Readiness factor: Although he’s only 23, quarterback Josh Freeman further cemented himself as this team’s leader by taking control and organizing the offseason workouts for the Bucs. Freeman’s workouts focused mostly on the offensive skill positions and some offensive linemen. Most of the defensive players did most of their working out on their own. Freeman seemed to strengthen his bond with tight end Kellen Winslow and some of the young receivers, and that should help. But this was the NFL’s youngest team last year, and the lack of offseason time with coaches is going to make for a very challenging training camp.
Biggest challenge: Although the Bucs got a lot of production out of last year’s rookie class, most notably receiver Mike Williams and running back LeGarrette Blount, a lot of players still aren’t deeply versed in the system. Defensive tackles Brian Price and Gerald McCoy, safety Cody Grimm and receiver Arrelious Benn all had their rookie seasons end prematurely because of injuries. All indications are they’ve done a good job getting healthy, but they could have used the offseason time with the coaches to really put them into position to take the next step.
Secondary issues: The Bucs are certain they’ll open camp and the regular season without safety Tanard Jackson. He’s serving a one-year NFL suspension and won’t even be allowed to apply for reinstatement until late September. The team can’t count on Jackson's return, although it would be a nice bonus. There’s nothing certain about cornerback Aqib Talib’s situation. He’s facing an assault charge in Texas and his trial is scheduled for next March. There’s the possibility the Bucs or the NFL could take disciplinary action against a player who’s been suspected for violating the league’s personal-conduct code previously. If the Bucs and the league decide to wait on disciplinary action, it’s possible Talib could open camp with his teammates.