2012 training camp preview: Tampa Bay Bucs

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

More NFC South training camp previews: Falcons | Panthers | Saints

Training camp goals

1. The Bucs made a lot of decisions in the offseason based on one simple goal: save quarterback Josh Freeman. Two years ago, Freeman passed for 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions. But last season, affected by the lockout and a suspect supporting cast, Freeman struggled with only 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.
Coach Greg Schiano began by hiring Giants quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan as offensive coordinator. Sullivan is credited with helping Eli Manning the past two years. The Bucs also improved Freeman's weapons. They signed a legitimate No. 1 receiver in free agent Vincent Jackson and Saints guard Carl Nicks. The Bucs also used the No. 31 overall pick on Boise State running back Doug Martin, who can be effective on all three downs. Freeman has to improve his accuracy and fundamentals while learning his third offense in four years. He's off to a good start.
2. The Bucs' front seven on defense has to come alive. Tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price haven't been healthy the past two seasons. Tampa Bay did not really address the defensive line in the draft or free agency and Da'Quan Bowers, the team's second-rounder in 2011, tore his Achilles and could be out for the season.

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There's also no help for the young linebacking corps. The Bucs plan to go with Mason Foster again at middle linebacker and added LaVonte David on the weak side. Tampa Bay gave up 494 points last year -- a franchise record. New defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan has his work cut out.

Player to watch
Running back Doug Martin reminds Schiano of one of his former Rutgers players: Ray Rice. That's high praise and Martin would be lucky to approach that level of greatness. But the point was made. The Bucs needed a back who can stay on the field during passing downs. LeGarrette Blount has slimmed down and is saying all the right things. But Blount knows he has to work on ball security, but it's hard to believe the starting job won't be won by Martin. Word of caution: Martin rarely had 25 or touches in any game at Boise State, so it remains to be seen if he can carry the load for the Bucs.

On the hot seat

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has to stay healthy. The last two seasons, McCoy has been derailed by a torn biceps muscle in each arm. McCoy, the third overall pick in the draft, has only four sacks in his career and the Bucs have had less than 26 in each of the past two seasons. McCoy is signed through 2013, but general manager Mark Dominik has made it clear that McCoy's expiration date is getting close.

Strategy and personnel
Wide receiver Mike Williams could see action as a kickoff and punt returner this season, something he hasn't done since his days at Syracuse.
Medical watch

DT Amobi Akoye (knee) underwent arthroscopic surgery but will be ready for training camp.

Full Bucs team report

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