The Headline From Camp Today: Brady Shreds Defense In Highlight-Reel Practice
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I know we’ve come to expect it, but Tom Brady somehow even better than normal during Wednesday’s Bucs practice. In a session where the ball barely hit the ground, Brady was almost automatic from the beginning of practice to the final team period.
In his first series with the first team offense, Brady was aggressive, going downfield to Antonio Brown and Tanner Hudson for big gains. His throw to Hudson was a perfectly lofted touch throw toward the boundary, dropping in over Hudson’s shoulder despite tight coverage. Brady then found Brown again on a corner route, sending the already-electric crowd into a frenzy.
Brady wasn’t done. He gunned a back-shoulder throw for a leaping Chris Godwin, who hauled in the contested catch over Sean Murphy-Bunting. On the next play, outside linebacker Anthony Nelson came free off the edge, but Brady pump faked him into the air, then wheeled and threw to Giovani Bernard for a short gain underneath. It was the kind of improvisation that Brady may not have pulled off last year on his damaged knee.
In the red zone area, Brady was even more deadly. He connected with Mike Evans several times, before throwing touchdowns to Godwin and Cam Brate. Godwin’s was a leaping, perfectly-placed ball in the back of the end zone by Brady.
But the veteran quarterback may have saved the best for last. After several dimes in 7-on-7, Brady launched a missile for Jaelon Darden downfield, who caught the ball in stride after getting a step on Chris Wilcox. Brady’s throw split the corner and the safety and hit the rookie receiver right in the hands on his way to the end zone. A big-time throw on a day full of them for Brady.
“He was outstanding,” Arians said after practice. “He got the guys going. Was very, very accurate. Just a typical, solid Brady day.”
Bucs Players Out Of Practice
The Bucs held a number of players out of practice for maintenance purposes, including TE Rob Gronkowski, DT Ndamukong Suh and OLB Jason Pierre-Paul. C Robert Hainsey, S Jordan Whitehead, WR Cyril Grayson, C Donnell Stanley, S Raven Greene and DT Sam Renner remained out of practice. OT Josh Wells and OT Chidi Okeke missed their first practice.
After returning to the lineup this week, Cam Gill was held out of practice again on Wednesday. He has not been a consistent participant in training camp over the past three weeks.
Bucs Practice Notes
• There wasn’t much OL/DL evaluation today, as the team practiced in just shoulder pads and helmets. The hitting and physicality weren’t quite as ferocious, but the offensive line units won the day handily. After getting worked a little bit on Tuesday, clean pockets were plentiful on Wednesday. The Bucs run game also found the most success it has earned all training camp, springing a few big runs.
• Highlight-reel practice for Godwin, who made leaping, full-extension catches several times during 11v11. On his last grab of the day, Godwin fully extended down the seam to reel in a paced throw from Brady before Antoine Winfield could get over from free safety. It’s been a semi-quiet camp for Godwin, but he was dominant on Wednesday.
• Ryan Succop has bounced back with several strong practices after struggling early in camp. He went 6-7 during practice after a 10-10 day yesterday. Succop is now 22-24 in his last three sessions, and one of those misses was a great block by Jamel Dean.
• A couple of big catch-and-runs for Bernard, Leonard Fournette and Ke’Shawn Vaughn today, but running backs didn’t dominate the whole day in the pass game. Devin White was a blanket in coverage several times during practice, including on one whip route on Bernard near the goal line. White blanketed the veteran back, forcing Brady to go elsewhere with the ball. The former first round pick looks ready to take the league by storm this year.
• Big, important day for Tyler Johnson, who is back on track after his early camp struggles. He got open consistently during practice, catching a corner route from Gabbert in 11v11. Johnson made one of the catches of training camp too, skying over Nate Brooks to make a deep seam catch near the goal line. The Minnesota product even showed some rare emotion after the grab, screaming “let’s go!” to the crowd.
“Yeah, Tyler’s had about 7 or 8 really, really good days,” Arians said. “He had another great day today. He’s getting in shape. He’s got a pound or two to go. But he’s made his commitment. We know what he can do. He’s done a really good job blocking. It doesn’t sound like much for a receiver, but when you have guys that can really block, you can run the football.”
• Great to see Cam Brate back in action after some limited reps on air in Tuesday’s practice. He moved around the formation and even handled some contact. Late in practice he caught a touchdown from Brady in front of Cockrell. It’s been a mediocre-at-best camp for the Bucs tight end group, so maybe Brate’s return can generate some buzz.
• Here’s your first team punt that you can expect to see on Saturday against Cincinnati:
Left Gunner – Jamel Dean
LW – Mike Edwards
LT – Joe Jones
LG – Pat O’Connor
Long Snapper – Zach Triner
RG – Anthony Nelson
RT – Kevin Minter
RW – Giovani Bernard
Right Gunner – Antonio Hamilton
Upback – Ross Cockrell
Punter – Bradley Pinion
Not many changes from last year’s unit, but there are some. Jones has stepped in at left tackle, where Gill played most of last season. It remains to be seen what will happen when Gill returns to the lineup. It will also be interested to see if K.J. Britt, listed ahead of Jones in the Bucs recent depth chart release, eventually takes over at that spot for Jones.
At right wing, Bernard has stepped in where Andrew Adams played last season. And at right gunner, Antonio Hamilton will get the first crack at replacing Ryan Smith. It’s worth mentioning that the second team gunners were Nate Brooks and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, with Vaughn playing the right side. Saturday will be a prime opportunity for Vaughn to show he can run down kicks and make tackles in space.
Cockrell played upback for the first time in his career in Super Bowl LV, and apparently he did well enough that the team wants to keep him there.
Punt coverage is the most significant special teams unit. If guys impress in this role on Saturday and throughout the preseason, their chances of making the team will go way up.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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