Sports Talk Florida’s NFL Training Camp Primer

NFL TRAINING CAMP IS HERE! ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL? FLORIDA STYLE!

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Last year’s result: 5-11, did not qualify for the playoffs.

Head Coach: Dirk Koetter – 14-18 overall record entering his third season with the Bucs.

Key Offseason Additions: DE, Vinny Curry; DT, Beau Allen; K, Chandler Catanzaro; and C Ryan Jenson.

Key Offseason Departures: RB, Doug Martin; and DT, Chris Baker.

2018 Draft Class

Top Storylines

  • First Three Weeks: Koetter is without question on the hot seat entering this season. Quarterback Jameis Winston hasn’t done him any favors due to his antics off the field. The Bucs will be without Winston for the toughest stretch of the season facing the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers. Tampa Bay cannot afford to go 0-3; however, they don’t need to go 3-0, or even 2-1 for that matter. If the Buccaneers can get just one game in the first three weeks, they’ll have a chance at a playoff run. Week four is very winnable at Chicago, then the bye in week five to regroup and attack the rest of the season.
  • Make or Break for Winston: One the reasons Tampa Bay let go Lovie Smith after the 2015 season was to keep Koetter and develop their young quarterback. Winston has improved each year; most notably, his completion percentage and passer rating. However, some cannot justify keeping the young signal-caller with his off the field concerns, $20 million plus cap hit in 2019, and no playoff appearances. The second pick in the 2015 NFL draft, Marcus Mariota, already has a playoff win in Tennessee. This is a make or break season for Winston on the field from a production standpoint.

Training Camp Questions

  • Quarterback Rotation: Even though Winston is suspended for the first three weeks, he can participate in training camp. It puts Koetter in a sticky situation with his quarterbacks. Koetter must get quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ready to be the starter for the first three weeks. Also, he must groom a backup quarterback in case Fitz goes down. However, Koetter has to keep Winston in shape and ready for when he comes back in week four. A tall task for Koetter who’s considered one of the top quarterback coaches in the league.
  • Time to Step Up: There are playoff teams that would kill for the Bucs’ receiving corps. Receivers Mike Evans, Desean Jackson, and Chris Godwin can be electric if used properly. Combined with red zone threats Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard, the Bucs will lean on their receiving corps as the running game is a work in progress. Tampa Bay’s defense will look to be elite in 2018. Defense will be a signature focus in training camp as they face some high-powered offenses throughout the season.

Jacksonville Jaguars 

Last year’s result: 10-6, lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship.

Head Coach: Doug Marrone – Entering second season as Jags’ head coach, lead Jacksonville to its first playoff appearance in ten years.

Key Offseason Additions: G, Andrew Norwell; WR, Donte Moncrief; CB, DJ Hayden, TEs, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Niles Paul.

Key Offseason Departures: TE, Mercedes Lewis; CB, Aaron Colvin; LB, Paul Posluszny; WRs, Allen Hurns, and Allen Robinson.

2018 Draft Class

Top Storylines

  • What Does Success Look Like: Most teams strive for a better finish than the previous season while aiming for the playoffs. For Jacksonville, a better finish is a Super Bowl berth. Jacksonville has to regroup after having a ten point lead vs. the New England Patriots with less than ten minutes left in the fourth quarter. The AFC South will be much stiffer in competition as quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck comeback, and the Tennessee Titans who swept the Jags last year. Jacksonville will lean on their top-notch defense and run game as their Super Bowl window is officially open.
  • Bortles: Due to his play last season, Bortles bought himself a couple more years as the Jags’ quarterback and a nice contract as well, three years $54 million with $26 million guaranteed. However, the work isn’t done yet. If Jacksonville wants to reach the Super Bowl, they’ll need Bortles to take the next step showing that last year wasn’t a fluke. Entering his second year in the quarterback-friendly west coast offense Jacksonville’s main focus with Bortles will be his completion percentage, most notably on third down.

Training Camp Questions

  • Pass Catchers: Due to the departures of key receivers the Jags will integrate some new weapons to go along with their young talent at the receiver position. Veteran Marquis Lee will lead the receiver room as the Jags look to develop second-year players Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook. With the loss of Mercedes Lewis, Jacksonville will look to new tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Niles Paul for production and safety blankets for Bortles. New addition Donte Moncrief will provide a deep threat that Jacksonville didn’t have last year to help with all the eight-man fronts they see due to the run game.
  • Stay Healthy: It is imperative that Jacksonville stay healthy this training camp. The Jags dealt with a rash of injuries last season beginning with receiver Allen Robinson in week one. Also, receivers Allen Hurns and Marquis Lee missed their share of games due to injuries. The offensive line never really gelled last year due to injuries, and star running back Leonard Fournette missed three games as well. If the Jaguars can stay healthy, they’ll be a tough out every single week.

Miami Dolphins 

Last year’s result: 6-10, did not qualify for the playoffs.

Head Coach: Adam Gase – 16-16 entering his third season with the Fins.

Key Offseason Additions: QB, Brock Osweiler; WR, Danny Amendola; RB, Frank Gore and G, Josh Sitton.

Key Offseason Departures: WR, Jarvis Landry; DT, Ndamukong Suh; TE, Julius Thomas; and C, Mike Pouncey.

2018 Draft Class

Top Storylines

  • All in on Tannehill: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill hasn’t played an NFL game in 590 days…in counting. However, the Dolphins seem to be all in on Tannehill due to the purge of recent players. Over the past year the Dolphins have gotten rid of stars such as RB, Jay Ajayi; WR, Jarvis Landry; DT, Ndamukong Suh; and C, Mike Pouncey. Miami is taking the “Chip Kelly” approach and banking on the scheme to be successful. If Tannehill cannot stay healthy, it will spell disaster for the season.
  • Can Mike Tannenbaum be Trusted?: Miami’s EVP of Football Operations has made some questionable decisions since taking over in 2015; most notably, bad financial decisions. It started with giving Suh $114 million for his first splash. Tannenbaum likes to acquiring players past their prime while overpaying for them. Mario Williams comes to mind, Jay Cutler, Bryon Maxwell, Frank Gore, amongst others. Tannenbaum must make smarter moves to keep the Dolphins playoff hopes relevant.

Training Camp Questions

  • Drake’s Time to Shine: Third-year running Kenyan Drake will start the season as the featured back. He provided a spark last season after starter Jay Ajayi was traded to Philadelphia at midseason last year. Drake gave Miami a big-play threat, finishing the season with 644 yards rushing and on 4.8 yards per carry (6th in the NFL). The former Alabama running back will be mentored by Gore, who’s had a very long career for a running back? Is Drake ready to take on the role for a full season. Can Gore provide anything to the Dolphins in his 14th season?
  • OC Changes: Gase made an unusual move in replacing offensive coordinator Clyde Christiansen with former Bears OC, Dowell Loggains. Gase and Loggains have history as they spent time together in Chicago and Loggains took over play-calling duties when Gase came to Miami. The move is peculiar due to Chicago’s offensive results in 2017. Chicago was 29th in points per game with 16.7; also, the Bears were 29th in total offense, averaging 291.6 yards per game. What does Gase know that no one else does?