3 Buccaneers players with a lot to prove in training camp this year

Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp will start next month and when it does a few players like Trey Palmer will need to prove themselves.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp will start next month and when it does a few players like Trey Palmer will need to prove themselves. / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

We’ve officially reached the doldrums of the football offseason. Free agency is behind us, the NFL Draft has come and gone, and teams have even checked off two separate offseason camps in OTAs and mandatory minicamp. 

Before we know it the regular season will be here, but in the meantime the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will need to figure out what the roster will look like when that time arrives. Training camp won’t start until July 22nd and when it does more than a few players will be fighting not only for playing time but for roster spots. 

Tampa Bay can only carry 53-players on the final roster, which doesn’t need to be locked in until late-August. What happens over the next few months will be critical to the future of a few Bucs players who have a lot to prove when training camp rolls around. 

3 Buccaneers players with a lot to prove in training camp this year

Randy Gregory, EDGE

How soon is now for Randy Gregory? That’s the million dollar question the Bucs will need to answer in training camp, but the act of solving the equation might be out of their hands. 

Gregory was quietly signed to a one-year deal back in April, and has all the making of a high-upside addition. He’s bounced between Denver and San Francisco last season after spending some uneven years in Dallas, but at his best he’s a playmaking edge rusher the Bucs could very much use in their rotation. 

The problem is nobody in Tampa Bay has seen him yet. Not in the sense that coaches haven’t seen the spark from his Cowboys years the team invested in, he hasn’t shown up to any offseason camps

He skipped all three days of mandatory minicamp with an unexcused absence and has seemingly already drawn the ire of his coaches. No official reason was given for Gregory not showing up, but the cork board theory isn’t hard to put together. 

Gregory is currently suing the league and the Denver Broncos over fines he received for using marijuana. He claims that despite informing both parties that he ha a medical need for the drug — in this case treating his anxiety — but was still punished for failing drug tests. 

This could be the reason he’s skipping camp, but it’s impossible to be sure until Gregory says something and not even that has happened yet. 

All of this has created some serious pressure on Gregory to prove his worth at training camp, assuming he shows up at all. Tampa Bay needs edge rush help, which is why he was brought in, but it’s not like there’s a lack of players in line to try and earn playing time. 

Jose Ramirez was a late-round pick last year who landed on Tampa Bay’s practice squad for most of last season, and he’s a name many are circling as a potential breakout. We saw guys like Yaya Diaby and SirVocea Dennis end up in valuable starting roles last season, with K.J. Britt and J.J. Russell both earning playing time and making an impact. 

Ramirez could fall somewhere in between those two groups, and the lack of Gregory at training camp would mean more opportunities for him to shine. The same goes for Markees Watts, who is fighting for a job that Gregory seems uninterested in defending. 

The best case scenario is that Gregory shows up to camp and starts showing why the Bucs took a gamble on him. It’s undeniable that the pressure is on, though, and he’ll need a big camp to ensure he doesn’t end up on the wrong side of the roster bubble. 

Trey Palmer, WR

Needing to prove something isn’t necessarily a bad when it comes to Trey Palmer, rather his situation could be viewed more as an opportunity. Things have started to break his way this offseason, from the release of Deven Thompkins to comparisons to rookie Jalen McMillan as a name to watch as the roster settles. 

Tampa Bay released Thompkins under some dubious rationale. The team claims he was cut due to injury but his release came amid domestic violence allegations. That all bares mentioning because of the off-field implications it has, but on the field the removal of Thompkins from the roster equation opened up a clear path for Palmer to shine.

Last season Thompkins was the Bucs’ primary return man on special teams, which is a role that Palmer will likely now fill. That was a sort of tiebreaker between the two and a primary reason for keeping Thompkins on the roster. Now that feather is in Palmer’s cap as his potential as a returner adds some unique value. 

It essentially means he’s a lock to make the final 53-man roster, which is a foot-in-the-door situation that could unlock even more to his game. If he’s already on the roster, that means he’s likely to get some looks in the passing game even if the room is more crowded than it was last season. Palmer still saw action, and while he made some rookie mistakes he also showed some serious flashes of being a real contributor on offense. 

The arrival of McMillan boxes him out of the WR3 role, but if Palmer can put together an impressive training camp — something he seems on the way to doing — then it could mean a bigger and more impactful role. 

Sean Tucker, RB

Last offseason Tucker was a training camp darling. Most pundits believed that had he not been dealing with a heart issue entering the draft he likely would have been selected. Instead he ended up among the Buccaneers rich undrafted free agent class and showed some serious early promise that suggested he might be a steal. 

That never materialized, and now he might be fighting for a job a year later. 

Tucker saw limited action during the regular season but was unable to make the most of the reps he got. He came into the season as the RB3 behind Rachaad White and Chase Edmonds, but soon lost snaps to Ke’Shawn Vaughn who ended up getting released halfway through the season. 

He still has a chance to prove himself but the pressure is no doubt on. White took a massive step forward last season and is primed to breakout as a top running back in the league while the Bucs re-signed Edmonds and drafted Bucky Irving to fill out the room. 

All of that movement leaves Tucker on the edge of the roster bubble, one that has already claimed a victim. Patrick Laird was carried as a fourth running back last season, spending most of his time on the practice squad, but he was squeezed out with the new additions. 

That could be the path that Tucker is on, as there isn’t a clear spot for him on the final roster. He could convince the Bucs he’s worthy of a practice squad spot — or perhaps more — but he’ll need to prove that in a big way this July and August. 

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