Close to 90 men showed up to One Buc Place on Tuesday morning to try and make the most of their practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers knowing that all 90 won’t make the final cut.
Organized team activities, or OTAs as they’re often abbreviated, are the first regulated practices for the entire signed roster. In it, players get the chance to make first impression, both as young players or veterans. For the young guys, this is their first real chance to go up against legitimate NFL players. For the veterans, this can be their coming out part to showcase themselves after a weight loss or a weight gain, anything that might catch attention in a good way.
But the whole catching attention part doesn’t always come in a good way. Sometimes the struggles show, too. On the offensive side of the ball, there were plenty of storylines to highlight, both positive and negative. Here were our notes from day one of Bucs OTA.
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OTAs are voluntary, and that’s key to remember. So, as we mention names that might be missing throughout the next few weeks, that doesn’t necessarily mean a player is unhappy with his situation. Wide receiver Mike Evans sat out of practice today, but he was involved in helping out with the drills and talking to the receivers. Rookie running back Jeremy McNichols, Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick, was also a non-participant as he is still recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.
Here’s The Kicker
On the accuracy goal posts (from about 35-40 yards)
Since the players are only in shorts and helmets, there are things to notice in position or one-on-one drills, but significance has to be tempered know that contact will change things. But, there’s one aspect of the game, contact or not, that carries weight in practice. That is with kicking.
After a troubling rookie season, Bucs Robert Aguayo was essentially put on the hot seat when the team brough in veteran kicker, Nick Folk.
In their first showdown of the 2017 practice season, Folk took the lead by going an impressive 4-for-4 on the skinny goal posts. Aguayo, on the other hand, went just 1-for-4. Not only did Folks’ kicks go right down the middle, they were also kicked with significantly more power than Aguayo’s. We’re one day into practice and things don’t look good for the former Florida State record holder.
Aguayo lined up for four medium-range kicks on the skinny goal posts, which are about half as wide as regulation NFL goal posts. Aguayo’s first kick hit the right upright. Then he overcompensated and was wide left. Then he overcompensated again and was wide right before making his final field goal.
Had Aguayo lined up for field goals on a regular uprights, he would have made two and perhaps three, but he wouldn’t have been perfect. Folk, who was signed this offseason as competition after Aguayo was the worst-rated kicker in the NFL last year as a rookie, was perfect. He nailed all four of his kicks right down the middle of the skinny uprights and made an incredible first impression.
Guess Who’s Back?
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Running back Doug Martin was back on the field and in a Buccaneers uniform as the team’s No. 1 back, something many people have been looking forward to for some time.
Martin looked lean today. he looked like his body fat was at a minimum, and from a body weight standpoint certainly looked the part of the praise he’s been getting from the coaches that he’s as good as he’s looked since his 2015 season.
Martin was the No. 1 running back during position drills as well as when the team took the field for 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. It seems their faith in him was no bluff.
O.J. Howard looked as good as you would have expected him to look during the rookie mini-camp. He was clearly one of the more talented players on the roster that weekend, and showed some nice flashes during the practices.
On Tuesday, however, things were much less smooth. Howard dropped three passes in position drills by my count, and looked a bit tired, to be honest. Both he and Cameron Brate were paired with Winston during the passing drills, and it was clear which player had better chemistry with the quarterback.
Now, this is certainly nothing to freak out over, but we have to write what we saw. And, honestly, it’s what you’d expect. Howard is going through the chemistry portions with his quarterback and with the Buccaneers in general. It wasn’t a crisp day for him, but there will be plenty more practices to get better.
In terms of a first-, second-, and third-team depth chart, Brate was running with the top unit, Howard was second and Antony Auclair was getting whatever reps were after that.
The Fab 5
For a unit that will be tracked all offseason and into training camp, here’s what the Buccaneers “first team” offensive line was when the drills got underway.
LT: Donovan Smith LG: Kevin Pamphile C: Ali Marpet RG: J.R. Sweezy RT: Demar Dotson
So, yes, Marpet is starting at center, and, yes, Pamphile is starting at guard. But, the big question for the offensive line going into 2017 was what the status of J.R. Sweezy would be. For now, the status is “starter.” The bigger question is how he’ll hold up when contact comes into play. But, he’s passes the first milestone so far.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The debut of newly signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was similar to that of Howard in that it was less than impressive. Fitzpatrick was off on several of his throws during individuals and during the team periods. That’s understandable given several factors.
First, he hasn’t been working out at a team facility as the former New York Jets starter was an unsigned free agent until he agreed to terms with Tampa Bay on Friday. Second, Fitzpatrick has just begun to learn Dirk Koetter’s playbook and the routes that are involved in the passing game. And third, Fitzpatrick has no timing down with the Bucs running backs, tight ends and receivers as Tuesday was the first day he spent throwing to them.
It may take some time for Fitzpatrick to develop the timing that fellow backup quarterback Ryan Griffin has with Tampa Bay’s pass-catchers. Griffin has a two-year head start on the playbook, too. It’s early, but don’t count Griffin out of the mix for the No. 2 quarterback job. There is a reason why Fitzpatrick was released from the Jets and was not immediately sought after in free agency. Fitzpatrick needs to step it up in terms of his conditioning and accuracy in order to beat out Griffin, who had a good day throwing the ball.
The One to Watch
One interesting storyline that had nothing to do with performance and everything to do with fashion was wide receiver DeSean Jackson wearing No. 1 instead of his game day No. 11.
When asked about this after practice, Jackson said it’s something he’s been doing for a long time. He said he’s always loved the No. 1, even as a kid, and wishes he could wear it during games. He told the story of when he was in college at Cal and had his name in the conversation for the Heisman trophy, the national media called him “The One to Watch.” He said he’s taken that with him into his NFL career.
Jackson said that when you play wide receiver, you have to have a swagger about you. Wearing No. 1 is the swag Jackson carries with him when he goes to work.
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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