For every few Buccaneers that we are extremely excited to see on Sundays, there are others that still have to prove their worth to the current squad. The common denominator between almost everyone on this list is this: high expectations, and low rewards.
These are the guys that must go into training camp feeling like they have something to prove. The potential is there, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to see some results.
Here we go.
5. Kadeem Edwards/Carl Nicks, LG
Everyone knows that the path to success starts with effective line play, but the Buccaneers have a huge question mark in regards to the left guard position. The big man with the big contract (and big toe), Carl Nicks, hasn’t participated in any of the offseason team activities or minicamps, and must take a leap during training camp if he wants to play in Week One. Many of us have our doubts about Nicks, and for good reason. Ever since being signed in the same offseason as Vincent Jackson, Nicks hasn’t been able to play a full season in a Bucs uniform.
Which leads into why he’s tied with Kadeem Edwards for this selection. Edwards, a rookie out of Tennessee State, might have to step into the starting left guard role since there is a good chance Carl Nicks won’t be able to play. If that’s the case, Edwards has a lot to learn in a short amount of time. While he has all of the physical tools, the one knock on Edwards is technique. This is the big time, not a small college with inferior opposition. Edwards, however, is pretty lucky. He is going to see a lot of different moves from defensive linemen because of the team’s strong love for defensive skills. Head coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will throw the book at Edwards, and it is up to him and offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford to make sure he is ready to start when the season begins.
4. Louis Murphy, WR
A veteran wideout that has bounced around the league, Louis Murphy has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career. His speed is what offenses around the league covet from their wide receivers, but his route running and consistency when catching the football are the two big reasons why Murphy hasn’t stuck with a team for the long term.
While Murphy might not be on the roster bubble because of the Bucs’ need for depth at the position, he will be fighting to earn an important role on the team. The former Florida Gator was slated to be the Buccaneers’ slot receiver until the team drafted Robert Herron in the sixth round this year. Now, every sports pundit you ask believes that Herron will win that job outright, making Murphy the fourth option on the depth chart.
That’s not too bad, but Murphy signed with expectations that he would play a big role in Tampa Bay’s passing game. But unless he steps up in training camp, that might not be the case.
3. Jeff Demps, RB/KR
Ever since last offseason’s trade with the New England Patriots, the expectations of Jeff Demps have been large. I mean, who wouldn’t expect a lot from an olympic track star?
Demps has the kind of speed that can take over a game at any moment. But the fact remains: Demps has yet to do that for the Buccaneers. Last season, he spent the first few games unsure of whether or not he even wanted to play football. Then, when he decided to put his pads on, he suffered a groin injury that ended his season shortly after it began.
It seems as though, for now, that Demps is solely focused on football. He’ll need to be, because the Buccaneers have tons of depth at running back. With Doug Martin and Charles Sims looking to be the stars of the backfield, Demps, Bobby Rainey and Mike James will all be vying for the same roster spots.
The Buccaneers understand Demps’ potential, with plans to test him returning kicks and punts, as well as lining up at wide receiver on occasion. The former track star will have to make the most of those reps, and if he does, he could prove to be an asset in Tampa Bay.
2. Luke Stocker, TE
For years now, we’ve been hearing the same old thing: “this is the year that Luke Stocker becomes the tight end we’ve wanted him to be.”
Injuries have had other ideas for Stocker, who was a third round pick of Tampa Bay’s a few years ago. The former Tennessee Volunteer was supposed to be a dual threat tight end, who could excel in his blocking and make dynamic plays in the passing game. Instead, Stocker has been unable to stay healthy. And when he has been on the field, he has not made an impact.
But somehow, like a cockroach, he hasn’t gone away. Stocker has stayed with the team as many other tight ends have come and gone.
That could all change this year, as the Buccaneers signed former Raider and Giant Brandon Myers, and then drafted their projected starter, Austin Seferian-Jenkins. If those two acquisitions pan out, then Stocker is extremely expendable, as the current coaching staff and front office have no loyalties towards him. That means that he has to play like a man possessed in training camp, or else Stocker will be stocking groceries while the Bucs are still playing football.
1. Da’Quan Bowers, DE
You might see a pattern developing with the players that have been chosen on this list. Most of them came into the organization with high expectations that they were unable to fulfill.
Bowers is no different.
In fact, Da’Quan Bowers is currently the poster child for unfulfilled expectations. He was expected to go No. 1 overall, and he dropped into the 2nd round. He was expected to be opposing quarterbacks’ worst nightmare, and yet he has barely sniffed an NFL passer. Da’Quan Bowers was supposed to give us flashbacks of Simeon Rice, but instead, he’s been as plain as white rice.
But finally, Bowers has reached an all-or-nothing crossroads in his NFL career. This is the first coaching staff he has worked with that has any previous NFL experience, and luckily for Bowers, that experience has been focused on the defensive side of the football.
If anyone can resurrect his career from the dead, it is Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier. But if they can’t, then what other team would have confidence that Bowers can contribute in a big way?
Da’Quan needs a big training camp more than any other Buccaneer on the roster. If he can’t make that happen, he’ll more than likely join the ranks of Aaron Maybin and Vernon Gholston as great college pass rushers who just couldn’t cut it in the NFL.