Like all NFL teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter training camp each year with dual and intertwined goals. First, they want to take a group of 90 candidates and, from it, forge the best possible 53-man roster for the regular season. At the same time, as those players compete for jobs they are also working to absorb playbooks, schemes and game plans so that however that 53-man roster shapes up it will be ready to compete with opposing teams. For the Buccaneers, that starts specifically with the Dallas Cowboys.
Within that full-team framework, however, many players enter camp with different individual goals than their teammates. An undrafted rookie may simply be looking to show he belongs at the NFL level. A backup linebacker may be trying to prove he’s indispensible on special teams. A young running back may want to show he can hold up in pass protection.
That’s what we’ll be looking at over the next two weeks, rolling right up to the cusp of training camp. Call them ‘Camp Goals’ for each and every player on the 90-man roster. We’ll be doing this in order of jersey number, with a new range of 10 numbers each day. Since this is the first set in the series, we’ll be running down the players from 1-9, which in past years would have been just kickers and quarterbacks. With the NFL’s recently-relaxed jersey number restrictions, though, we also get to look at a running back, a linebacker and an outside linebacker.
#1 WR Jaelon Darden: Heading into his second season, the former fourth-round pick will look to solidify his hold on the punt and kickoff return jobs as a definitive way to make the roster and have a helmet on game days. In addition, he’ll try to prove that his skill-set, which includes lateral shiftiness and open-field elusiveness, can be an asset on offense.
#2 QB Kyle Trask: Ideally, Trask will take such a big step forward in his second camp that he becomes a legitimate threat to Blaine Gabbert for the top spot behind Tom Brady. That’s a tall task, however, given the coaching staff’s preference for Gabbert’s experience, so Trask’s eventual goal may be to continue his steady development and remain a clear option for the post-Brady era.
#3 K Ryan Succop: As the most accurate kicker in franchise history and a very strong performer for the 2020 Super Bowl team, Succop would seem to head into camp with the leg up to retain the Buccaneers’ placekicking job. However, he will have to fight off what figures to be a legitimate challenge for that job from first-year man Jose Borregales.
#4 QB Ryan Griffin: Amazingly, Griffin can continue to build on his status as the longest-tenured quarterback in franchise history. Remarkable, but true! A waiver claim just before the start of the 2015 season, Griffin has now spent seven consecutive years with the organization, the most ever for a Bucs QB if one counts his 2021 season spent on the practice squad. With Blaine Gabbert still the likely primary backup for Tom Brady and 2021 third-round pick Kyle Trask almost certainly secure in a spot on the roster, Griffin can still demonstrate that he’s valuable to have around, even if that once again begins on the practice squad.
#5 P Jake Camarda: The Buccaneers spent a fourth-round pick on the University of Miami punter – their highest such selection at that position since the 1980s – and later released incumbent Bradley Pinion. Given that, Camarda is a near-lock for the job in 2021 but he surely would like to give the team a heavy dose of confidence in his abilities heading into the regular season. The Buccaneers are going to be relying on the rookie to handle both punts and kickoffs, and he will be under the spotlight in particular during the three preseason games.
#6 WR Kameron Brown: Brown is one of four undrafted free agents on the Bucs’ camp roster but he was the last of the four to be signed, only getting his spot after performing well on a tryout contract in the rookie camp. That doesn’t necessarily put him behind the likes of Deven Thompkins, Jerreth Sterns and Kaylon Geiger, but there are only so many spots to go around between the 53-man roster and the 16-man practice squad when it all shakes out. Brown will be looking to show consistency and dependability day after day in training camp, which isn’t always easy for a young and inexperienced player.
#6 Sterling Hofrichter: Even after releasing Pinion the Bucs will still take two punters into camp, as the former Falcon has turned a late-season stint on Tampa Bay’s practice squad in 2020 into an extended chance to show what he can do. Hofrichter is surely intending to try to beat out Camarda for the job, but even if that doesn’t happen he could convince the Bucs to once again keep an extra punter around on the practice squad in 2022.
#7 Leonard Fournette: ‘Lombardi Lenny’ finally got the multi-year contract he was looking for this offseason after playing the last two seasons on one-year deals. That commitment from the Buccaneers and Fournette’s undeniable chemistry with Tom Brady makes it pretty likely he will remain the team’s workhorse back. Still, he’s got rookie third-rounder Rachaad White potentially trying to take over a significant portion of the third-down back role. Fournette and White – plus possibly Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard – aren’t necessarily competing against each other as the overall goal is to form a backfield that produces big numbers as a team. Still, Fournette is a competitor and would surely like to keep as big of a share of the reps as possible.
#9 WR Jerreth Sterns: Like Brown, Sterns is an undrafted rookie trying to make a fast impression. In his case, however, he’ll be trying to show that his 2021 college numbers, including a ‘triple crown’ of 150 receptions for 1,902 yards and 17 touchdowns at Western Kentucky, aren’t a mirage. Those numbers didn’t get Sterns drafted because he stands somewhere between 5-7 and 5-9, so he’ll have to show that he can play bigger than his size in the NFL. Sterns also didn’t participate in minicamp due to a minor injury, so he’s got a little bit of catching up to do relative to his fellow rookies.
#9 OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka: For an organization that has had remarkable lineup consistency since its Super Bowl LV win, Tryon-Shoyinka represents one of the main areas of transition on the 2022 squad. After playing a hybrid role as a rookie, the 2021 first-round pick is going to get a chance to start and focus on one of the two edge-rushing spots, replacing veteran Jason Pierre-Paul. To make this promotion look good, Tryon-Shoyinka would like to get off to a hot start during the regular season, and he can lay the foundation for that in training camp.
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