Under foggy skies and cold conditions, the East team took to the field for their final practice before Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game. Thursday’s practice wasn’t as heavily attended as the practices earlier in the week, but the Buccaneers had representatives including defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea.
One of the most polarizing players of the week has been Georgia Tech wide receiver Darren Waller, who had a weak performance at Thursday’s practice. The East coaching staff led by Mike Singletary chose to do a lot of redzone work, which should have been right up Waller’s alley, but the former Yellow Jacket struggled on Thursday. Waller had trouble separating during one-on-ones and had multiple passes go through his hands. The raw prospect isn’t as quick as his 4.54 forty-yard dash would suggest and he struggles to sink his hips on his route entry. Still, Waller’s 6-foot-6, 240 pound frame should intrigue a team to select the big receiver in the late rounds of the draft.
Kentucky defensive end Za’Darius Smith had his best performance of the week on Thursday. The former Wildcat was extremely disruptive during the live sessions, recording two sacks on Duke quarterback Anthony Boone during 11-on-11s. The 6-foot-5, 265 pound defensive end also blew up a weakside run during 9-on-7s. Overall, Smith has helped his stock this week and should be a third day pick when it’s all said and done.
The Buccaneers are in the market for some help at the cornerback position and a player they could look at later on in the draft is Texas State cornerback Craig Mager, who has had an excellent week of practice. Mager is a three-year starter that made 36 straight starts for the Bobcats. The Texas State standout has made great plays all week in one-on-one situations and during the live sessions. At 5-11, 190 pounds, Mager has good size and quickness and could also be a candidate for a role as a kick or punt returner. The former Bobcat has the tools to be at least be a successful nickel or dime back at the NFL level.
Louisville running back Dominique Brown put together a dominant performance during the team’s one-on-one receiving drills. Brown didn’t drop any passes and got consistent separation from the East squad linebackers. Brown has the ability to be a three-down back that can add some punch to an NFL rushing attack. In an extremely deep running back draft class, the Louisville product looks like he could be a steal at the end of the draft. The Buccaneers could consider the 6-foot-2 running back in an effort to add some muscle to their stable of running backs.
South Alabama tight end Wes Saxton had a mixed performance on Thursday in St. Petersburg. The
6-foot-4, 235 pound prospect made a few gorgeous touchdown grabs from Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinecke during 7-on-7 redzone drills, but he also dropped two extremely easy catches against linebackers in one-on-ones. The South Alabama product needs to add some weight if he ever wants to block effectively become a complete NFL tight end, but for now he looks like a situational pass-catcher at the next level. Saxton offers a nice blend of height and athleticism that could lead to him being drafted in the late rounds of the draft.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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