The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been a trendy preseason playoff pick for a few seasons now, making them an ideal selection for HBO's annual preseason documentary series, "Hard Knocks." Having added a few big veterans in free agency, such as receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive lineman Chris Baker, the Bucs' young core is expected to take the next leap and vie for a playoff berth in the NFC.
Whether that actually comes to pass is something fans won't know until the fall, though "Hard Knocks" should once again provide a compelling look into a team on the verge. Last year, the show covered the Los Angeles Rams preparing for their first season back in their on-again, off-again home of Los Angeles. Sure, there were some nice glimpses of the team adjusting to a flashier city, and Jeff Fisher presaging his doom later in the season, but there wasn't much in the way of promise. The Rams were hardly expected to compete in 2016 and they most assuredly did not. The Bucs were 9-7 last season and not far off. It's easy to see them being a possible contender soon.
For a while, there were rumblings of a "Hard Knocks" curse for teams that took part in the show. That narrative has dissipated in recent years. Before the Rams season in 2016, four of the previous six teams to be the subject of the show made the playoffs. Considering the Buccaneers haven't been to the postseason since 2007, when Jon Gruden was still coaching the team, they would surely settle for even a one-and-done in the playoffs this season.
So there's a fair chance viewers could get an inside look at a team embarking on a return to the promised land. But there's also potential for riveting storylines. For instance:
1. Kicker drama. Usually the placekicker doesn't offer the most high-profile positional battle, but the Bucs are a special case. In 2016, they drafted Roberto Aguayo in the second round and he proceeded to have a disastrous rookie campaign. It was so bad, in fact, that the team brought in verteran Nick Folk to compete for the job. Aguayo was a mess from the outset of the preseason in 2016 and he'll likely have to show improvement right away, especially with this added spotlight, to hang onto his job.
2. Miko Grimes. If you're looking for an incendiary personality for a show that has lacked one in recent years, you could do a lot worse than the wife of cornerback Brent Grimes, whose online trash-talking is the stuff of NFL media legend.
U better hope HBO isnt scared to give me a mic. I always keep it real. https://t.co/U8FAdL3BwG- Miko Grimes (@iHeartMiko) April 19, 2017
3. The maturation, if you will, of Jameis Winston. After rape allegations and other problems in college, fans are loath to accept being told that Winston is growing up, as evidenced every time there's a fresh profile of him in a national publication. Getting a chance to see him operate somewhat behind-the-scenes should be interesting, even if there a lot of people who won't be easily swayed into liking him.
4. Who gets there first. Last year, Ian Rapoport raved about how Winston would beat head coach Dirk Koetter to camp in the morning, which apparently was evidence of leadership. Hopefully, this devolves into a contest of wills, whereby both player and coach refuse to ever actually leave the premises.
5. Ybor City. Tampa is hardly a particularly large or glamorous city, but it does involve one well-known nightlife district that could provide a setting for off-hours antics. The show is likely to give it a little airtime. Let's root for them to make the most of it.