The Headline From Camp Today: Bucs Receivers Steal The Show
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After two days of full pads over the weekend the Bucs were in spiders (soft shoulder pads), helmets and shorts at the AdventHealth Training Center on Monday, August 2. After the individual period and special teams periods, the team’s lightning meter went off as storm clouds rolled into the area. The team sought shelter in the team’s indoor practice facility and finished practice there with the inclement weather in the Tampa Bay area.
After watching Antonio Brown for years when I covered the Pittsburgh Steelers, I’ve seen plenty of practices become “one of those” practices. Steelers media know what I’m talking about: a multiple-hour session of complete and utter dominance followed by excessive celebration and the occasional taunt. Bucs media got one of their first tastes of an AB-owned practice, as the receiver made a couple elite grabs and eluded coverage all morning.
The same could be said for most of the Bucs receivers however, as the group posted an unbelievable practice indoors. First, there was Mike Evans racing down the seam to catch a perfect throw from Tom Brady over Nate Brooks. The young corner was victimized again in the next session, when Evans toasted him off the line of scrimmage for a touchdown during the red zone period.
Then there was Chris Godwin, not targeted a ton on the day, making a couple circus grabs in the middle of the field. One occurred while shielding off Mike Edwards’ ill intentions. Scotty Miller added an impressive grab to the day, beating Cameron Kinley for a touchdown during red zone period.
The depth receivers shone even brighter than the starters though, especially rookie Jaelon Darden. The North Texas product won inside position against Jamel Dean on a post pattern in one-on-ones, coming down with a juggling grab. Later in practice, Darden raced by Carlton Davis III to catch the “game-winning” touchdown from Tom Brady to cap a two-minute drive. At the top of the route, Darden made a veteran move to suddenly elbow by Davis and gain position just as the ball arrived.
Knowing that his competition for a roster spot is stiff, Jaydon Mickens has just continued to impress. He somehow hung onto a laser from Brady with safety Mike Edwards all over him. Moments later Mickens made a sliding grab between multiple defenders for a big gain during the 7-on-7 period. Then Mickens caught his own game-winner from Blaine Gabbert, getting behind the defense on a long touchdown. Almost the entire Bucs offensive roster raced downfield to celebrate with Mickens in the end zone. It’s clear he’s one of the most popular players on the team.
Tyler Johnson, Travis Jonsen and T.J. Simmons made plays too, with the latter two opening some eyes. Jonsen caught a deep ball from Kyle Trask down the right sideline on a play-action pass, but fell down short of the end zone. He made up for it on the next play, going up over Brooks for a highlight-reel contested touchdown catch from Gabbert. Simmons added his own big play from Trask, racing by Brooks for a touchdown moments later.
But it was Brown who really stole the show, making several toe-tapping sideline grabs for big gains. Almost all of Brown’s connections came with Brady at quarterback, as it’s clear the two are becoming very comfortable with each other. Near the end of a team period, Brown caught a dig route and raced all the way to the far end zone, out-running Javon Hagan for the score. Brown screamed in jubilation as he crossed the goal line, vocalizing the energy we all felt.
This Bucs offense should be scary. If they play like they did on Monday, there will be no stopping them.
Bucs Players Out Of Practice
Bucs center Ryan Jensen was out of practice on Monday, along with inside linebacker Lavonte David. The 31-year old team captain returned to practice on Sunday after missing practice on Friday and Saturday, but was out again on Monday. Veteran Kevin Minter started in place of David, while rookie Robert Hainsey started in place of Jensen.
Bucs outside linebacker Cam Gill continues to miss practice. Including Monday, Gill has missed the last five practices with an unknown injury or reason. Cornerback Justin Wilcox was taken off the PUP list on Monday but did not participate in practice.
Bucs Practice Notes
Bucs DB Ross Cockrell – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
• The big story from practice wasn’t Brown, however, but Bucs defensive back Ross Cockrell. After watching his sister Anna advance to the Olympic Finals in the 400-meter hurdles, Cockrell had the practice of his life. The defensive back intercepted three passes and broke up two passes on the day. Two of the interceptions were from Cockrell’s new alignment at safety, where he looks like a natural breaking on the ball.
