The Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin training camp on July 25th. Training camp is valuable for two reasons. It gives veterans a chance to perfect their timing and it provides reserves an opportunity to “wow” the coaching staff. This year Danny Noble is the player I expect to make the biggest splash in training camp.
At the moment Luke Stocker is projected to be the starter with Tom Crabtree behind him. Last year Nate Byham earned the third roster spot because of his blocking ability, but expect Noble, the second year tight end out of Toledo, to win that roster spot over the next few weeks.
Noble showed a lot of flash during last year’s preseason against the Titans. As a rookie Noble also practiced with the first team offense when Luke Stocker suffered an injury. It proved to be the opportunity Noble needed because his performance impressed the head coach, Greg Schiano.
“People say you’re lucky…when preparation meets opportunity that’s when you’re lucky…you know how it is, when one guy goes down, it’s another man’s opportunity. Was he spectacular, no. But I thought he did a good job for a guy [seeing] his first real bunch of action. That’s promising. We’ll just keep moving forward with it.” said Schiano.
Another reason to keep an eye on Noble during the preseason is his football connection with quarterback Josh Freeman. In an interview with 620WDAE’s radio program Freeman enthusiastically described his thoughts on Nobel.
“We got a kid Danny Noble, who’s a young up and comer. He’s a guy who last year played with a little bit of injury. I think if he gets through camp injury-free, get though preseason, the kid has some special sort of talent…not the fastest, but upper echelon speed wise, doesn’t have the best hands, but upper echelon as far as hands go. Like the kid makes some great catches. Once you get the ball in his hands…the kid’s got a little something special to him.”
From this quote it sounds like Freeman is on the bubble about Noble making the team. But Freeman is confident the second year Buccaneer will make the final roster. His injury history, which includes a broken leg during his senior year at Toledo and a season ending hamstring injury, is a cause for concern. Anticipate Nobel to land a final roster spot behind Crabtree who was brought in to help hold the blocks along the edge next to Donald Penn. However, if healthy, expect to be hearing Noble’s name a lot more than Bhyam’s from last season.
Ever since Kellen Winslow Jr. left the team, Tampa Bay really haven’t focused on passing to tight ends. One could speculate that it is because Freeman has a harder time reading the defenses when it comes to throwing to tight ends over the middle. In Winslow Jr.’s last year, Freeman threw 8 of his 22 picks while targeting Winslow.
In addition to a lack of slot production, the Buccaneers struggled on third down completing only 76 of 212 attempts for a 35.8% completion rating. A big part of this was the lack of a tight-end who could get open and free up the more primary receivers This is what Danny Noble will bring to the Buccaneers, and he already has Freeman’s endorsement.
“You know, he’s a guy that, you know, if we get through camp and if things go as you kind of see them going, then I feel like that guy definitely gets some quality time out there. And not just quality time but quality plays. He knows how to get open. He knows how to make plays.”
Last season seemed to foreshadow a Buccaneers’ offense that doesn’t value tight-ends. Although I still expect Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, and Doug Martin to get most of the targets, tight-end targets will increase this season. Mark Dominik has shown a lot of faith in Luke Stocker, went out and got Crabtree in free agency, and Noble has been impressive enough to warrant game-time. Also from a historical standpoint, a part of Buccaneer football is having a reliable pass-catching tight-ends: Jimmie Giles, Jackie Harris, Kellen Winslow, and now hopefully Luke Stocker or Danny Noble.
The 6-5, 248-pound, tall, athletic, blocking/pass-catching dual threat, leaping tight-end Noble might not start, but he will be another stud for Josh Freeman to target on long third downs and goaline plays.