The arrival in January of Lovie Smith as the 10th head coach in Buccaneers history led to significant roster changes for 2014. All players — holdovers and plenty of new arrivals — are required to report to training camp Thursday, with the first practice scheduled for Friday. To get you ready, we will examine key issues for Smith's first training camp. Today, a look at five with something to prove.
Defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
At the age of 24, Bowers finds himself standing at the NFL crossroads. A second-round draft pick in 2011, Bowers has failed to prove himself at the pro level after leading the nation with 15.5 sacks at Clemson in 2010. His presence on the roster prompted the Bucs to allow Michael Bennett to hit free agency last year. Bowers was virtually handed the starting job at left end, only to arrive at training camp out of shape. Entering his contract year, he is trying to prove to a new coaching staff that he can be a force off the edge. Bowers has registered only 5.5 sacks in 39 NFL games, and he is slated to back up Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn — if he makes the final 53-man roster.
RB Jeff Demps
Smith says Demps is the fastest player in the league. Now, it's the task of offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford to find opportunities to deliver the ball to Demps in space. Demps was acquired from the Patriots for LeGarrette Blount in the spring of 2013 and played only two games for the Bucs last year due to a groin injury. A member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic 4x100 relay team that won the silver medal, Demps says he is fully committed to football. Tampa Bay's backfield looks loaded, but Smith emphasizes special teams, and Demps' biggest impact could come as a kick returner.
LB Mason Foster
The middle linebacker in the Tampa 2 scheme that Smith will implement has many responsibilities. Foster, a third-round pick in 2011, continues to progress as he approaches the final year of his rookie contract. He returned two of his three interceptions for TDs last season, but now Foster must show he can be effective dropping deep down the middle into coverage — an assignment that former Buc MLB Shelton Quarles handled with distinction. Foster will call Tampa Bay's defensive signals this fall after relinquishing that role to Lavonte David the past two seasons.
QB Mike Glennon
The dismissal of Greg Schiano as head coach didn't solidify Glennon's position on the depth chart. Schiano is an unabashed Glennon booster, but a new regime signed veteran Josh McCown as a free agent and immediately anointed him the starter under center. Glennon threw 19 TD passes and only nine interceptions as a rookie, but he was sacked 40 times in 13 games, and Tedford is looking for more mobility at the position. With his practice reps reduced, Glennon must show a new staff he deserves to be considered the organization's QB of the future.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford
All you hear regarding Tedford's approach is the general phrase “up-tempo,'' but the details are about to unfold in camp. Smith and Tedford spent a lot of time in Chicago last winter talking about their offensive philosophy, and the Bucs certainly don't lack for weapons around McCown. But Tedford has never called a play at the NFL level and he will have to make some adjustments from the 139 games he coached at Cal.