The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready for their close-up.
The Bucs are set to appear on the HBO series Hard Knocks this summer, giving fans an in-the-trenches view as the team prepares for the 2017 season. The five-episode series will debut on August 8 and have its finale on September 5, HBO Sports announced.
The 30-person film crew will follow every move of the Buccaneers roster and coaching staff, including star players like Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Gerald McCoy, and newly signed DeSean Jackson, cutting down over 1,500 hours of footage into five hour-long episodes.
“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have everything we look for when it comes to Hard Knocks: A young, dynamic team filled with big names; an experienced coaching staff focused on taking its squad to the next level; and high expectations in a division that has represented the NFC in the past two Super Bowls,” said NFL Films senior executive Ross Ketover in a press release from HBO Sports.
Last season, the Buccaneers were in the playoff race in the NFC until late in the year, but missed out after finishing 9-7 in the NFC South.
The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2007 season, but appearing on Hard Knocks may actually give them a boost: Although some around the NFL think having cameras around all the time could be a distraction, six of the last seven teams to appear on the show have either equaled or improved their win-loss record in the regular season, according to HBO.
The Buccaneers have some interesting storylines that could make this version of Hard Knocks an entertaining one. Here are some of the best that likely will be featured on the show:
1. Star quarterback Winston has improved in each of his first two years in the league, increasing his touchdown pass total, completion percentage, and passing yards from 2015 to 2016. Can he lead his team to the playoffs in year three?
2. Running back Doug Martin is coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in his career. Martin was one of the best running backs in the league in 2015—he rushed for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns—but 2016 was a nightmare. Martin had a stint in rehab, dealt with injuries, rushed for a career-low 421 yards, and was suspended by the NFL for the first three games of the 2017 season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Can he bounce back to his Pro Bowl form?
3. Most kicking jobs around the NFL wouldn’t be a top story on Hard Knocks, but the Bucs job is a little different. The team spent a second-round pick (after trading up) to take Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in the 2016 NFL Draft, but he struggled all season, leading the team to sign Nick Folk this offseason to compete for the starting job. Chances are, the Bucs will give Aguayo every chance to keep his job after using such a high pick on him, but after his up-and-down 2016 season, this should be a major storyline of the show.
4. The team signed Jackson to a free agent contract to join third-year pro Mike Evans in the receiving corps. Jackson brings big-play ability and explosive speed to the offense, but how will he fit in with Winston and Evans in Tampa Bay? If he settles in, the Buccaneers offense could be one of the best in football.
The 12th season of the show begins on August 8 at 10 p.m. ET.
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