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The Headline From Camp Today

The Bucs held their second practice of the 2021 season under sweltering conditions at the AdventHealth Training Center on Monday, July 26. There were no clouds, no breeze and no relief from the high temperatures in the low 90s.

And there was no Antoine Winfield, Jr.

Tampa Bay’s second-year safety was missing on Monday after testing positive for COVID-19 following Sunday’s practice, according to Bucs head coach Bruce Arians. Winfield tested negative on Monday morning when he was retested, but the team held him out as a precaution. Arians believes it was a false positive and is hopeful to have Winfield return to action on Tuesday.

Starting strong safety Jordan Whitehead is already out due to winding up on the team’s COVID/reserve list. Whitehead missed the trip to the White House and Tampa Bay’s ring ceremony, in addition to the start of camp, as a result.

Bucs FS Antoine Winfield, Jr.

Bucs FS Antoine Winfield, Jr. – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Winfield being out on Monday put the Bucs’ already thin safety position in a bind. Raven Greene, who was signed this offseason to compete for the fourth spot on the depth chart, has been out the last two practices due to personal reasons. His absence is excused.

So without Winfield, Whitehead and Greene, the Bucs turned to Javon Hagan to start at free safety with Mike Edwards starting at strong safety. For the second straight day, cornerback Ross Cockrell was forced into action at free safety to help the team’s depth there. Outside of Edwards and Hagan, the Bucs only have a few other available safeties on their roster in rookies Auggie Contressa and Lawrence White IV, in addition to newcomer Chris Cooper.

Bucs Players Out Of Practice

Winfield and Greene were the only absences. The other Bucs in attendance that did not practice (and not on PUP) were tight end O.J. Howard, who is still recovering from his Achilles injury, and wide receiver Antonio Brown, who had knee surgery back in May. Wide receiver Tyler Johnson was also missing from practice, but no word from Arians as to why he was out.

Bucs Practice Notes

The Bucs spent the first special teams period on Sunday working on defending fake field goals and exotic special teams formations like the swinging gate. During Monday’s special teams period, the Bucs worked on their own fake field goals with holder Bradley Pinion firing passes for first downs – and touchdowns – to defensive lineman Patrick O’Connor and rookie outside linebacker Joe Tryon, the team’s first-round pick.

Tryon received snaps at right outside linebacker on the second team opposite Anthony Nelson after seeing most of his reps at left outside linebacker on Sunday. Tryon has an explosive first step, great low pad level and and looks much more polished as a backfield penetrator right now than he did during his sophomore year at Washington. And Tryon didn’t even play during his junior year.

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Instead he sat out last year and trained for the draft and obviously worked on his craft. It’s going to be interesting to see Tryon when the pads come on because he has quick, violent hands when rushing the passer or shedding blocks in the run game.

Tryon wasn’t the only rookie that turned heads on Monday. Wide receiver Jaelon Darden continues to impress. He did have a couple of drops again during Monday, and caught some flack from Arians, but he also made an amazing over the shoulder catch on a deep pass from Tom Brady on the sidelines with Carlton Davis III in coverage.

Creating separation isn’t a problem for Darden, it’s just hanging on to the ball. But the rookie is seeing a lot of reps with the starters, and had a nice touchdown pass from backup QB Blaine Gabbert against fellow rookie cornerback Cameron Kinley in team 11-on-11’s.

Davis dropped an interception he should have had against Brady on a pass intended for Scotty Miller, who was quite active on Monday and might have caught the most passes from Brady and Gabbert. Brady wore a knee brace last year due to his MCL injury, but had surgery this offseason and now doesn’t wear any knee braces at all.

Reserve cornerback Antonio Hamilton had a nice pass breakup against Travis Jonsen on a deep throw from Gabbert. But Hamilton got beat a few plays later by Jonsen, who had a step on him, but dropped a perfect pass from Gabbert.

Another reserve cornerback Herb Miller, had a sack blitzing Gabbert. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was dialing up a lot of blitzes, but Brady defeated most of them by finding favorable one-on-one match-ups. Third-down back Giovani Bernard caught a lot of those check downs, but Brady also found Mike Evans behind coverage for a 20-yard pass that turned into a 50-yard touchdown.

The quarterback competition for third-string between Ryan Griffin and Kyle Trask was pedestrian on Monday. Neither quarterback really lit it up during 11-on-11’s or 7-on-7s. Griffin pushed the ball down the field a little bit more with 15-yard passes to wide receivers Josh Pearson and T.J. Simmons, while Trask was a more conservative, reading the defense and often dumping the ball off to running backs Troymaine Pope and C.J. Prosise. Trask was intercepted at one point by fellow rookie Grant Stuard, but that was from a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage.

In the full-team 11-on-11 drills on field one, Stuard was seen most of the afternoon covering tight end Tanner Hudson, with both each winning a rep. Stuard prevented Hudson from making a catch in the end zone, but Hudson was able to get away from Stuard a couple of plays later near the corner of the end zone for a touchdown on a proverbial pick play.

One of the big winners on the offensive side of the ball was tight end Jerell Adams, who had a good outing for the second consecutive day. Adams started going off early in warm-ups with a terrific jumping catch in the back of the end zone that he was able to stay in bounds for. It caught the attention of his teammates as they were making noise following the reception. Adams continued that in 11-on-11’s on field two, making a great catch in the corner of the end zone on a pass from Trask, once again doing enough to stay in bounds for the score. He was targeted often on the day, making the most of his opportunities.

The cornerback competition between the third and fourth groups is an interesting one. With Chris Wilcox on the PUP list, it opens the door for an undrafted free agent to potentially grab one of the last corner spots. The fan favorite, Cameron Kinley from Navy, had a bit of a rough day getting burned during red zone drills on the first field.

It was Hamilton, though, that had an up-and-down-practice. The negatives were that he was burned twice in the end zone on field two, once in the red zone and the other on a route by Cyril Grayson,  who should have come up with the catch. The positives were that he had a sack on a blitz from the edge on Trask, along with two pass breakups towards then of practice. This progress will be interesting to monitor as training camp continues.

Arians wasn’t pleased with his players’ fatigue in the second half of practice. Monday’s practice got incredibly hot and humid around 9:30 a.m. and the execution dropped noticeably across the board for the last hour of practice.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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eaustinyoung
1 month ago

Free up some money and go get Earl Thomas. He’s old, but he’s still a FA and could come cheap since people aren’t exactly moving mountains to get him. Everyone scoffed at me the last time I said that on here, but with all these issues at safety, why not get another proven vet to fill in the cracks?

toofamiliar17
Reply to  eaustinyoung
1 month ago

For a few reasons. The only real way to free up cap space for this team would be to borrow from future years. At this point in his career, I think it would be foolish to do that for Thomas. You’re not going to get all-pro, league-defining safety ET. You’re going to get 32 year old, just took a year off, got cut by his last team and pursued by nobody ET. He’s a big name, but it would be foolish to really expect much from him at this point. As for our current situation, we have two guys out… Read more »

TBChucky
1 month ago

Hopefully Darden will get over the nerves and stop dropping passes.. He seems to have a knack for using his speed and shiftiness to get open regularly. Seems like he has already started forming chemistry with Brady. Hopefully we found yet another weapon for Tom to play with..

buccaneerNW
1 month ago

Are these idiots avoiding vaccines?

gcolerick
Reply to  buccaneerNW
1 month ago

How about a little respect, these are the Super Bowl Champs you are calling idiots.

HomerSimpsonRocks
1 month ago

Honestly why would you report which fake punts they are running?

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