Every training camp opens with plenty of questions. Well, here's my attempt at answers.
These are the five players I believe have the most to gain — and to lose — at Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp, which starts Friday at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando. Their success and failure isn't just important to the future of these players. It's important to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who know these players have to succeed if they are to have a successful season.
Here are my selections, in alphabetical order:
Antonio Bryant, wide receiver
I wasn't a big fan of this signing when it happened. Bryant has done little throughout his NFL career but underachieve and create off-the-field issues. In fact, he missed all of the 2007 season.
But after missing out on every significant free-agent wide receiver, the Bucs had to take a chance on someone, so they signed Bryant to the veteran minimum in the hope that he could reclaim at least some of the form that made him a 1,000-yard receiver in Cleveland a few years ago.
Not in his favor? Bryant has always seemed to me to be a player that just doesn't seem to get the mental part of football, as in, bringing your brain to work every day.
The Bucs have praised Bryant this offseason, but training camp will be a whole different story. Bryant still has the physical tools, but to earn a spot on the roster he must show he has the mental tools to grasp Jon Gruden's playbook and come to work every day in the right frame of mind.
If he does those things, then the Bucs might just have a gem on their hands. Bryant is undeniably quick, has solid hands and can stretch the field, some the Bucs lack beyond Galloway. It's one of those classic low-risk/high reward pickups the Bucs like.
If Bryant can't get it done, his career is likely over. Those are the stakes.
Marques Douglas, defensive tackle/end
I find Douglas intriguing because he has played everywhere on the defensive line. He's the type of depth the Bucs love. Jack of all trades, master of none, you might say.
He was very productive in San Francisco last year. The Bucs know that well, since they played the Niners in Week 16 and Douglas had a hand in making that victory happen for San Fran. In fact, he's been a highly productive and reliable players since he started seeing plenty of playing time in Baltimore in 2003.
But here's the problem. Douglas has logged all of that time in the 3-4 defense. Now he'll transition in to the 4-3. Plus, the Bucs use the Cover 2, which means Douglas will be relied upon to muster a pass rush without a blitz. The 3-4 is aggressive with its outside linebackers. The 4-3 and Cover 2 formations are more aggressive on the outside with their defensive ends.
So where does Douglas fit in? Good question, and he has training camp to answer it. He'll compete with Greg White at left end and for time inside. He'll have to show the flexibility to play both positions, plus the intelligence to handle a new base defense. That's trickier than it sounds. If he does, Douglas has the potential to be a vital part of the 2008 Buccaneers.
Dre Moore, defensive tackle
When I first met this guy at the combine, I liked him. The more I read about him, the more I thought he could be the kind of under tackle the Bucs desire.
Turns out I was right, at least about the Bucs being interested in him. At 6-foot-4, 311 pounds, Moore is big enough to fill the middle and stop the run, yet quick enough to get to the quarterback. No one will confuse him with Warren Sapp, but there's no denying that he could develop into a special player.
He'll need to show progress this year, as starting under tackle Jovan Haye is on a one-year contract and there's no guarantee he'll be back in 2009.
Moore must show a solid grasp of the playbook, improved leverage against guards and center and some playmaking ability, as in tackles for loss and quarterback pressures. The Bucs took him in the fourth round, but he could play like a second-round pick if he makes the progress necessary.
Sabby Piscitelli, safety
Here's a guy the Bucs were really heartbroken to see get hurt last year. He was excelling on special teams and I really thought he could have been one of their leading tacklers in that department if he had stayed healthy.
You could say Piscitelli is about to start a second rookie season. Here are two reasons he mustn't play like one.
First, the departure of Kalvin Pearson to Detroit leaves a big hole on special teams. Piscitelli is quick enough, tough enough and talented enough to fill that void. He can take Pearson's place on the outside lanes in kickoff and punt coverage and make an immediate impact.
Second, he backs up strong safety Jermaine Phillips, who is in the final year of his contract. Will the Bucs invite Phillips back next year? Maybe not if Piscitelli can show he can handle the job.
Watch his progress in camp and this preseason. If the coaches believe Piscitelli is pushing Phillips, he'll get some playing time this season and perhaps push the veteran out of a job.
Piscitelli must also prove he's not an injury risk. He has to stay healthy.
Chris Simms, quarterback
At some point, Simms will no longer by a Buccaneer. How he plays in camp will determine how long.
He says he's healthy. The Bucs want to get something in return for him. He's what Simms must do:
Throw effectively, without pain and with accuracy. And a few downfield bombs wouldn't hurt either.
If Simms shows flashes in camp, expect the Bucs to showcase him in a preseason game or two to try and entice a trade offer for Simms. The Cowboys are reportedly interested.
Matthew Postins is the publisher of bucsblitz.com.