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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2014 Training Camp Preview

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

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REPORT DATES: July 21 (rookies), July 24 (veterans)

SITE: One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, FL

CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: It's probably fair to think Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith has a ceiling as far as success goes.

Smith's stint in Chicago probably reveals he's not getting you to the Super Bowl but he is going to make you very competitive and do it rather quickly.

That's why the Bucs are a sexy pick by many to be a playoff contender in 2014, especially if veteran free agent quarterback Josh McCown can take advantage of a similar set-up to what he had in Chicago with two very tall receivers (Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans).

KEY OFFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Any time you have a new QB that's a pretty good place to focus in on.

The 35-year-old McCown is no long-term fix for the Bucs but he proved that he could perform with solid skill-position talent around him with the Bears last year.

The Sam Houston State product really excelled when throwing the jump ball to lengthy receivers like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett in Chicago and will have a similar setup in Tampa now that the 6-foot-5 Evans and 6-5 rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be joining similar-sized veteran Jackson.

"He reminds me of Drew (Brees)," Bucs linebacker Jonathan Casillas told WEPN radio in New York when discussing McCown. "Not just the way he throws the ball, but his approach to the game. The first one in, last one out. You know, he's always around. He's very (communicative), very personable. And you can tell he's a born leader."

KEY DEFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Smith came in and quickly asserted that the Bucs' pass rush simple wasn't good enough so the team spent heavily on former Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, signing the lengthy player to a five- year deal worth $43 million, including $24 million in guaranteed money.

The 27-year-old former third-round pick out of Georgia Tech is one of the better two-way ends in football, stellar against the run and solid when chasing the passer. Johnson had 11 1/2 sacks in 2012 before dropping back to just 3 1/2 last year in Mike Zimmer's rotational system. More reps in Smith's scheme should mean bigger numbers for the high-priced Johnson.

"Coach Smith and (defensive coordinator Leslie) Frazier, they're putting together a great defense," Johnson said. "I'm just thankful to be a part of it, and looking forward to all the stuff I can do."


Aug 8 - at Jacksonville, 7:30 PM Aug 16 - vs. Miami, 7:30 PM Aug 23 - at Buffalo, 4:30 PM Aug 28 - vs. Washington, 7:30 PM

07/17 13:23:09 ET

National Football League