So after all of the hype, the debates back and forth of who should be the number one pick, and all of the moves, it finally feels good to realize that football is back as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers open up training camp this week.

Up first are going to be the rookies who report on Monday followed by the veterans on Friday. And for these rookies, they could play a much more integral role this season. From the more polarizing, to the most likable, this 2015 class could become the class that sets the foundation of the Bucs for years to come.

Of course, everything is going to begin with quarterback Jameis Winston. The controversial quarterback who was sliced and diced not just through the media, but also through the Bucs coaching and scouting staffs respectively. Extensive background checks were done, countless interviews were performed. And even despite all the off-field issues,  would never diminish the Bucs thoughts of drafting anyone else other than Winston.

Now make no mistake about it. The “Animal” has had his doubts about Winston, from an off-field prospective. After all, anyone who has a sexual assault lawsuit against their quarterback would tend to wonder if Winston should have been the pick. But in the few months since that selection, Winston has done nothing but impress me… A lot.  I love his passion. I love his dedication to the game… And that dedication could set the tone for a very interesting 2015.

Of course in order for Winston to be successful, its going to have to come from the offensive line. Major upgrades were needed after this team gave up 52 sacks on the season… third highest in the NFL in 2014. So what does GM Jason Licht do?  Uses the second round to draft two offensive lineman.

First would be Donovan Smith… The 6’5” 338 lb product out of Penn State. Smith will be the one responsible for protecting Winstons’ blind side as he will play left tackle. Another player will be Ali Marpet. Projected starter at right tackle,  Marpet is out of Division III Hobart in Hastings, NJ.. Its widely believed that both these players can provide Winston adequate time.

And speaking of time, one has to wonder if time has run out on RB Doug Martin. Known to Buc fans as the “Muscle Hamster,” Martin had a fabulous rookie season as he ran for 1,454 yds,  but has ran for under 500 yds each of the last two seasons. The Bucs decided this past off season,  not to pick up Martins’ fifth year option-thereby making him a free agent after the season. Bucs aren’t counting on a productive year for Martin…but you can bet Martin is thinking differently.

Add in the likes of LB Kwon Alexander from LSU,  along with WR’s Kenny Bell and Kaelin Clay out of Utah and Nebraska respectively, as well as RB Joe Iosefa out of Hawaii, and you have a rookie class that could very well have a major impact this season.

One has to wonder what will take place when training camp opens up, but if anything its going to lay the foundation for what will be an interesting season indeed… Stay tuned


By Joe “The Animal” Fulford