The PewterReport.com staff will choose a daily Bucs Camp MVP during Tampa Bay’s 2017 training camp based on that player’s performance. Visit PewterReport.com daily to find out which player is named the Bucs Camp MVP.
Bucs Camp MVP 7-29 – S J.J. Wilcox
This daily recognition could have been given to a number of Bucs defensive backs. The secondary was flying around breaking up passes and Wilcox, running mostly second-team with rookie Justin Evans, gets the nod thanks to securing Saturday’s lone interception in 11-on-11 periods.
Wilcox’s pick was more of a right-place, right-time play, but the new Bucs safety was Johnny-on-the-spot Saturday. Third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin tried drilling a ball into receiver Freddie Martino running a quick slant but the ball popped into the air and Wilcox slipped in to secure the turnover.
The fifth-year veteran comes to the Bucs from the Dallas Cowboys and he was in on a few other quality plays that drew cheers from fans attending training camp. One of those was breaking up a deep ball from Jameis Winston to DeSean Jackson, another came when Wilcox jumped to slap away a Griffin-to-O.J. Howard pass down the seam and the other was the 6-foot, 212-pound safety coming up from behind and grazing receiver Bernard Reedy helmet with a swipe of his forearm.
The latter was teed up for a teeth-rattling hit from the Georgia Southern safety that does not shy away from contact.
“Oh man, that’s the best feeling ever,” Wilcox said of those situations present themselves to drop the hammer. “It’s like going to the candy shop. When you get the opportunities, you take them, because it’s very rare that you get them. But at the same time, they’re your teammates, so I have to protect my teammates.”
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter took notice, as well.
“It’s great to see him out here running around helping,” Koetter said of Wilcox, who’s offseason program participation was limited because of an injury. “He made a couple plays on the ball today, getting it out. He about took Reedy’s head off on one of those last ones. He’s a big hitter. That’s not going to show up for a few days but I’m sure it’ll show up at some point. It’s good to have both him and [second-round draft pick] Justin Evans out here working together.”
Veteran Brent Grimes turned in another impressive day at camp Saturday, getting in on multiple pass breakups in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 sessions. The cornerback turned 34 on July 19 but is looking more like he’s 24 with how he’s shadowing receivers and closing on balls.
Grimes teamed up with safety Chris Conte to break up a deep shot to Jackson in a 7-on-7 drill. He then batted away another Winston pass that wobbled its way to Martino on the right sideline by shooting in and timing his jump perfectly.
Conte spoke to reporters following Saturday’s practice and touched on a couple of his plays.
“I had a pass breakup on Mike Evans,” Conte said. “I was just playing the middle of the field and reading the quarterback. That’s something I personally want to be great at is being able to cover plays on the sideline. Those are fun plays and plays where you get to show off your speed. It’s fun when the quarterback lays it up there and you get to track it down and make a play. It was a good play. I hope to get better in that area and cover a lot of ground.”
Also catching Koetter’s attention was second-year cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
“That’s confidence,” Koetter said. “Our defense believes they can take the ball away and they feed off each other and today it was Vernon Hargreaves. He got it out a couple times, it fires the other guys up and they’re working on it every day.”
The rub on Saturday’s highlight-filled defensive performance is that it came at the offense’s expense,” Koetter noted.
“It’s great for our offense for them to be so good at it, but yet, the offense has got to be a little smarter about putting the ball away. I thought we tried to force too many balls down the middle to the tight ends today. Any time you can force it down the middle, it gets tipped up in the air, it’s going to get intercepted a lot.”
For Wilcox, the new Buc said he sees some special things on the horizon with this secondary and defense.
“I think we’re coming together,” he said. “We’re jelling. We’ve got a long way to go and it’s still early, but I definitely like the chemistry we have and the communication.
“The main reason I chose here because the camaraderie they have, the brotherhood they have, the welcoming arms that they had when they first got here and it’s been great. The coaching staff’s been doing a good job with me. Any time I want to see the coaches, from Coach [Brett] Maxie to Coach [Mike] Smith, they open their doors for me. I know why I’m here and I just want to keep helping this team climb that mountain.”