It was the perfect weather for football on Thursday at Bucs camp.
There was no rain in the forecast, the sun was shining, but some clouds and a little breeze made for an enjoyable watch for the exclusive member fans in attendance.
It was also an enjoyable day if you were a fan of defensive takeaways. After practice, head coach, Dirk Koetter noted that, “there’s a fine line there between being multiple and just being good at what you do,” referencing Mike Smith’s defense.
More isn’t necessarily better, but that’s what training camp is for. [Mike Smith] and the defensive staff, they’ve got some good stuff they’re doing, they’re giving us fits right now. Not only is it a good scheme, but they’ve got good players playing in that scheme and that’s even better.
Those fits for the offense started off early with a player who has endured his fair share of criticism over the last few years.
This was the second day in a row that quarterback Jameis Winston threw a pick-6 to the defense. Yesterday it was Vernon Hargreaves, today it was Chris Conte.
Conte has had a good first week of camp. He had a great pass break up far down the field when it was just him and Mike Evans a few days ago, and he’s shown experience, anticipation and athleticism as a starting safety thus far.
According to his running mate, Keith Tandy, Conte is one of the most underrated players on the team. Though fellow safety, J.J. Wilcox, is having a good camp himself, we believe it will be Conte and Tandy as the starting duo going into week one. So far they’ve shown they’re not afraid of one of the best receiving corps. in the NFL that they have to go up against in practice every day. In fact, they’re getting the better of them right now.
A Former Walk Now On A “Walk Thru”
There’s a song by the rapper Rich Homie Quan that goes, “I be feelin’ like the man when I walk through.”
That’s how we picture cornerback Javien Elliott when he strolls up to Bucs practices as he’s gone from a former walk on with Florida State to now the starting nickel back for the Buccaneers.
Javien Elliott is becoming a pretty good slot corner before our very eyes. Already had a pick earlier. Stuck good here. pic.twitter.com/339QGw8VJT
We didn’t really know how to take Bucs coaches praising one of their practcie squad players (Elliott) last year, but now we know what they meant. Elliott got playing time late in the year last year, and hasn’t looked back since then. Since the start of camp a week ago, he’s taken the starting nickel job from cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah.
The offense is still trying to get its feet underneath them. There are flashes of good plays and good concepts, but for the most part, they’re starting small to make the big stuff successful later.
One of the aspects that seems to be right where it needs to be, however, is the tight end passing game. The clip above is just one of many examples of how Winston and Cameron Brate are still on the same page. Having that as a cornerstone for rookie tight end O.J. Howard to learn on his own and experiment with is a big added perk.
An example of that can be seen above. Don’t put too much of this play on cornerback Brent Grimes. Any cornerback would be helpless against a player like Howard making a move like that.
But, that’s the encouraging part for Bucs fans. In today’s age, creativity with tight ends is a fast track to success if you have the personnel. The Bucs do, and plays like the one above should happen more and more.
From the Notepad
Ryan Smith appears to be the team’s starting kick returner with Justin Evans as his back up. That’s interesting, too, because if it were a player like Josh Huff or Bobo Wilson, that would play into their roster spot. But, both of Smith and Evans are making the team regardless, so that leaves less advantage for fringe players.
Speaking of returners, Hargreaves, Humphries and Grimes were the punt return players today, though it is worth noting that some of the other regulars were going through other special teams practice.
Winston looked decent today; he still had some shaky decision making, though. With the pick-6 to Conte and a couple miss-fires sprinkled in, he still has yet to take that next big leap.
Devante Bond looked good as a pass rusher today. He was playing as a linebacker, not a defensive end, but you can tell that’s his bread and butter. More rushes from him could help with Jacquies Smith out.
From the Stands: Fan Spotlight
.@kwon meeting a new friend of his, Wade. Wade even gave Kwon his first B-day present of the day: A rock w/ "The Lord is my strength" on it. pic.twitter.com/gLbVcoa19l
Wade is a big fan of Kwon Alexander’s. Part of that comes from loving who Alexander is as a person; part of it comes from the unfortunate path they both share.
Both Wade and Alexander have lost a sibling, and today Alexander got the chance to meet Wade. Alexander talked with Wade about being strong, keeping faith and moving forward. He talked about how he had to be strong for those around him, even if sometimes it was hard.
Today was also Alexander’s birthday. The first gift he received today was from Wade. It was a rock with the Bible verse, “The Lord is my strength” written on it. Wade gave it to Alexander as a symbol and a reminder of the tragedy they both have, and how they still have to be strong through it all.
Alexander was moved, and told Wade it that the rock will sit at the front of his locker for the entire season.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: email@example.com
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