Baseball is the only one of America’s four major sports going right now, so if you’re a fan of quirky stats or accomplishments you have to turn to the diamond right now to get your fix. Fortunately, quirky stats seem to be about half of baseball’s raison d’être, if you will. And last night, somebody watching the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals do battle came up with a doozy. You might find this one mind-blowing, or you might find it a little silly. We lean a bit towards the latter.
So, Seattle players Adam Frazier, Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez and Cam Raleigh all went deep in the game. Frazier, Winker, Suarez and Raleigh happen to wear jersey numbers 26, 27, 28 and 29, respectively and – get this – that’s the first time in MLB history that four teammates in consecutive jersey numbers all homered in a single game.
Why bring this up? Well, here on Buccaneers.com were in the midst of another exercise involving consecutive jersey numbers. With training camp fast approaching, we’re looking at each player on the 90-man roster and guessing at what his individual goals for camp may be. And we’re doing it by jersey number, in groups of 10, with today’s focus on those players in numbers 30-39.
Since all but one of those players is a defensive back, the only analogous accomplishment would be if four of them in consecutive jersey numbers got interceptions in the same game. That is exceedingly unlikely; the more reasonable question is will any four consecutive players on this list all make the active roster. That, of course, is the most basic goal of every player about to head into Bucs’ camp in less than two weeks, though it’s a higher hill to climb for some than others. In pursuit of that most important outcome, different players have different goals on which to focus. Let’s look at what those might be for the next 10 players on the roster.
#30 CB Dee Delaney: Delaney’s goal should be simply to build on the momentum he created with an excellent string of practices in OTAs and minicamp. The second-year cornerback was repeatedly lauded by teammates and coaches for making splash plays during those workouts, which is big for a secondary whose primary goal in 2022 is to create more turnovers. Delaney had bounced around the league since signing with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and had appeared in just three regular-season games before signing with the Bucs last May, so it was a pleasant surprise when he cracked the 53-man roster. He’s less of a dark horse heading into camp this year after getting some playing time in 2021 and continued strong play in camp and the preseason could easily mean another spot on the 53.
#31 S Antoine Winfield Jr.: A budding star after just two seasons and a newly-minted Pro Bowler, Winfield is expected to be one of the Buccaneers’ most important defensive players in 2022. In May, he said he definitely wanted “to be more productive as far as creating turnovers,” so that is likely to be a focus of his from Day One of training camp. Winfield has four interceptions, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries (not to mention 6.0 sacks) through his first two seasons, so he’s already demonstrated that he is capable of making game-changing plays. Winfield said the additions of Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan will give him and the Bucs’ secondary a chance to be more versatile, so figuring out how best to work with the other safeties will be a goal for Winfield and that group, too.
#32 S Mike Edwards: The Buccaneers drafted Edwards in the third round in 2019 and he started seven games as a rookie, seeing action on 58% of the team’s defensive snaps. That dropped to zero starts and 18% of the snaps in 2020. That was undoubtedly frustrating for the young defender, but he did get his snap count back up to 57% last year as the team looked for ways to get his ball-hawking prowess into the mix. With Jordan Whitehead departing in free agency, there is obviously a big chunk of playing time up for grabs, but the team has also added Neal and Ryan. Edwards camp goal is surely to convince the coaching staff that his all-around game, and not just his nose for the football, is strong enough to keep him on the field on close to an every-down basis.
#33 S Troy Warner: Here’s a good goal for Warner: Be like big brother. Troy is the slightly younger brother of San Francisco’s Fred Warner, one of the best off-ball linebackers in the league, and the two were teammates for a while at BYU. When the younger Warner signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent last year, his older sibling told him not to focus on the end goal (making the roster) but on being the best version of himself every day in camp. As an undrafted player compared to his brother’s third-round draft status, Warner faces a longer road to security in the NFL, but it’s notable that the Buccaneers kept him on their practice squad for the entire 2021 season (after he was cut by the Rams) and even used practice squad protection options on him frequently. Warner will likely come into his second NFL camp with the same focus suggested by his brother, striving to be at his best day after day.
