The Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin their three-day mandatory minicamp Tuesday and it will be the last opportunity players have to make an impression before training camp. Here are five things to keep an eye on:
1. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Seferian-Jenkins was sent home from practice on Thursday because, according to head coach Dirk Koetter, “He didn’t know what he was doing.” Koetter didn’t say much to reporters beyond that, but getting kicked out of an organized team activity practice, which is considered optional, is pretty alarming. To make matters worse, it happened in front of the media.
Things escalated when Jenkins started sparring with fans on Twitter when he got home (after he watched film).
He’s stated before that he has no problems giving fans a piece of his mind on social media, but how do the Bucs feel about that? Was this a one-time thing with Koetter or is this a case of "Where there’s smoke, there’s fire?"
The Bucs signed former Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes in free agency, reuniting him with former Falcons head coach Mike Smith. He’s penciled in for one of the starting cornerback jobs. Who will start opposite him and who will line up at nickel back? Former Pro Bowler Alterraun Verner was benched last year under Lovie Smith but could see a revival after reuniting with former Tennessee Titans defensive backs coach Brett Maxie.
First-round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves III has been working inside and out. If it ended today, those three could be the three you see out on the field in the Bucs’ nickel package, essentially their base defense, in Week 1. You certainly can’t forget about Johnthan Banks, a former second-round pick who has started 37 games in three years. There is also former Vikings starter Josh Robinson and Jude Adjei-Barimah, who can provide a challenge.
3. Battle for the No. 3 receiver spot
The Bucs have Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans as their No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, but they need a third wideout and that was evident last year when Jackson went down with injury. Evans struggled at times with drops, Louis Murphy suffered a season-ending ACL injury and undrafted rookies Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye were suddenly thrust into action.
Kenny Bell, a fifth-round draft pick in 2015, missed all of last season with a hamstring injury. He has 4.4 speed that can really take the top off a defense, and flashed it at times during camp last year. How much of the offense was he able to absorb on the bench last year and how much chemistry was he able to develop with Jameis Winston? The two have been impressive during practices this offseason. This would be an opportunity to really make a statement before the team breaks for summer.
4. Kick returner
The Bucs don’t currently have a bona fide kick or punt returner, and it’s an important role since it can flip the field and give Winston an easier time getting to the end zone. Humphries, Dye and Bernard Reedy have gotten in work this offseason on punt and kick returns, along with Bell and Robinson on punt returns. Strong performances here can solidify a roster spot and help separate a pack of young receivers.
5. Defensive end Noah Spence
With Jacquies Smith still recovering from shoulder surgery, now would be a good time for second-round draft pick Noah Spence to crack the first-team lineup opposite Robert Ayers. He’s practicing with the second-team defense, which isn’t a surprise since the team is working rookies in slowly. The pads haven’t come on yet either, so it’s difficult to truly gauge where he’s at, but with his talent level, he should be able to beat out Howard Jones at this point.