With training camp around the corner, there are a trillion few questions that are rattling around most Buc fan’s brain pan. After a horrendous season that saw unrest at every level of the team, you might think the only way things can go is up. You might think that if you have not been in this area listening to sports talk radio (or in any bar, anywhere, listening to fans that range from mildly dispassionate to downright mutinous). Fact is, we won three games. (and yea, I used “we.” Before you remind me that I am not on the team, I know that. I, like many fans, feel ownership in this team. If you don’t like my pronoun use, tough shit. ) We were competitive in quite a few of our losses. The defense showed signs of improvement after the change in scheme and coordinator. The QB of the future got meaningful snaps and showed some growth.
All of those things can regress.
As fans, our first glimpse of what has been done in the offseason comes with training camp. A once sacred time where the unwashed masses (in some cases, quite literally (Man, I use a lot of parenthetical clauses)) get to see what the offseason workouts have brought us. It’s like Christmas in July-ish for the diehard fan as we get to unwrap our rookie and free agent (*cough*) presents and watch them during scheme install and drills. For the astute viewer, many treasures can be found watching these practices. It requires some level of attention to detail, but many of the problems we watched for a seemingly endless season last year were rearing their ugly heads in training camp.
I called training camp a ‘once sacred,’ event because I am still bitter that only a portion of it will be open to fans this year. Regardless of the reason why, it pisses me off that the change was made. Predictably, I was not consulted on this decision. That being the case, I will make the most of the time I have and be watching for the following items. What are you looking for (if you are bothering to attend)?
- Is this really going to be the same laid-back, casual camp that was such a dismal failure last year or will the staff ratchet up the volume? I don’t mean the volume of the music playing during drills (Which really doesn’t matter). The camp last year was almost a polar opposite to the camps that Coach Gruden ran. Now this is not waxing melancholy about Jon’s departure, but the man ran a sharp camp. To come into 2010 and essentially proclaim that this year will be at best as lackadaisical as ’09 (http://blogs.tampabay.com/bucs/2010/07/bucs-continuing-gentler-training-camp-schedule.html) makes me sick. If you are that scared of injuries, screw it. Cancel camp.
- Has the time Josh Freeman has spent in the film room and on the field in the offseason advanced him? I was a huge anti Freeman draft pick guy (and no, not because I am huge. Is that really the best you’ve got?). Since then, I have supported him as a member of the team and been impressed with his improvement. This offseason, he has been an animal. The offseason, until camp, is pitch and catch. When he lines up against the 1’s on defense with contact, we will see how far he has come. From that data, we will be able to see how long Olsen has if our offense will show any signs of life.
- Have the Bucs added NFL caliber talent through the draft? That was the plan, right? We had more holes than free agency could fill. We went out and drafted, seemingly, very well. Now these kids have to hit the field and perform. This may be the most critical of all of these items (and the one that should have its own article). The ‘depth’ at WR is all untested (Is it enough to take the eraser to the penciled in #80 on the roster?). The new interior of a front four that MUST be productive is untested. Two of our primary deficiencies last year, addressed on paper but with no proof yet.
Camp is where we start to see the proof. You ready to watch?