Veteran Additions Impressing at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp

Watch out, NFC South fans. With quarterback Tom Brady back at practice, optimism is again growing around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer was at Bucs practice Tuesday, and he shared observations on a couple of key additions to this year's squad:

Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and wide receiver Julio Jones were late-stage free agency acquisitions for the Bucs, joining the team in June. The veterans have reportedly been dominant in camp, with Hicks, in particular, looking nigh "unblockable."

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Hicks was a star for the Chicago Bears as recently as 2019, starting in 15 games and managing 21 quarterback hits while earning positive marks from Pro Football Focus. Listed at a mountainous 6-4 and 335 pounds, Hicks is poised to slide in next to Pro Bowler Vita Vea, replacing Ndamukong Suh on one of the league's premier run defenses. The expectation is that Hicks can prove an upgrade over Suh, who turned 35 this year and graded negatively this past season.

Jones, meanwhile, is looking to cap his likely Hall of Fame career with an elusive Super Bowl ring. The former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver was one of the league's all-time great passing weapons at his peak, averaging an astonishing 100.2 yards per game over six consecutive Pro Bowl seasons from 2014 to 2019. Following a disappointing year with the Tenessee Titans, Jones is slotted to play a complementary role on reduced snaps for the Bucs, providing depth to stars Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and perhaps even competing with fellow free agent addition and ex-Falcon Russel Gage for the number three receiver role.

The issue in both players' cases of late has been health. Jones has missed 14 games in the past two seasons, and Hicks has been absent in 20 games over the past three years. With reduced roles in improved situations, the Bucs are banking on the pair reclaiming a portion of their past glory. It's Super Bowl or bust with Tom Brady, after all.

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