Bucs much improved as training camp opens

By Ken Filler
Jul. 23, 2017

As Andy Williams so eloquently stated "Its the most wonderful time of the year." It always is this time of year as training camp officially opens and we begin the countdown to the 2017 season.

Football is back and not soon enough for this fan as the Bucs welcome rookies to training camp on Wednesday, with the veterans reporting on Friday.

This is one of the most anticipated seasons in Bucs recent history as optimism is high and good things are expected from this Bucs team including a possible playoff berth.

Offensively the additions of WR DeSean Jackson and the drafting of TE OJ Howard has the fan base excited and could propel this Bucs offense to be one of the best in team history. The Bucs have finished in the top 10 in offense just twice in their history. 1n 2015 and in 2012 the Bucs finished 5th and 9th respectively. Both of those teams finished below .500

Defensively, another year in DC Mike Smith's system, and some players back from injuries could have this defense getting a lot of attention. The addition of DL Chris Baker from the Redskins and Noah Spence 100% healthy should help this defense bring more pressure on the opposing QB. Everone is expecting Spence to have a breakout season and have double digit sacks. He finished with 5.5 sacks LY. It's been 12 years since the Bucs had a defense player with over 10 sacks.

The linebackers as a group are one of the best in the NFL. In some NFL polls Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David are rated as top 5 linebackers in the league. Rookie LB Kendall Beckwith a teammate of Kwon Alexander at LSU is expected to challenge for a starting job once 100% healthy. CB Vernon Hargraves should be much improved his sophomore season and Brent grimes will be back opposite Hargraves for his 12th season. Coach Koetter is wanting Hargraves to work on becoming more of a shutdown corner this season.

On paper this Bucs team is much better than the one that ended the 2016 season. But there are three key area's the Bucs will have to improve on to have a chance at the postseason. It all starts with QB Jameis Winston. He has to reduce his turnovers. Over his career Winston has thrown 33. INT and lost 9 fumbles. This kind of performance will not win you a championship. So Winston has to cut way back on the turnovers. Super Bowl winning QB Tom Brady has 18 turnovers over the same period.

The Bucs must get more pressure on he QB, creating more sacks. Defense wins championships and it starts upfront with the pressure on the QB. Robert Ayers, Gerald McCoy, and Noah Spence need to lead the charge this season.

The kicking game has to be more consistent. Look for Nick Folk, to beat out Roberto Aguayo in this battle. This will be the training camp battle that the national media will focus on, but it will be no surprise when Folk wins the job. The Bucs just can't afford to loose games when the kicker is struggling to make FG's inside the 40 yard line. I think the decision has already been made to go with Folk.

--The first of 12 practices will be open to the public on Saturday July 29. The first preseason game is Friday August 11th in Cincinnati.

--The first episode of Hard Knocks will air on HBO Tuesday August 8th at 10PM.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports