The Headline From Camp Today: Bucs TEs Taking Off In Practice
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To say the start to training camp for the Bucs tight end room was slow may be an understatement. Rob Gronkowski did little in the passing game the first two weeks, O.J. Howard was re-adjusting to NFL speed and physicality coming off a torn Achilles and Cam Brate was on the PUP list. Tanner Hudson and Codey McElroy received plenty of opportunity, but Hudson struggled as a blocker and McElroy dropped too many passes.
Fast forward to Monday, August 16, and the Bucs tight end room is bouncing back in a big way. The comeback really started on Saturday night against the Bengals. That’s when Tanner Hudson led all receivers with five catches for 50 yards and Codey McElroy caught a juggling 2-point conversion on a jump ball from Kyle Trask.
The position group’s success continued on Monday, as Gronkowski beat Devin White on a deep over route for the play of the day. People say Gronkowski has lost a step, but he sure looked fast running by one of the game’s most athletic linebackers. Gronkowski made a couple catches in his most heavily targeted practice of the past two weeks.
McElroy impressed as well, snagging a one-handed catch over the middle of the field off play-action. Later in practice McElroy was left wide open down the left sideline, but it was his post-catch creativity that opened some eyes. McElroy looked athletic with the ball in his hands, cutting away from defenders to pick up more yardage.
Cam Brate got in on the action as well, toasting Chris Wilcox on an out route in the red zone period. Brate’s best catch of the day came later in practice. Brady zipped him a pass on an out-breaking route, which Brate somehow hauled in despite White being all over him. The two players went to the ground hard, but Brate came up with the football.
The Bucs are currently five deep at tight end, with Hudson and McElroy competing furiously for the fourth spot. The team would love to keep all five, but eventually teams around the league are going to see that Hudson or McElroy can play. If the Bucs put one on the practice squad, I’m not sure he’ll stay there all season.
Bucs Players Out Of Practice
OLB Cam Gill, S Raven Greene, C Donell Stanley, C Robert Hainsey and S Jordan Whitehead remained out of practice as the Bucs returned to work on Monday. RB Troymaine Pope and WR Travis Jonsen were also added to the injury list, missing their first practices of camp. OL Sadarius Hutcherson reportedly tore his ACL against Cincinnati, and will be placed on injured reserve.
OT Josh Wells (personal) and WR Cyril Grayson (hamstring) returned to practice on Monday.
• A couple notes on some on-air throws. Ryan Griffin kept throwing off-target over the middle of the field, which got him into trouble on Saturday. He put one too high for Jaelon Darden on a throw that would have gotten his receiver decked in a game.
• Kyle Trask had a deep out to Giovani Bernard that was placed well behind the running back. Out-breaking routes continue to be a struggle for Trask, but Bernard made him look good on air. The veteran back deftly twisted, stabbed the ball out of the air, then pivoted all the way around and snuck the ball over the goal line before going out of bounds. The real games haven’t started yet, but it’s easy to see why the team is thrilled about the addition of Bernard.
• Tyler Johnson dropped a post-fade throw in the back of the end zone on air, and let out a scream so loud it was deafening behind the opposite end zone, where I sat.
• Brady threw several jaw-dropping balls to the middle of the field in practice, but Antoine Winfield Jr. made him pay on one toss. Brady tried to fit a pass in to Scotty Miller, but Winfield made an unbelievable read to jump the route and make a diving interception. It was an elite level break on the ball, and the kind of plays the Bucs will need from Winfield this season.
• The second team offensive line following Saturday’s game:
LT Josh Wells
LG Aaron Stinnie
C John Molchon
RG Earl Watford/Nick Leverett (rotating)
RT Brad Seaton
Not ready to call it a demotion for Leverett yet, but something to monitor. He had been running a lot of second team at various positions, but split time with Earl Watford on Monday.
• During red zone period, the Bucs starting offensive line blew a protection on an A-gap blitz by Lavonte David, leading to an unblocked pressure as Brady dumped the ball underneath. It was unclear whether the failure was Ali Marpet’s or Ryan Jensen’s, but the veteran center left the lineup for several plays directly afterward. Marpet moved to center and Stinnie came in at left guard. That’s how the first team offensive line finished the session. Jensen was back in on the next series.
I don’t have any idea why the change happened, and I don’t like to speculate. But I do wonder if Marpet is the top choice to play center if Jensen would go down. The team seems to feel confident in Stinnie, which would help them feel comfortable about a double change.
• Stinnie played well on Saturday, but ran into Jason Pierre-Paul on Monday. The guard lost that battle, with Pierre-Paul dusting him for a key pressure of Ryan Griffin. Griffin lofted a deep pass down the seam for Hudson, but underthrew it and hit a trailing K.J. Britt in the back. Still, pretty decent coverage by Britt on a vertical ball.
• Some great battles between Jaelon Darden and Dee Delaney highlighted the day. In the red zone session, Delaney undercut a post pattern for Darden at the goal line and swatted the pass away. But later in practice it was Darden who got the last laugh. The speedy rookie raced by Delaney for a long touchdown from Gabbert, putting several yards of separation between himself and the corner.
A few plays later, Darden ran away from Delaney for another big gain on a throw from Gabbert, finishing off a strong day. Head coach Bruce Arians seemed to suggest that Delaney is leading the competition for CB5 following Saturday’s game. I believe Antonio Hamilton and Herb Miller have been better, but Delaney is fighting his tail off for recognition as well.
On Monday, Delaney and Miller were the second team outside corners, and Wilcox and Nate Brooks were third team. Hamilton continued to play in the slot with both units.
• How about Jose Borregales? The rookie kicker has been lights out in practice, a trend that continued on Monday. Borregales nailed all eight of his field goal attempts, with the last four coming from 50+ yards away. Borregales walked it off with a 61-yard boot. If he kicks like this in the preseason, the Bucs won’t be able to get him to the practice squad.
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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