TAMPA — Buccaneers rookie guard Kadeem Edwards walked into One Buc Place earlier this offseason wearing a sizable chip on his shoulder. Already, it has proved to be an accessory he wears rather well.
A product of Football Championship Subdivision Tennessee State, Edwards was considered a developmental player when the Bucs made him the first of two selections in the fifth round of this year’s draft.
His lack of experience against top-level competition was the reason for their conservative assessment, but the Bucs’ thoughts regarding Edwards are quickly changing. And that chip he’s carrying around is a big reason why.
Playing with an edge he considers critical to any success he might have, Edwards made a stunning run up the depth chart during the final month of the offseason workout program.
A third-teamer at first, Edwards was taking snaps at left guard with the first team during the mandatory minicamp last week. If Carl Nicks doesn’t bounce back the way the Bucs hope, Edwards could be there again when training camp starts.
“What Kadeem has showed us are the things we’re looking for: good body, smart guy; and he’s shown good agility in the drills,’’ Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. “The next step is for him to get more live action with the rest of the group.’’
That will come during training camp. The Bucs almost certainly will take a cautious approach with Nicks, who continues to recover from two years worth of left foot problems, and Edwards will be one of the prime beneficiaries.
Jamon Meredith, Patrick Omameh and Oneil Cousins figure to benefit as well from the limitations that are likely to be placed on Nicks, but Edwards appears to have something they don’t.
“When you come from (what was formerly known as the Division I-AA) level, you have to have a chip on your shoulder, because people think your competition isn’t as good,’’ Edwards said. “But at the end of the day, we’re all football players, and they drafted me for a reason. And if you come in and work hard and prove your worth, there’s a chance you can start.’’
The Bucs sparked a bit of a running back controversy when they spent their third-round pick on West Virginia’s Charles Sims. They’ve been saying ever since that they made the pick largely because they believe Sims has excellent hands and can excel as a pass catcher.
Not everyone shares their opinion.
In his book, NFL Draft 2014 Preview, former Pro Football Weekly editor Nolan Nawrocki quotes an anonymous NFL scout with a contrary opinion of Sims’ skills.
“I’m not sure how good his hands are,’’ the scout is quoted as saying. “He doesn’t catch the ball very well. He’s a No. 2 back. Those guys are a dime a dozen.’’
The Bucs’ first two games of the regular season are both at home, with 4:25 p.m. and 4:05 p.m. starts against Carolina and St. Louis, respectively. Those start times are the biggest reason the Bucs’ training camps schedule is rife with late-afternoon starts.
But not the only reason.
“We’re trying to practice in the heat as much as anything, because it’s a home-field advantage that we have,’’ Smith said. “But it’s also about the fans.
“I know most people work all day, and that’s the time where, if you’d like, you can come over and still be able to catch some of our practice after you go to work. We want to be fan-friendly with it also.”