On the eve of the start of training camp, hopes are high around One Buc Place that this year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers can go from worst to first in the always competitive NFC South.
New Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, who helped build Super Bowl teams in New England, Philadelphia and Arizona, believes the pieces are in place to orchestrate a turnaround and improve on last year's disappointing 4-12 season.
"It's crazy," Licht said in the Tampa Bay Times. “We'll look back at what we've added and… I'm legitimately excited and feel like we have a chance to compete for the (NFC South) division title. I really do.
"You would think, with a first-year head coach and a first-year general manager…we would both have a pass if we wanted to say, you know, I think we need some more time to turn this thing around. But that's not what we think. We think we can make a run at this thing this year. We feel we've got some major pieces in place to do that."
"So you're telling me he's going to have to be one in a million," Licht said. "But when you talk to Josh, he apparently hasn't been told any of these things. He's one of the more confident — but not cocky — guys I've ever been around and you just believe in him. He thinks he's 25 and that he's one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. His confidence bleeds into everybody. These offensive linemen love him and you know how big that is. They will fight for him.
"Of course you want everybody to get on the same page and click and that takes all the timing with the offensive linemen, with the wide receivers and the quarterback. But that's what camp is for. Because we feel like we have really strong leadership on offense, that's what gives us confidence. I've been part of teams that didn't have any leaders.”
Rookies, including receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, are expected to play a significant role in the team’s success this year.
"That will be an interesting thing to watch," Licht said. "Mike has the right mindset. He's not putting huge expectations on himself. He's not coming out here saying, 'I'm going to be a Pro Bowl receiver this year.' He's got Pro Bowl ability and a great future. But what did Calvin Johnson do as a rookie? He had 48 catches. I'm not asking people to be patient with it, but I'm just saying he doesn't have to have 1,500 yards receiving in his first year.
"I'm excited to see what Sefarian-Jenkins can do,” Licht added. “He missed a lot and has to catch up a little. But the tight end position is a good one. Brandon Myers is a proven player. Tim Wright did some great things. We have some good personnel groupings there. Like I said, I'm really excited."
In a Thursday press conference, head coach Lovie Smith said all players reported to camp Thursday morning except guard Carl Nicks, who has been excused for personal reasons.
Smith didn’t elaborate, except to say, “It doesn’t concern me. It’s a part of training camp. It’s part of life. During the course of the season you are going to have things come up where guys can’t be here.”
Nicks missed all but two games last year because of a toe injury that required surgery and a MRSA infection.
Smith is looking forward to the first day of camp, which kicks off at 4:30 p.m. on July 25.
“There are a lot of us excited about getting out there on the football field,” Smith said. “There are so many things we liked from our offseason work. Now there’s a sense of urgency, which you like. As a coaching staff we want a competitive camp. We want the guys to tell us where they belong.”
As for goals this season, Smith said, “We want to win the Super Bowl, that’s our plan. Goal wise, we’re going to talk about winning all of our games at Raymond James. We want to win the NFC South division and then see where we can go from there.”
In other news, former Cardinals defensive end Ronald Tally may start the preseason on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, according to his agent.
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Tags: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Carl Nicks, Chicago Bears, Football, Jason Licht, Josh McCown, Lovie Smith, Mike Evans, NFL, One Buc Place, Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Times