2007 season recap
Bounce-back season: The Buccaneers won the NFC South in 2005, only to wind up in last place the following season. In 2007, the Bucs were back to their 2005 form, wrapping up the division title in Week 15. They then chose to rest many starters for most of the last two weeks and claimed to be ready with the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants coming to town in the wild card round. They started fast against the Giants, but ultimately faded down the stretch, losing, 24-14, at home.
Key camp questions
What roles will the RBs have?
Earnest Graham became the starter after injuries to Cadillac Williams in Week 3 and Michael Pittman in Week 5. He went on to have a career season, finishing with 898 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. In the offseason the Bucs signed Graham to a contract extension, but also added Warrick Dunn, while losing Pittman. There is also talk that Williams will be healthy enough to participate in training camp. That potentially creates a logjam in the backfield and the team will have to use training camp to sort out roles for each rusher.
What will happen with Chris Simms?
The quarterback who was once considered the future, now wants to become the past. Simms skipped the team's mandatory minicamp in the offseason and made clear he would like to be released so that he can latch on with another team. The Bucs, meanwhile, have refused to release their former starter. The longer the situation drags on, it could cast a cloud over the training camp. The team already has four other signal callers on the roster, including starter Jeff Garcia, and until the Bucs formally part ways with Simms, he may continue to be a negative source of publicity as he was during an offseason tirade in which he criticized coach Jon Gruden.
Can the veterans gear up for one more run?
Four of the most important players on the squad -- Garcia, WR Joey Galloway, LB Derrick Brooks, CB Ronde Barber -- are 33 and older. They have continued to perform at a very high level late into their careers, but at some point age will catch up to the celebrated veterans. The question is if that will happen this season, or will they be able to defy Father Time yet again. Regardless, the Bucs will take extra precautions with the quartet in training camp to ensure that they do not wear down before the season even begins.
Key position battle
WR Michael Clayton vs. WR Antonio Bryant vs. WR Maurice Stovall vs. WR Dexter Jackson: Galloway and Ike Hilliard are entrenched as the starters, but the third wideout position is wide open. With Galloway and Hilliard 36 and 32 respectively, the Bucs would like a younger third option to emerge. After a great rookie season, Clayton, 25, has seen his numbers decline in each of the past three seasons and needs to prove that he can return to the form he showed as a rookie. Bryant, 27, was out of the league last season and has had off-field troubles throughout his career. Stovall, 23, was unable to distinguish himself during his first two seasons and he is still looking to break through. Jackson, 21, was the team's second-round pick out of Appalachian State and was among the fastest players at the NFL Scouting Combine.
CB Aqib Talib: Talib will be given a chance to compete for the starting job immediately as he battles incumbent Phillip Buchanon and free agent pick up Eugene Wilson for the position. Even if he does not become the starter, he still figures to see valuable time as a nickleback in the Bucs' cover-two scheme. He will receive plenty of attention in training camp as the Bucs try and get him ready for the jump from Kansas to the NFL.
Player on the spot
TE Alex Smith: Smith enters training camp as the team's starting tight end and is coming off a season in which he set a career-high with 385 receiving yards. With backup Jerramy Stevens suspended for the first two games of the season and veteran Anthony Becht having gone to the Rams, Smith is the most experienced tight end on the roster. Veteran addition John Gilmore is strictly a blocker and free agent acquisition Ben Troupe is learning a new offensive system. It is up to Smith to show he can handle the prominent role in training camp.
WR Antonio Bryant: Bryant didn't see a single snap in the NFL last season, but he's a former 1,000-yard receiver with a lot left in the tank. The Buccaneers don't have much in terms of playmaking wideouts, so Bryant could start and develop into a low-end fantasy sleeper candidate.