TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers open training camp for the 2022 NFL season Wednesday at the AdventHealth Training Center. Here's a closer look at a few storylines:
Biggest question: Is this team built to go the distance to win another ring? Bruce Arians has been replaced by Todd Bowles as head coach. Wide receiver Antonio Brown departed, and tight end Rob Gronkowski retired. Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Godwin is still recovering from offseason knee surgery. And running back Leonard Fournette showed up at mandatory minicamp weighing a reported 260 pounds (Fournette denied this, saying his weight was in the 240s during minicamp). Outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul is still a free agent. The Bucs also face one of their most daunting schedules in recent memory. To combat these challenges, the Bucs signed versatile wide receiver Russell Gage in free agency, and they also bolstered their defense despite salary cap limitations with the signings of defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, safety Keanu Neal and defensive back Logan Ryan, along with drafting defensive lineman Logan Hall in the second round. But will those pieces gel and will that be enough?
Replacing a future Hall of Famer: How will the Bucs overcome the loss of Gronk? Despite agent Drew Rosenhaus suggesting Gronk might return midseason, Gronkowski is adamant he’s moved on and ready to start a new chapter. To offset the loss of Gronk, the Bucs signed veteran Kyle Rudolph to a one-year contract last week, which gives them an experienced vet to pair with Cameron Brate, so they won’t have to rely so heavily on rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft. The Bucs’ 454 vertical routes run by tight ends over the past two seasons and 38 pass attempts of 20 or more yards to tight ends were both the most of any team, and Gronk’s 14.25 yards per reception were second-most among tight ends over the last two seasons. Rudolph’s average was 10.94 yards per catch and 9.9 yards per catch last year. Speed-wise, they’re comparable. Gronk’s average speed last year with the ball in his hands was 13.73 mph, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, while Rudolph’s was 13.26 mph.
Training camp is a success if… Fournette gets himself into a manageable playing weight without running himself into the ground. If Gage can step into Godwin's No. 2 role in the short term while Godwin works his way back from knee surgery. If rookie second-round draft pick Luke Goedeke becomes the fast study Tristan Wirfs was and grabs the starting left guard job. If quarterback Tom Brady can re-establish his electrifying deep ball connection with Scotty Miller after Miller dealt with a foot injury much of last season. And if the Bucs can begin the regular season with their entire starting defensive backfield intact after being ravaged by injuries last year.
Camp prediction: The Bucs will sign an outside linebacker before the start of the regular season. The Bucs still have Pro Bowler Shaq Barrett. While Joe Tryon-Shoyinka takes over for Jason Pierre-Paul, who remains unsigned, and Anthony Nelson will serve in a rotational capacity. But beyond those three, they’re thin and unproven with Cam Gill being the only other player having regular-season game experience. The list of quarterbacks they’ll face this season is downright absurd. Carl Nassib, Anthony Barr and Ryan Kerrigan are among some intriguing names still available.