 catches as a rookie and he also needs to work on his receiving skills so that his presence on the field doesn’t send out an automatic signal to opposing defenses that the Bucs will run the ball on that play.