The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened up training camp Sunday, with all veterans and rookies expected to be in attendance for the first workout.
Defensive back Jordan Whitehead will not be at camp. He is on the Covid list and will not report to camp until later this summer.
Wide receiver Justin Watson was also not at camp as he will miss four months after undergoing surgery on his knee.
This has been a busy week for the Bucs. On Tuesday, the team met with President Biden at the White House. They were presented their Super Bowl Rings in an outdoor ceremony at the Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheater on Thursday.
That officially closed the book on the 2020 season, which made coach Bruce Arians a happy man. “I can’t wait for Thursday night to be over and get our rings and get onto next year. We show up to camp Saturday, and it’s a whole new team. This team is put to bed, and a new one gets to wake up and start working.”
Arians, along with quarterback Tom Brady are eager to get working on the new season.
Brady said he felt that this Bucs team was scratching the surface of their potential during their Super Bowl run. Brady said he is excited to see how much better the offense can be this season with all the starters returning.
Every starter from the 2020 team is back, and expectations are high as preparations begin to win another Super Bowl.
There is one position where the starter has not been announced, though. We probably won’t know who the starter will be until after the final preseason game.
Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette will battle it out in camp to see who will get the nod as the starting running back.
The title is just a formality anyway. Arians will make sure that Jones and Fournette get plenty of carries to start the season, and ultimately, he will settle on the back with the hot hand.
That seemed to work well last year, although it didn’t go over well with Leonard Fournette. Fournette met with coach Arians in early December about his playing time. Arians told him that he would grant Fournette his release if he would like.
He thought about it decided to be a good team player, and earned the nickname “Playoff Lenny” as he helped the Bucs win the Super Bowl with 448 yards of offense during the playoffs.
Fournette averaged 75 yards rushing per game in the playoffs after rushing for 367 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season.
Ronald Jones has continued to improve every season and had his best season in 2020, averaging 5.1 yards per carry on 978 rushing yards with seven touchdowns.
The knock against both of these guys is their pass-catching ability. Fournette caught 36 balls and averaged 6.5 yards per carry.
Jones caught 28 balls and averaged 5.9 yards per catch.
The Bucs need better production out of their backs in the running game. That’s is why they signed Giovanni Bernard.
Bernard, an eight-year veteran, has spent all of his years in the NFL with Cincinnati. He has a reputation as a good receiver out of the backfield and is an upgrade over both Jones and Fournette regarding his pass-catching ability.
Bernard caught 47 passes last year and averaged 7.6 yards per catch. In his career, Bernard has 342 catches and is averaging 8.4 yards per catch with 11 touchdowns.
Then there is the forgotten man in Ke’Shawn Vaughan. As a rookie in 2020, Vaughan ran for 109 yards and caught five passes for 38 yards.
The coaching staff remains high on Vaughan, but with Jones, Bernard, and Fournette ahead of Vaughan on the roster, it’s hard to get carries and become part of the rotation.
Arians talked about the running back competition ahead of training camp. “Obviously we had two really, really good ones at that position, and I really like Ke’Shawn Vaughn. I think with an offseason, he’s gonna have a breakout year, also. All those roles will be defined when we get to the last week of the preseason.”
My guess is Ronald Jones will win the competition at running back, based on the fact that he has become very good at getting extra yards after contact.
According to Pro Football Reference, Jones led the NFL last season in yards after contact with 3.0 yards. He was also fifth in the league as he averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
—Wide Receiver Chris Godwin and the Bucs were unable to agree on a new contract. Godwin will play the final year of his contract under the franchise tag.
Godwin will earn 15.9 million dollars this season and could become a free agent next March.