Step back from the ledge, Bucs fans. It’s going to be ok. After a rough first day of rookie mini-camp that included a few errant throws and an interception, Bucs rookie QB Kyle Trask looked sharper during Saturday’s practice.
While the majority of the group worked on special teams drill for the first half of practice, Trask and several coaches, including Clyde Christensen, worked diligently on the side. The rookie spent most of the time working on his footwork, simulating a snap from under center, dropping back and opening to his target. Christensen took plenty of opportunities to point out drop-back details to Trask, with the duo spending a few minutes on where Trask’s hips should be in relationship to his target.
Sessions like that will be more scarce when Trask is one of four quarterbacks on the field for Tampa Bay, but for now they are pivotal in developing the Bucs’ second round pick. Trask has impressed the Bucs coaches with his ability to take in new information and bring it to the next snap. That was evident on Saturday, as Trask had maybe two “dangerous” throws during the team period, with one coming as a desperation heave after a “sack”.
But most of the afternoon, Trask impressed. The former Florida Gator zipped a pass between two zone-dropping linebackers and in front of safety Javon Hagan for a tight window completion to Amara Darboh on a dig. Later in the session, Trask laid out a perfect over route touch throw to Darboh, which the receiver caught in stride for a big gain. The ball didn’t hit the ground very often in the team period, although Trask did take a sack on at least two reps when he couldn’t find anyone open.
Still, the day was another step in the right direction for the Bucs young quarterback. It’s not all simple stuff either, as defensive coordinator Todd Bowles mixed man and zone coverages, while also sending extra blitzers and dropping out of pressure looks at times too.
After practice, head coach Bruce Arians had nothing but positive things to say about Trask’s performance.
“I think he’s great,” Arians said. “I thought he was fantastic. He’s got three guys coaching the shit out of him on every play, they need to calm down and let him go (laughing). Really pleased with him and where he is at right now.”
Defensive Rookies Leading The Way
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While Trask quarterbacks the offense, fellow rookie K.J. Britt is in charge of the defense. Three players stood out as clear defensive leaders and communicators on Saturday, with Britt the unquestioned top dog. The Auburn captain was heard above the din in every session, facilitating checks and making sure his teammates were lined up properly.
Alongside Britt for almost every rep has been fellow rookie Grant Stuard, another vocal presence in the middle of the field. Stuard has lined up all over the place for the Bucs on defense, even blitzing off the edge on occasion on Saturday. When Britt was off the field for a rep, Stuard’s voice could be heard as he roamed behind the defensive line, barking orders.
Bucs rookie LBs Grant Stuard and K.J. Britt – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“It’s been fantastic. Those two guys are running the whole show already and it’s been really, really impressive.”
Both players are held back by athletic limitations that will keep their ceilings far below the top three linebackers on the Bucs roster. But Britt and Stuard are both ultra physical and highly intelligent football players, which typically bodes well for carving out a roster spot somewhere.
Of course, those two traits are nothing more than a good start when it comes to making an NFL roster. More practices and preseason action will tell us a lot more about what the duo is capable of, but starring on special teams is their only prayer for a roster spot this offseason.
“That’s their biggest chance right now is to come in and show Keith [Armstrong] that they can be core special teamers,” Arians said. “You’re talking 25-30 plays a game. That will be their role and then continue to develop as a positional player. They can help a bunch, and that’s the way to make the team.”
• Hailing from North Texas, one of the things I wanted to see right away was if Jaelon Darden’s speed and quickness translated to an NFL field. We’ll see how he handles better competition, but the rookie was hands down the most explosive player on the field this weekend. Darden’s releases left cornerbacks struggling to close the early separation, and his transitions from receiver to post-catch runner were instant. I’m excited to see him against better competition in mini-camp.
• I like to note the little things when I’m watching practice, because they often matter more than watching reps on air. I think the leadership safety Javon Hagan is taking with this group of young defensive backs is making an impression on the Bucs coaches. After a secondary session with safeties coach Nick Rapone and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, players start to slowly filter back toward the main group. Hagan called everyone back and made sure they got a good break before moving on to the next drill.
“Hagan looks really good,” Arians said after practice. “He’s lost about 10 or 12 pounds and looks really, really good.”
• UDFA OL Sadarius Hutcherson spent most of practice at right guard, next to Robert Hainsey who is continuing to train at center. Hutcherson looked impressive getting out of his stance and popping the blocking pads in the individual drills, but it’s impossible to evaluate offensive linemen during the team sessions.
Arians said after practice that Hainsey will play all five offensive line positions for the Bucs.
“We’re going to train him so that he is ready to go just in case,” Arians said. “His position flexibility is amazing. He’s going to play five spots. Center is a totally different bird. You learn the whole offense when you learn center – snapping the ball, especially when you’ve got Vita [Vea] and guys like that on you. That’s a little different challenge, so we’ll train him there. We know he can play tackle, we know he can play guard.”
• It’s just two days of rookie mini-camp practice, but hard to say UDFA CB Cameron Kinley isn’t making the most of his opportunity. After intercepting Trask on Friday, Kinley made a great break on the ball to knock away a quick throw to T.J. Simmons. The 6-2, 204-pound Navy product is ultra-physical on every rep, bodying Simmons to the sideline on a vertical route a few plays later. If Kinley continues to play well in OTAs and mini-camp, you can add him to the competition for CB5 with Herb Miller, Nate Brooks and Chris Wilcox.
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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