With morning temperatures in the mid-80’s that crept close to 90 before it was over, combined with high humidity, the feels-like temperature as Tampa Bay’s Thursday practice ended was 97 degrees. And by the end, a few Bucs players had given their breakfast to the turf on the sidelines at the AdventHealth Training Center.
A few scuffles occurred between the offensive and defensive line in practice, which was separated quickly and before anybody wound up on the ground. That prompted Jason Pierre-Paul to yell from the sidelines, “You can’t do that in the game, why do it here?”
Center Ryan Jensen and defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Rochez – the presumed instigators – were sent off to run laps during practice following the incident.
The heat got both sides on edge and the competition became as heated as the temperatures. On the very next play following the scuffle, running back T.J. Logan took a hand off and headed to his right. As he got to the second level, outside linebacker Quinton Bell reached out and drug Logan to the ground by his jersey.
Logan come down awkwardly and screamed in pain while writhing on the turf. Wide receiver Mike Evans began yelling at the defense, “That better be a [expletive] cramp!”
It appeared to be more than a cramp as the trainers came out and immediately brought a cart out to get Logan back in the facility. Logan was helped up by two trainers and wasn’t able to put any weight on his right leg from our vantage point.
One of the first, and most important, notes at practice was the return of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul after sitting out of Wednesday’s practice in the Bucs’ indoor facility. The return was expected but a good sight after head coach Bruce Arians assured the media on Wednesday that it was a scheduled day off for the two veterans as the team worked almost exclusively on red zone drills.
Practice started as they have all week with a 30-minute individual period. Units spent time working with their position coaches on specific drills to help perfect technique and fundamentals. We had a close up look at the offensive tackles working with coach Joe Gilbert, who doesn’t hold back, whether it be first-round draft pick Tristan Wirfs or veteran Donovan Smith. While Gilbert gets loud at times, he seems to be perfectionist and will make players repeat the drills until they do it to his liking.
Special teams worked on kickoff return today primarily with Logan, Raymond Calais and receivers Jaydon Mickens and Scotty Miller working as the returners. Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong worked his guys hard and was very vocal in what he wanted from his kick return unit.
ST coordinator Keith Armstrong – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
After the Bucs’ special teams period ended, some units broke off individually while the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and offensive linemen took to the field where they spent time working on exchanges between the backs and the QBs, with the occasional wide receiver coming across the formation on end-arounds.
After that short period, the units broke up again and running backs headed to the sideline where they worked on ball security drills when close to the ground with running back coach Todd McNair.
Bucs running backs working on ball security drills, keeping the ball close to their bodies as they go up and down. pic.twitter.com/GMn5R5NUJY
Ronald Jones II finished the 2019 season with three fumbles, and newly acquired running back LeSean McCoy had three fumbles of his own last season, despite receiving just 129 total touches. As a team, Tampa Bay finished with the 10th-most total fumbles in 2019, averaging 1.4 fumbles per game and 0.7 fumbles lost per game.
Heading into 11-on-11 drills it seemed clear that the offense was the better unit on the field early, even though it wasn’t a live tackling period, as McCoy found a hole up the middle, followed by an audible “Wake the [expletive] up!” from the defensive side of the ball.
While the defense would turn it around and get back to their usual brand of stout run defense, McCoy continued to show why he has stuck around as a productive runner for so long in the NFL, using a mix of speed and patience with the ball in his hands.
For the rest of the period the quarterbacks and receivers stole the show.
Early on in the period Tyler Johnson, the Bucs’ fifth-round draft pick, made a tough catch through contact. After suffering an unspecified soft-tissue injury, forcing him to miss the start of training camp, it was a welcome sight to see the rookie in action for the first time with Tampa Bay, but Arians asserted later in the day that Johnson remains “light years” behind following his absence.
Throughout the remainder of the period Brady found Justin Watson deep over the middle of the field for a long completion, Miller along the sideline for a toe-drag catch past the first down mark and a wide open O.J. Howard down the left sideline after rolling to the right on play action. Even Cyril Grayson got in on the action with a diving reception between the numbers.
Then the kickers took the field for their daily competition. After a good day on Wednesday, both kickers were accurate yet again. Elliott Fry and Matt Gay missed just one kick each, and Gay finishing the period off with a 55-yard field goal.
During 7-on-7s the offense was solid again, as typically expected with no pass rush to be worried about, as Brady accurately spread the ball around the field. Jones did have one gaffe during this period despite a strong day otherwise, letting one pass go through his hands and off of his chest plate for an incompletion.
The 7-on-7 drills then moved inside the red zone where the offense became undeniably dominant as Brady would find Watson, Evans and Chris Godwin for touchdowns on three consecutive plays.
HC Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Logan’s injury seemed to take the energy of practice down a few notches and there weren’t any more fights through the last 20 minutes of practice.
Toward the end of practice the Bucs’ held official down-and-distance periods with two offensive groups getting a single drive to score, one led by quarterback Blaine Gabbert before Brady got a chance of his own.
The Gabbert-led drive stalled out quickly, coming up just short of a first on third down, and Fry converted a long field goal to put points on the board.
When Brady and his unit took the field it nearly ended as quick as it began. The ball hit the ground from a botched snap on the play’s first drive but Brady quickly recovered possession, gathered himself and threw a strike to Godwin over the middle of the field for a first down. Two plays later, Jones took a hand off from Brady to the outside and put together one of the most impressive plays of the day, a touchdown run from nearly 40 yards out. Heading up the left sideline with just one man left to beat, Jones cemented the play with a stiff-arm handed to a diving Mike Edwards around the 10-yard line and the third-year back scampered into the end zone unimpeded.
Arians didn’t have any update to Logan’s injury following practice.
“You never want to see a player down,” Arians said. “Especially a guy having a camp as good as he was having. We’ll wait and see what’s happening with it, it’s still too early to tell, but we’ll wait and see.”
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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