Cockrell’s best play may have come on a deep ball to Johnson from Brady. Although the receiver mistimed his jump, Cockrell got enough depth from his safety alignment to elevate and knock the ball away. Big-time play that showed off his range and ball skills.
Huge day for the Bucs important depth defensive back. And, really, for the whole Cockrell family.
CB Ross Cockrell watching his sister, Anna, advance to the Olympic finals with his teammates & coaches 👏 pic.twitter.com/pReaPhj4pB
• The Bucs receivers may have stood on their head today, but Brady was utterly brilliant. The deep ball was on point, incompletions were rare and he got after several players when their focus wasn’t good enough. When wide receiver Cyril Grayson screwed up a route and caused Brady’s throw to soar by a few defenders, the quarterback pulled the receiver aside for a chat.
When Leonard Fournette jumped offside in 7-on-7, Brady yelled the correct cadence at him. One day after Bruce Arians harped on the team’s mental mistakes in practice, Brady was making sure it didn’t happen again.
• On a remarkably clean day for Bucs offensive weapons, Fournette struggled. Before jumping offsides, the veteran running back dropped two passes on the day. One mistake came in the red zone period, on a tunnel screen the team was attempting to set up. Less manufactured touches for Fournette this year, please.
• Kyle Trask didn’t get many reps on Monday, but he was far and away the Bucs second best quarterback when he did play. Despite just a few attempts in team period, Trask completed deep bombs to Jonsen and Simmons. In fact, he threw more touchdowns despite being 70-75 yards from the end zone than Ryan Griffin did running the goal-to-go offense.
Bucs QB Ryan Griffin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
In three attempts near the goal line, Griffin misfired three times. He threw wide of Jerell Adams (great coverage by Jordan Whitehead), behind Simmons in the back of the end zone and right to Cockrell underneath for a pick-6. Then in the team period of practice, Griffin was again victimized by Cockrell, who stepped in front of his first pass for an interception. On the very next play, Griffin threw late and behind O.J. Howard, but Hagan dropped the pick. Brutal day for the Bucs No. 4 quarterback.
• Things were better when Gabbert was under center, but mistakes were still plentiful. The former first-rounder threw three interceptions during practice, including an underthrown deep ball. Darden was wide open on the play. Later in practice, Gabbert missed a sure touchdown to a wide open Tanner Hudson down the seam in 7-on-7. There were good throws too, but plenty Gabbert will want back.
• Joe Tryon was quieter today, but still had another impressive practice. He darted inside for an unblocked “sack” early in the team period, and corralled a tackle-for-loss on an inside twist later in practice. Just watching the way he moves, I’m excited to see him in preseason action.
• With Jensen out, Robert Hainsey got another opportunity with the first team offense. He was clean most of the morning, standing up Jason Pierre-Paul on a stunt in the red zone period. There was one bad snap that got past Brady late in practice, but most of Hainsey’s reps looked good. He still needs to bulk up those legs though.
Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
• What a day for Whitehead. Multiple pass breakups, two interceptions. The fourth-year safety came flying in from a two-high safety alignment to rob Darden of a long touchdown after the receiver got behind the defense. Gabbert’s pass was slightly underthrown, but Whitehead made a great read after taking a great angle to the ball. Deep safety work hasn’t been his strength in the NFL, but perhaps the Pitt product isn’t done evolving just yet.
• Rough day for several Bucs trying to make the roster, including Brooks and Kinley. They look comfortably behind in the battle for CB5. New offensive tackle Chidi Okeke was beaten around the edge once or twice too, and not by the starters.
Grant Stuard’s coverage struggles continued on Monday. Rob Gronkowski beat him down the seam handily after Stuard bit hard on a play-action fake. Both Stuard and K.J. Britt have been continually exposed in coverage during camp, and that continued on Monday.
• In a sign of things to come, Giovani Bernard scored the first touchdown of the red zone period on an angle route. He broke Barrett’s ankles and caught a laser from Brady at the goal line. What a welcome sight after last year’s receiving debacle at running back.
• Pretty fun wrinkle to keep an eye on: Tryon lined up on the defensive line with Shaq Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea and Jason Pierre-Paul on at least one play. Barrett dropped, Tryon rushed and Devin White blitzed. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles might have some fun with a legit third edge rusher this year.
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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