Bucs Training Camp Preview 2014: Defense


Jun 10, 2014; Tampa Bay, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith talks with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) during minicamp One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This is what us Bucs fans crave.

The heat is sweltering after a 1:00PM kickoff at Raymond James Stadium.

“TAMPA…..BAY!” is being chanted, back and forth in the stands.

The opponent’s offense is cowering in fear after looking across the field. They see 2-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy. First-team All-Pro Lavonte David. They know the middle is plugged so they try to throw…but forget about Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner. They think they can go across the middle without repercussion…until Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron clear the skies with life-altering force.

And it is all controlled chaos, led by the new captain of the ship, who set sail from Chicago to Tampa Bay to bring back defensive football and find the buried treasure: a Lombardi Trophy.

This is nostalgia for Buccaneer fans everywhere.

I am 23 years old. As a Bucs fan, I grew up at the perfect time in the team’s history. Tony Dungy was hired to turn the team around, and he did just that; turning a perennial loser into a team worth watching every Sunday.

And boy, did I watch.

I watched as Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and company suffocated offenses until they were put to sleep. It was a thing of beauty, but at that age, I took it all for granted. I had no idea how rare it was for a team to be that skilled.

Now, I know all too well.

Watching the late Gruden years, the Raheem Morris experiment, and the Schiano mistake has probably taken off some years of my life due to the stress of watching countless amounts of mistakes.

But now, as a community, we can band together and be excited again.

Lovie Smith, a former linebackers coach under Tony Dungy in Tampa, has returned to bring OUR style of football back.

Once again, teams will have to think twice about what offense they want to run against us. Finally, an opponent’s quarterback can start looking like a deer in headlights instead of a trained sharpshooter. Opposing running backs will be stopped in their tracks before they can even look for a hole in the line.

This is the plan, Tampa Bay.

And here are the main stories at every position going into training camp:

DE: Bowers’ Time Has Come

Ever since the Buccaneers drafted Da’Quan Bowers in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft, there has been lots of hype, but little results surrounding the former Clemson star. And rightfully so; before suffering a knee injury, Bowers was projected to go No. 1 overall in many expert mock drafts. But in reality, even when he has been healthy, Bowers has been a dud that hasn’t made the most of his reps. And now, those reps are few and far between. With the pass rusher on the bubble to make the roster this season, Bowers will have to prove that he wants it more than it previous years. If he can’t, players like William Gholston and Steven Means would love to show their worth.

DT: Will Spence Rise to the Challenge?

The Buccaneers went out and signed former Seahawks DT Clinton McDonald in free agency to give Gerald McCoy a worthy sidekick up front this season. The Bucs would love for Akeem Spence to step into that role one day, but after some injury problems and an off-the-field incident, Spence’s stock is dropping. He’ll have to have a good camp to get back in the good graces of the team, and the fans.

LB: If a Starter Goes Down, Will Tampa Bay be Ready?

There isn’t too much depth behind Lavonte David, Mason Foster, or Johnathan Casillas at linebacker this year. That is an obvious concern. Last year, Tampa Bay had the luxury of Dekoda Watson and Adam Hayward, both of whom were very serviceable linebackers that played well on special teams. This year, the team has no such luxury, and will rely on Dane Fletcher and/or some of the younger players to step into reliable backup role with the team.

CB: Banking on Success

2nd-year cornerback Johnthan Banks no longer has the luxury of learning from Darrelle Revis. However, you can bet that will put all that he has learned into action as he lines up across the field from Alterraun Verner. The Buccaneers need a good camp out of Banks, who is banking on himself proving why he was so highly coveted by fans last season. If not, players like veteran Mike Jenkins, Danny Gorrer and Rashaan Melvin will be waiting in the wings. There will also be a battle at nickel, in which Leonard Johnson would like to star in and prove that he deserves to keep that spot.

S: Mistakes Will Not Be Tolerated

Unlike recent years, the Buccaneers have some solid depth at the safety position. Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson will be starting, barring either of the two being unable to adapt their game to new NFL rules. The Bucs have three experienced safeties on their roster; the third is Major Wright, a former Chicago Bear who knows what Lovie Smith wants out of the position. Keith Tandy is also waiting in the wings, as he played surprisingly well during Goldson’s suspension last year. Goldson might have an especially short leash if he can’t find a way to tone down his game. No matter what happens, however, the level of competition should bring out the best in all of our roster’s safeties.

That’s it for our training camp previews. Camp begins this afternoon at 4:30 PM, weather permitting. Happy football, everyone. Fire the cannons.