While all you nerds pinch yourselves about the start of a new season of Game of Thrones, I’m over here with a red marker and calendar crossing off the days until the launch of HBO’s true summer banger, Hard Knocks.
The premium cable behemoth released a one-minute teaser trailer of season 12 of Knocks, which will focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gerald McCoy is the focal point in the clip, and the trailer ends with a nifty pull-away shot that captures the star defensive tackle perched atop Raymond James Stadium after a grueling stairs workout.
Along with Cook, the club has also scheduled pre-draft visits with D’Onta Foreman of Texas and Joe Mixon of Oklahoma. The Bucs hold the No. 19 overall pick in the draft, and their position needs include running back, defensive line and safety.
Cook, a three-year starter for the Seminoles, offers a versatile skill set with outstanding vision, receiving skills and big-play speed. He’s also made pre-draft visits to the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, among others. NFL Network’s Heath Evans regards Cook as the No. 1 overall prospect in the draft.
The 30-year-old Jackson can still play, leading the NFL last season in yards per catch (17.9) while racking up his fifth career 1,000-yard campaign. He operated as a critical piece in Washington’s high-octane offense and would instantly upgrade an already-juicy Bucs attack likely to part ways with 34-year-old receiver Vincent Jackson.
Winston’s wishes make plenty of sense. With the fascinating Mike Evans locked in as Tampa’s No. 1 wideout, the Bucs would give defenses fits adding Jackson to the mix alongside promising tight end Cameron Brate.
It was a knock-down, drag-out contest you’d typically see between two league heavyweights, but instead it was two middling squads with uncertain paths. Which Buccaneers team would we get this week: the 31-21 winners in Week 1, or the squad decimated by turnovers and a swarming Cardinals defense in Week 2? Well, it was neither, sort of. Both teams made mistakes that each seemed to follow with another. They held serve on positive plays and errors, making for an entertaining contest.
The game’s highlights opened with each team giving the other a gift: the Rams’ Case Keenum tossed one directly to Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander, who had nothing but green in front of him for a pick-six; then Charles Sims dropped a pass (thanks to a hit from Trumaine Johnson) that landed in Los Angeles arms, setting the Rams up with great field position that ended in a Todd Gurley touchdown. It was very much call and response of both teams. Anything you can lose, we can lose better.
The Buccaneers lost the first 26 games of their existence. TWENTY-SIX. When coach John McKay was asked about his team’s execution, he quipped that he was “in favor of it.” This was the most embarrassing stretch in team history — well, until the Bucs took a kicker in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. (A kicker who might not even make the roster in 2017.)
There is a lot of sad history for the Bucs. Four years in, they were really good, reaching the 1979 NFC Championship Game — and then they were really bad again for awhile. Tampa Bay hired Tony Dungy in 1996 and had this awesome defense, but couldn’t break through. Traded for Jon Gruden — yeah, that Jon Gruden — in 2002 and won a Super Bowl before becoming bad again. Now this team is absolutely loaded. Boom. You’re caught up.
This has quietly been an excellent offseason for the Buccaneers’ defense. After retaining coordinator Mike Smith, who had head coaching looks, the team pivots toward a dominant presence against the run and pass. Baker has played in at least 14 games each year since the 2012 season.
Baker joins Gerald McCoy and key free agent acquisition Robert Ayers which, on paper, looks like one of the more formidable fronts in the division right now. Having just finished a three-year deal worth $9 million, Baker seems like he’s in line for a raise. It will be a worthwhile investment for Tampa Bay, a team that has already been shopping in Washington and plans to sign receiver DeSean Jackson at 4 p.m. ET today when free agent deals can become official.