Looking back at our Bucs pre-training camp battle series. Let’s take a look at how things are starting to shake out after the first week. After covering the offensive side of the ball, we see how the defense has been performing.
The battle for the seventh defensive line spot is heating up. After essentially a redshirt year, Davis has turned it up in camp. Davis has been showing off the speed and skills that made him a draft selection by the Bucs in 2020. He has regularly gotten after the quarterback with “would-be sacks,” and has beaten the starters in one-on-one reps.
Ledbetter came into camp in great shape, and it is showing on the field. Regularly getting pressure on the quarterback and setting the tone against the run. He could certainly push Davis as camp wears on. While Potoa’e has also been a bright spot on the line. He’s batted some passes down while getting pressures and being stout in the run game. Although he still looks a year away from being a regular contributor in the rotation. One must note the expanse of their playing time has come against the second and third unit.
It’s worth noting that the Bucs’ first-round pick has certainly exceeded the team’s expectations. Seemingly already taken over as the third outside linebacker over the incumbent Nelson. That is not to say that Nelson has not had a good camp. He has clearly improved as a pass rusher tallying two “sacks” and multiple pressures. Nelson looks locked in for the fourth position with little challenge from Bell or Gill, who has missed a lot of practice time.
Although Bell has looked solid in camp so far, he has not been a standout. He did however tally a “half-sack,” has had some good pressures and has been present on multiple special teams units. Gill, who played in 12 games for the team last season, has been out for the last five practices. If he is to make a case to be the Bucs’ fifth outside linebacker, should the team choose to keep one, he’ll need to return to practice sooner than later before he loses more ground to Bell. As the adage goes, “you can’t make the club in the tub.”
The battle here is a bit blurry as none of the competitors have really stood out. Most recently Britt has been getting reps with the second team when Kevin Minter has subbed in for starter Lavonte David. He made a play on the ball in Tuesday’s practice for an incompletion. He has otherwise looked slow at times, as have the rest of the corp. Jones has the most experience of the group but hasn’t stepped up to separate himself from the pack.
While Stuard plays with energy and heart he hasn’t made any plays to really distinguish himself for a roster spot either. This spot was always going to come down to special teams. Once the preseason game start, we will get a better look at how this battle may shake out.
CORNERBACK: Antonio Hamilton, Herb Miller, Nate Brooks, Cameron Kinley, Dee Delaney, Chris Wilcox
This group has been inconsistent throughout camp. There have been plays made by them but also plenty of plays made on them. Part of that is due to the fact that they are going against the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. Of the group Hamilton has stood out the most with several interceptions throughout camp. He’s also been burned by nearly every receiver.
Miller hasn’t done anything to propel his case to be the fifth corner or build off of last season. Brooks had a beautiful play where he tipped a ball and caught his own tip for a pick six but then got badly beaten on the next play. Kinley has been abused by AB and has an uphill battle in the race. Delaney did have an interception against Kyle Trask but hasn’t worked his way into the top competition in the group. While Wilcox was just activated off of the PUP list and has yet to see the field.
As is a common theme amongst most of these positions, special teams is the key to earning a spot on the roster. With no real way to judge other than preseason action, these games will be key to their chances.
The surprise of camp has come in the form of Cockrell’s transition to safety. Learning on the fly, he has been outstanding in his position switch. At first out of necessity with Jordan Whitehead sidelined, Curtis Riley on IR and Antoine Winfield, Jr. missing a practice, he has embraced and excelled at it. His best showing came Monday, where he grabbed three picks after his sister qualified for the 400m finals at the Olympics.
To this point, Hagan has performed well in camp with multiple pass break ups and a good understanding of his duties. While he has areas in which he can continue to improve he has shown his versatility at both safety spots and hasn’t been a liability when on the field. Hagan has also been present on multiple special teams units.
Greene is a question mark as he has only been in camp four days. He’s played on special teams and in the third pairing on defense but hasn’t made his presence felt. Still a lot of camp left for either player to step up as it is still unsure if Cockrell will permanently move to safety or remain the team’s fourth corner.
With Bucs camp just getting underway there’s plenty of time to sway coaches opinions on who might make the final roster. Padded practices have just begun and preseason games are fast approaching. These are early observations from camp so far, and who might have the inside track at securing a roster spot on this stacked Bucs team. But the bulk of the competition is yet to come in Tampa Bay.
J.C. Allen is one of PewterReport.com’s newest beat writers. As a New England transplant, he has closely followed Tom Brady’s entire career and first fell in love with the game during the Patriots 1996 Super Bowl run. J.C. is in his second year covering the team after spending a year with Bucs Report as a writer, producer and show host. Some of his other interests include barbecuing, being outdoors, and spending time with family and friends. His favorite Buccaneer of all time is Simeon Rice and believes he deserves a spot in Canton. Follow J.C. Allen on Twitter @JCAllenNFL.
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