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Buccaneers, Jameis Winston ready for training camp

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The Buccaneers’ training camp is only a week away. Like all teams, there is plenty of optimism in July, but the Bucs do have some reason to be positive.

Perhaps the biggest upgrade from last season are the increased weapons available to quarterback Jameis Winston. The team signed deep threat free agent wide-receiver DeSean Jackson from the Washington Redskins.

Jackson will join with emerging star Mike Evans to form a pretty good one-two punch in the passing game. Opposing teams will not be able to double-team both of them.

Two rookies also join the receiving corps. Chris Godwin, the third-round pick from Penn State brings another good set of hands. Then there is, of course, top pick O.J. Howard from Alabama, tabbed a “can’t miss” prospect.

Winston can’t wait.

“What he’s going to do to this team is going to be amazing,” Winston said on “This is the fastest, most athletic 6-foot-6, 256-pound guy I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s unreal.”

Howard joins the returning Cameron Brate at the tight end position. All Brate did in 2016 was catch 57 balls for 660 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Winston may have a nice problem as the season progresses. Instead of needing targets, he may be feeling the need to spread the ball around to keep people happy.

The running game also provides optimism, along with caution. The concern, as usual, is Doug Martin’s ability to stay on the field. When he’s in the lineup, the Bucs have one of the NFL’s best runners.

During his 5 years in the league, the former Boise State star has played in all 16 games just twice. Last year, he appeared in only half of the team’s 16 games. Part of that was the result of a suspension.

Another Boise State star, Jeremy McNichols, may add some depth to support Martin, Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rogers. McNichols gained 2,183 yards rushing and receiving with 27 touchdowns in his final year with the Broncos last year.

While the Bucs may be able to score some points this year, they were not proficient enough in stopping the other team last year. Tampa Bay ranked 23rd in total defense, but 15th in points allowed last season with 369.

Safety Justin Evans of Texas A&M was the team’s second round draft choice with LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith a third-round pick. Even if neither make the starting lineup, they will add to the competition in training camp on the defensive side of the ball.

Finally, it should be safe to assume Roberto Aguayo will kick better than he did in 2016.

The rookies report next Tuesday, while veterans come to camp a week from Thursday. A total of 13 morning practices will be open to the public beginning July 28.

The first preseason game is in Cincinnati on August 11.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at [email protected]

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