#34 S Nolan Turner: The goal for this undrafted free agent in his first NFL camp could be to continue proving to doubters that he belongs. Turner was only recruited to Clemson at the last minute after the Tigers suddenly faced a shortage of DBs, but he eventually developed into a starter, a team captain and a very productive safety. He wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine this year but he performed so well at Clemson’s Pro Day that he got on the radar for several teams. And now he faces the uphill battle in front of every undrafted player, plus a Buccaneers’ safety room that is not shy on talent, particularly after the signings of Neal and Ryan. Still, even if Turner falls short of the 53-man roster he could set his sights on a practice squad spot, which could eventually pay off with a number of those veteran safeties hitting free agency next spring.
#35 CB Jamel Dean: Dean has always been very straightforward and open when asked to discuss aspects of his game, and in May he made it pretty clear what his goal is heading into his fourth season. To put it simply, more interceptions. “One or two a season – that’s not enough compared to players that are getting five to 11,” he said. “I always want to be in the top category in that, so that’s why I’ve got to improve my mental aspect of the game and that’s why I’ve been taking advantage of all the OTA reps I can get just to try and perfect my craft.” Dean also said the coaching staff is emphasizing the mental aspect of the game to the defensive backs because they’ve been in the same system long enough that they should have their own assignments down and can now focus even more on what offense are trying to do to them. If OTAs were a good time to work on this, then training camp, with its more intense practices, should be even better.
#36 CB Don Gardner: Like a lot of young players and undrafted free agents, Gardner heads into training camp surely aware that his best chance of securing a spot on the 53-man roster or the practice squad is to show up on special teams. He has a good combination of size and speed – and Todd Bowles prefers big and long corners – and that’s a good starting point for a cover man on punts and kickoffs. Gardner was productive in college, but since he comes from South Dakota State he’ll be looking to prove that his skills will translate to a much higher level of competition.
#37 CB Kyler McMichael: You could say many of the same things about McMichael as we did for Gardner, as he also is big and fast and will need to be productive on special teams. The Buccaneers did give the North Carolina product the biggest signing bonus/base contract of all their 2022 undrafted free agents, so there’s reason to believe the team thinks he’s a prospect worth developing. McMichael is an aggressive defensive back, and that will play well in Bowles’ defense, but that can also occasionally lead to mistakes. McMichael could focus on proving that when he does make the inevitable mistake he learns from it and doesn’t repeat it in the next practice. Plenty of young players shine at various times during a long training camp, but not all of them can sustain it. McMichael has a real shot but he’ll need to show consistency to make the most of it.
#38 RB Kenjon Barner: Barner was with the Buccaneers for all of 2020 and the last six weeks or so of 2021, and in that time he logged a total of four carries and no receptions. Meanwhile, he has had several stints as the primary punt and kickoff returner – most notably in December of 2020 before he suffered a practice-field finger injury. Barner has been in the league for nearly a decade and his most prominent contributions throughout most of that career have been in the return game. With four running backs ahead of him on the Bucs’ depth chart, it seems likely that Barner’s best shot at making the roster is to win at least one of the return jobs. Clearly, that’s a possibility, as the Bucs have shown confidence in him in that regard in the past. Presumably that will be a major focus for the veteran back in training camp, and particularly in the preseason games.
#39 S Chris Cooper: Cooper has spent time on six NFL rosters (primarily on practice squads) since he entered the league in 2018 as an undrafted free agent out of Division I Stony Brook, but he has yet to get his first shot at playing in a regular-season game. The Buccaneers didn’t add him to the roster until the day before training camp last year but he still landed on the practice squad (after initially making the cut through to the 53-man roster for a brief stay) and stayed there for most of the season. He was then re-signed to a futures contract in January and thus gets a second shot at a Buccaneers training camp. Cooper’s goal is obviously to take that much-anticipated next step and get a shot at playing in the regular season, and like many of the players on this sub-list, he’ll create his best shot at doing so by shining on special teams, showing he knows the playbook and performing consistently on a day-to-day basis.
As our pre-camp rundown of the possible camp goals for each player on the roster continues we look at a group made up entirely of running backs and defensive backs.
As we consider what each player on the Bucs’ 90-man roster will be focusing on in training camp, we look at a group that includes three quarterbacks, a lot of receivers and one highly-motivated kicker.
From second-year WR Jaelon Darden and his battle for the return job to Joe Tryon-Shoyinka’s expected promotion to a starting spot, we start our ‘Camp Goals’ rundown with the players in jersey numbers 1-9
The Buccaneers have scheduled 12 practices during their 2022 training camp that will be open to Krewe Members and special guests, including two during joint sessions with the Miami Dolphins
© TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED