Offseason OTA’s are underway for the Buccaneers, and like their 31 counterparts around the league there is boundless optimism surrounding the team. OTA’s are enjoyable and fun for this very reason, but also dangerous from the standpoint of expectations. Everyone looks good, and sometimes we fall into the trap of buying into certain players, themes, or roster orders before the pads come on. The truth is, there isn’t much worthwhile to buy from things like this. But there are exceptions. I’m here to attempt to document these exceptions and cut through the fog that is OTA information. This is my grocery list of what to “buy” coming out of Buccaneer OTA’s.
- High expectations for the Bucs this season are very real: Over the years the Bucs have become somewhat of a staple in stories regarding potential Cinderella teams for the next season. This season is no different. On Monday multiple Buccaneers acknowledged the high expectations for the Bucs coming into this season, with Donovan Smith being asked about exepecations for the offensive line in particular.
“We have very high expectations throughout the whole room. Just ownership, accountability just in the sense of doing your job, knowing what to do, being where you need to be on and off the field. The expectations are through the roof. Coach Warhop, his expectations are through the roof”.
Head coach Dirk Koetter also talked about the expectations, saying: “Oh I promise you I have high expectations, probably higher than anybody else out there does. We have very high expectations for ourselves but you can’t get excited other than working”. Koetter and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy also commented that the success of the Lightning has set expectations even higher than they normally would have been.
- The roar of Afrothunder, Kenny Bell: The hype around Kenny Bell has grown louder as of late, and he was a hot name after the first day of OTA’s. He made this play https://twitter.com/TBBuccaneers/status/735210285993218048 and continued his upward trend this offseason. Jameis Winston talked about Bell after practice on Tuesday. “I probably spent more time with Kenny Bell last year than I’ve spent with the rest of the guys because we live so close to each other. So I’m very excited for him. I look forward to him doing big things. He’s a big play guy. He can stretch that field for us.”
Offensive coordinator and wide receiver coach Todd Monken had similarly positive words to say about Bell last week:
“Kenny’s got talent. Kenny can run, he can bend, he’s athletic, he’s really smart. I think he’s excited about getting back out there and giving himself a chance to compete.”
Dirk Koetter also mentioned Bell as a return candidate, an aspect of Bell’s repertoire that should add an extra layer of excitement around his name as we progress through the offseason.
- Permanent morning training camp practices: As someone who frequently attends Buccaneer training camps, this was my absolute favorite part of the day. The Tampa heat is a nightmare and the frequent afternoon showers are even worse. Hopefully this change will cut down on muscle pulls and overall fatigue. Dirk Koetter spelled out his reasoning:
We did a little study and in August when we’re out here it’s on average 11 degrees cooler at 8:45 a.m. than it is at 2:45 p.m., so I did quick Idaho State math [laughs] and figured that out and said, ‘Jeez, it’s 11 degrees cooler. Why don’t we practice in the morning?’, so it didn’t take a brain surgeon. The last 10 years I’ve been coaching in the South I really do believe there is a cumulative effect over the course of the season, from August until the end of the year, when you’re out here, even if it’s for walkthrough at 12, 1, 2 [p.m.] and it’s 95 degrees and the sun is beating on you. I just think there’s a cumulative effect. We are going to do everything we can to try to chip away at that. There’s some things we can’t get away from, but we’re going to do what we can.”
- Defense creating turnovers: On the first day of OTA’s the Buccaneer defense reportedly shined. According to the Buccaneers official website, Kwon Alexander and Brent Grimes each recorded interceptions. The veteran free agent acquisition Grimes also reportedly had a couple of pass breakups. I know, this definitely sounds like something that belongs in the “sell” category, because at face value it is pretty worthless; who cares about stats from a non-contact practice? But from a broader point of view it fits what should be expected of Mike Smith’s defense this season. Mike Smith has three times coached a defense that finished top ten in interceptions, and has stated ad nausea that turnovers are a critical product of his defenses, going back to Atlanta and Jacksonville. Their linebackers, cornerbacks and defensive ends are ripe with athleticism that should be able to force plenty of turnovers through fumbles and interceptions in Mike Smith’s player-friendly scheme.