The bulk of the work the Buccaneers put in during their offseason workout program is mental, not physical. Most of the players' time is spent inside classrooms at One Buc Place, where they study offensive and defensive design concepts, specific plays and their roles on both.
When they finally take the field, their 10 days of organized team activities (OTAs) serve more as test of their ability to transfer what they've learned to the field of play.
The final exam begins today as Tampa Bay's three-day mandatory mini-camp starts at One Buc Place. It is the final activity of the offseason program. It also is an opportunity to build a foundation for training camp.
With that in mind, we look at five players the bucs need to grade out well as they head into their summer break.
Quarterback Mike Glennon: The Bucs only kept two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster last season and would really like to be able to do that again. For that to happen, though, Glennon has to make incumbent backup Dan Orlovsky expendable. That means proving consistently that he not only has a good grasp of the offense, but also the ability to execute in a pinch and in the clutch. The Bucs are going to give Glennon the bulk of the work during the preseason to test his skills, but how he performs during the next three days will give them a head start in their evaluation and help determine whether they can continue to go with two quarterbacks or need to go back to carrying three.
Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree: The battle for the third wide receiver spot should be one of the most important and intriguing of the preseason. Opposing defensive coordinators are already devising ways to limit the effectiveness of starters Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, so the Bucs need someone from their league of reserves to step up and prove himself as a capable third option. The Bucs are very high on Ogletree, who came from Dallas during free agency, but Ogletree will have to beat out incumbent Tiquan Underwood and challengers David Douglas, Chris Owusu and Eric Page to win the job. Ogletree has flashed a lot during offseason workouts. If he continues to do that during the minicamp, he could take a commanding lead in this race.
Cornerback Johnthan Banks: With the advent of the passing game, nickel cornerbacks are now being employed on more than 50 percent of all defensive plays in the NFL. That means Banks, the Bucs' first selection in the 2013 draft, is likely to see a lot of work once the regular season gets going. Even if he just comes in to replace Eric Wright on the outside while Wright moves to the slot on passing downs, Banks is going to be busy. The additions of safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Darrelle Revis mean Banks will have a lot of help, but it also means he likely will be a regular target as teams test him to see if he's as good as the Bucs believe. Banks needs to be ready for a heavy workload, so his play in the minicamp is worth noting.
Tight end Tom Crabtree: The Bucs have gone away from the West Coast style offense they employed during the Jon Gruden and Raheem Morris eras and are using more of a downfield passing attack. That has reduced the emphasis placed on the tight end, but Crabtree could make them alter their plans. The Bucs believe Crabtree, who started to come on as a pass catcher with the Packers last season, has the ability to be a legitimate threat in the passing game, so Bucs scouts and coaches will be watching closely this week to see how he's adjusting to Josh Freeman and the new offense. If Crabtree performs as expected, the Bucs could go into the season with a wide array of passing options.
Defensive end Da'Quan Bowers: The Bucs desperately need to improve a pass rush that tied for 30th in the 32-team league with 27 sacks last season. It sounds like Bowers has taken it upon himself to lead the charge. The third-year pro said last week he'll be a failure as the new left end if he doesn't produce at least 10 sacks this season - and it's hard to argue with him. The best pass rusher in the 2011 draft, Bowers was slowed the past two seasons by knee and Achilles' tendon injuries, but he is healthy now and seemingly poised for a breakout season. The Bucs believe that's possible. And after letting go of Michael Bennett, their sack leader a year ago, a breakout season is just what they need from their 2011 second-round pick.