The arrival in January of Lovie Smith as the 10th head coach in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history led to significant roster changes for 2014.
All players — holdovers and plenty of newcomers — are required to report to training camp on Thursday, with the first practice scheduled for Friday.
To get you ready, over the next five days, we will examine key issues for Smith's first training camp. Today, a look at five key returning players.
CB Johnthan Banks
Banks suffered through typical rookie struggles at one of the NFL's most demanding positions, but he started all 16 games and intercepted three passes. He looks forward to playing more Cover 2 zone under Smith. Banks' first pro pick came in Week 4, when he made a one-handed grab against the Cardinals. Arizona Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was impressed by Banks and expects the former Mississippi State standout to have a breakout season: “I like Banks. He's got length and he's going to be a good one.”
LB Lavonte David
In only two years, this former second-round pick out of Nebraska established himself as one of the game's premier young defenders. Despite racking up 143 tackles, five interceptions, six sacks and two forced fumbles, David was bypassed for the NFC Pro Bowl squad, though The Associated Press named him an All-Pro. Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks said David's first two pro seasons compare favorably to his early years as Tampa Bay's weakside linebacker. “There's not a lot of players like Derrick Brooks,” Smith said. “It's not even fair to compare some guys in that way, but Lavonte David, he has a chance. He's that younger version coming up.''
S Mark Barron
If Barron hadn't been the seventh overall player selected in the 2012 draft, he might be viewed as a young player with promise. Instead, he is considered by many a bit of an underachiever. Despite leading Tampa Bay's secondary with 88 tackles last year, Barron has yet to consistently turn in the impact plays anticipated from a premium draft choice. He has only three interceptions and one forced fumble in 30 NFL starts, and Smith is expecting the former Alabama standout to generate more takeaways. Barron missed the final two games of 2013 with a hamstring injury and he did not fully participate in offseason workouts.
DE Adrian Clayborn
Few Bucs players have more at stake this fall than Clayborn, a first-round pick out of Iowa in 2011. Tampa Bay declined to exercise the club's fifth-year option, so Clayborn is entering a contract year with much to prove to a new coaching staff and new GM Jason Licht. Sandwiched around a 2012 season marred by a torn ACL in Week 3, Clayborn started every game as a rookie and last season. The addition of free agent DE Michael Johnson prompted the Bucs to switch Clayborn to the left side in 2014, and he'll need to bring consistent heat to earn another contract in Tampa.
RT Demar Dotson
This hulking lineman proved to be a key pickup in 2009 as a free agent out of Southern Miss, where he played basketball for two seasons before turning to football in 2008. Dotson has missed one game in two years and if G Carl Nicks remains sidelined by foot injuries, Dotson will be the only starter returning from last year's offensive line. The Bucs have Dotson under contract through 2016 and at 6-foot-9 and 315 pounds, Dotson boasts the size and agility to excel. “Demar's athletic and he's tough,'' Licht said. “He's tremendously improved his technique from what I saw a couple of years ago. He's a smart player, very dependable.''