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Infiltrating the Enemy's Camp: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Let’s go behind enemy lines and take a look at how things are shaping up for our division foes. Up next, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s Hot?

Kenny Bell WR – A fifth round rookie, Bell has been playing well above expectations. While he’s made some flashy catches, what’s been his bread and butter is his consistency, rarely dropping anything that has been catch-able. Rookie QB Jameis Winston has been looking his way, often, developing some nice chemistry with the fellow rookie. Bell was recently listed as the #3 wide out on the Bucs unofficial depth chart.

Ali Marpet RG – Things started off shaky for the rookie guard, getting manhandled by Gerald McCoy on the first day of padded practice. Things have consistently improved from there, especially when showing off his power in the run game. Looking better each day, Marpet has positioned himself as a "favorite" (default) to land the starting right guard on the Bucs line. Having a player at the level of Gerald McCoy to practice against will make most of the DT’s you face in the regular season seem like a vacation.

Alterraun Verner After a bad 2014 season, (which the Football Outsides rated as the 4th worst by a CB in a supporting role)  Verner is healthy this year, and he’s loving it. He’s been coming up with picks, including one on his very first play of 11 on 11’s, and giving fits to QB Jameis Winston and the Bucs wide outs. What looked like a free agent dud after one season could turn into a stud in season two for Tampa Bay. Johnathon Banks (not the one who plays Mike on Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul) has also made some nice plays in camp, giving Tampa Bay some hope at a position thought to be a weakness.

Who’s Not?

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins TE – This guy here is my pick for breakout player of the year. Jenkins is a very athletic 6’5" and will be a nightmare match up for opposing defenses, when he puts it all together. So why is he here? After a very good start to camp, ASJ has developed a worrisome case of the drops. He has flashed brilliance, but is still far too inconsistent, at this point in the offseason, especially considering the high hopes and big plans the organization has for him. While I don’t think his starting gig is in question, the Bucs did reclaim Tim Wright off of waivers back in June. I still think ASJ ends up putting together a very good season, at least stat wise, but training camp has not helped his stock.  It'll be interesting to see if the drops in camp effect rookie Winston's trust in what is supposed to be his security blanket.

The RG Battle – While Marpet has had a decent camp and put himself into contention for the spot, that says more about what little options the Bucs have, than Marpet’s NFL readiness. Ideally, Marpet would get at least a year to acclimate himself to the NFL level, then transition into a starter his second year… Ideally, your other options wouldn’t be Garret Gilkey and Kadeem Edwards. It’s been a turnstile approach with Gilkey initially getting time with the 1’s, then Edwards, then Marpet. Nobody has performed up to an NFL starter level, but Marpet has the most upside and has shown NFL strength.

Michael Koenen P – Not only has he struggled the past few years (ranking near the bottom in the punting categories the past three seasons), but he’s also one of the highest paid punters in the league, set to make $3.25 million this year. That bad combination has the Bucs pulling out all stops to replace him. They’ve brought in two other punters to compete for the spot this season, in Spencer Lanning and Karl Schmitz. One thing he has going for him, is he’s the teams kick off specialist, but is the $3.25 million and less-than-stellar punting abilities that come with it worth it?

Bonus Note: Jameis Winston has been predictably up and down, throughout camp. He shined early on without pads, but had some struggles making good throws in beginning of 11 on 11 "live" scenarios, then has started looked better since. He’s shown that the tools are there, but still needs some adjusting to be really effective at the NFL level. Some reports have said he seemed "overwhelmed" at times.