The Bucs kicked off their 2021 training camp at the AdventHealth Training Center on Sunday, July 25 under sunny skies with temperatures in the high 80s. And in front of fans for the first time since 2019. The stands were packed with season ticket holders ready to watch the defending Super Bowl champions.
Chants of “Brady! Brady! Brady!” – and even “Ryan Jensen!” resonated throughout from the stands. When wide receiver Mike Evans made a catch towards the sideline, he hopped over the plastic fence and went into the crowd for some impromptu hugs and love. The fans went into an absolute frenzy. Running backs Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette were often hyping up the crowd as well. Fournette even tossed a football to a lucky fan during practice.
But after practice, Fournette revealed that he and his teammates had gotten the message from head coach Bruce Arians. Although the team got their Super Bowl rings at a ceremony on Thursday night, it was time to turn the page with the start of training camp.
The Bucs were the 2020 Super Bowl champions. They’re on to 2021 now and haven’t done anything – yet.
“We’re starting from scratch,” Arians said. “That was last year’s team. This team – we can’t assume that we know anything. We have to go back to the beginning and start over and listen in meetings and learn more from the film we have from last year.”
Bucs Players Out Of Practice
Notably absent from practice was safety Raven Greene, who did not report to camp for personal reasons and was excused. Tight end O.J. Howard caught passes from Tom Brady in warm-ups, but did not practice after that. Wide receiver Antonio Brown was a late arrival after practice had began, and while he was dressed, Brown did not participate in any drills.
Bucs Practice Notes
As practice started out with individual drills, the execution was sloppy at first on field one with the first- and second-string players. Passes were dropped by tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receivers Scotty Miller and Jaelon Darden. That wouldn’t last long, though, as the receivers picked up their game as practice went on.
There were some great battles between the starters and second-stringers on field one throughout the day. Each side took some wins in an evenly matched competition. Following individual drills, the Bucs went into 11-on-11’s where Tom Brady was connecting all over the place on passes to Chris Godwin and Miller. While Godwin was found mostly over the middle on crossing routes, Miller was near the sidelines, running his trademark go route.
The first deep ball we saw, however, did not connect. Miller had beaten cornerback Jamel Dean by about two steps down the field and looked to be well on his way for a score. But the throw from Brady was a bit short as it actually hit the trailing Dean for an incomplete pass. It was one of the few throws where Brady was off target, otherwise he was solid on the day.
Just saw our first Scotty Miller deep ball sighting. Had at least two steps on the defender, but the pass was slightly under thrown by Brady and it hit off the leg of a trailing Jamel Dean. #Bucs
Dean and Miller saw each other in coverage often on Sunday. Though Dean was beat on that play, he got revenge not long after when he broke up another pass intended for Miller. Dean was right on top of him to knock the ball away.
It wasn’t the only defensive battle saw either, as inside linebacker Devin White was locked up with Gronkowski for some reps. White got the upper hand on one, getting his hand in to deflect the ball away from Gronkowski.
The defense had some other bright spots throughout the morning as well. Defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Will Gholston each made stops at the line of scrimmage during a run game session. Meanwhile outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul had a pass breakup at the line of scrimmage.
Rookie outside linebacker Joe Tryon, the team’s first-round pick, was getting his first action on the left side, while third-year outside linebacker Anthony Nelson was rushing from the right side. Tryon is expected to get a look at both the left and right sides in camp.
The defense came up big in the red zone drills, allowing just two touchdowns in that session – one on a run from Jones, and the other on a touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to Tyler Johnson, who quietly had a very productive day. There was a pass break-up by cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting on Gabbert as well during a 7-on-7 drill, that nearly turned into an interception for Carlton Davis III.
Good PBU by Sean Murphy-Bunting on a 7-on-7 drill pass by Gabbert. Ball was in the air for a bit but just over the head of Carlton Davis. #Bucs
Reserve tight end Codey McElroy made a great high-point catch on a throw from Gabbert, and then raced 30 yards for a touchdown. McElroy and Tanner Hudson received extra reps behind Gronkowski with both Howard and Brate out of action.
If there was one X-factor on the day, it was the performance from Darden, the team’s fourth-round pick. The rookie had an up-and-down type of day. He dropped two passes, but was able to get open easily against the starters. He appeared to have great chemistry with Brady, looking very comfortable making a terrific sideline catch while on the run. Later in practice, he burned Davis deep to the point where Davis had to pull on Darden’s jersey just to make sure he didn’t get too far away. It drew a penalty because of it.
Jaelon Darden beat Carlton Davis down the field, Davis had to hold onto his jersey, drawing a penalty. #Bucs
Brad Seaton, the only member of the Bucs to sit out last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is back with the team. He warmed up with the guards, but played almost exclusively at right tackle with the reserves on field two. The Bucs continued their practice of splitting the team into two fields to get twice the reps in, and speed up the development of the team’s younger players. Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen ran the offense with assistant offensive line coach Joe Gilbert and assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust also on hand from the coaching staff, among others.
Bucs QB Kyle Trask – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Notable field two participants were quarterbacks Ryan Griffin and rookie Kyle Trask (more on him in a separate story), wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, center Robert Hainsey, the team’s third-string center, both rookie linebackers K.J. Britt and Grant Stuard, veteran linebacker Joe Jones and reserve defensive linemen Benning Potoa’e, Patrick O’Connor and Jeremiah Ledbetter. Ledbetter came to camp in great shape and looks, big, strong, quick and agile. He did a great job pushing the pocket and getting pressure up the middle. Could this be the year he pushes for the 53-man roster full-time?
Britt, Stuard and Jones appeared to struggle. None of them is fleet of foot and they were either a step slow reacting to the run or a step behind in coverage. Griffin threw a touchdown pass to tight end Jerell Adams, who continues to impress. Adams, who shined on field two during the June mini-camp, catching multiple TDs, beat Stuard in coverage to the corner of the end zone, hauling in a scoring strike from Griffin.
Trask struggled with the deep ball, and wasn’t even perfect on short throws in his first NFL training camp practice. But he started slow in the rookie mini-camp before picking up steam. And Trask likely won’t see the field for two years, so Tampa Bay can afford to have him develop at a slower pace.
Following practice, Arians spoke with the media where he gave his opening thoughts on how practice went. He was happy with the execution that the players brought on the first day.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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