TAMPA, Fla. – The Buccaneers begin a three-day minicamp on Tuesday. It’s closed to the public, but here are five things I’ll be watching.
Jameis Winston. The rookie quarterback is expected to work with the starters after finishing OTAs (organized team activities) with the first team. The minicamp is just the latest step in getting him ready to be the starter. Winston has made big strides since he was drafted. He has done a nice job of picking up the playbook and is building chemistry with receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. But there still is plenty for Winston to work on before the start of the regular season. He needs to get comfortable in an up-tempo offense and needs to stop forcing throws that aren’t there.
Doug Martin. He continued to work as the first-team running back during OTAs. Martin is coming off two disappointing seasons after rushing for more than 1,400 yards as a rookie in 2012. The Bucs insist that Martin remains their starter. But coach Lovie Smith is always quick to praise second-year pro Charles Sims, who could take some of Martin’s playing time.
The competition at safety. The Bucs haven’t settled on starters at either safety spot, and they have a cluster of competitors. Bradley McDougald, D.J. Swearinger, Chris Conte, Major Wright and Keith Tandy all are in the mix. McDougald and Swearinger appear to be the early favorites, but there still is a lot of time for the other candidates to step up.
The defensive ends. It’s hard to tell much when players aren’t wearing pads and aren’t hitting. But the Bucs still will be keeping a close eye on their defensive ends. Jacquies Smith and George Johnson have been getting most of the work with the first team. But Larry English, William Gholston and T.J. Fatinikun still have a shot at starting jobs.
Bruce Carter. He’s moving to middle linebacker after playing on the outside in Dallas. The Bucs believe the transition will be smooth because Carter is bright and athletic. He’ll call the defensive plays. But the main reason the Bucs brought Carter in is because he’s better in pass coverage than Mason Foster, last year’s starter.