Under sunny skies and breezy conditions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft class, and 44 other rookies, hit the field for the first time as professionals. Head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht were able to see their new additions in action at the team’s first rookie mini-camp practice. Smith was his quiet, but make a point when he needed to kind of self, and Licht was unrecognizable wearing a visor and dressed like an assistant coach. Licht is having an absolute blast in his new role. Of course the team – along with the other 31 – are all tied for first place with an even 0-0 record at this point.
The air horn sounded and the team split up into position groups to work on their technique and ball security. Led by wide receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker, Buccaneers draft picks Mike Evans and Robert Herron worked on beating press coverage during the early portion of the session. Herron was very quick with his hands and released with ease multiple times. Evans was more sluggish with his hands but a powerful rip under the defenders arms allowed him to release off the line consistently throughout the session.
The receivers began to run some routes with Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith throwing them the passes. At 6-foot-5, 231 pounds, Evans is surprisingly quick and shows great suddenness on his quick slant and out routes. Sixth-round pick Robert Herron was a great route-runner on Friday, outshining Boise State’s Aaron Burks and Florida’s Solomon Patton. Burks wasted a lot of movement and struggles to change direction quickly and Patton had a bad drop during individual drills.
With contact disallowed for the rookie mini-camps, it’s hard for defensive lineman to standout but undrafted free agent defensive tackle Euclid Cummings looked explosive and worked hard in bag drills. The Georgia Tech defensive tackle displayed good hips and delivered a strong punch. At 6-foot-3, 291 pounds, Cummings projects as a three-technique in head coach Lovie Smith’s defense. At Georgia Tech’s pro day, Cummings ran a very fast 4.79 yard dash at 291 pounds.
The offensive linemen gathered in a small area to the far east of the practice fields where they worked for an hour doing individual work. New offensive line coach George Warhop was interesting to watch. With a deep voice and demonstrative style, Warhop showed each player exactly what he wanted with physical examples. The one other thing that was very noticeable with Warhop was he rarely if ever let a rep go without explaining, and in a lot of cases, correcting the young offensive linemen. He is meticulous in his coaching style, and even the simplest of techniques errors were addressed, from the drafted players all the way down to the most obscure tryout player.
During the workout drafted rookies Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile were lined up next to each other for most of the drills. Edwards isn’t the most athletic looking specimen on the team but does show some potential and appears to be very strong. Pamphile reminded Pewter Report of tackle Demar Dotson in his body style. Tall and lean, you could certainly see his basketball physique on display. Pamphile does a a better base that Dotson but obviously is no where near as polished.
Edwards tended to get high in his release but again showed some brute force that could have the makings of a mauler-type offensive guard in the future. Tackle/guard/center Jace Daniels, who was on the Buccaneers practice squad for most of last season, was easily the most polished of the players who worked with Warhop. Daniels tended to show off better footwork and punch in the drills than the other linemen.
One of the undrafted players that stood out was former Armwood High, Gators and Boston College offensive tackle Matt Patchan. Patchan is psychically imposing and also showed some aggression when working on double-team blocking and bag drills. Another undrafted player that showed some flashed was Kenarious Gates a tackle who played at Georgia. Gates in only on a tryout, but was somewhat intriguing and with the Bucs lack of depth at tackle, could be invited to training camp.
The tight end group, which featured second-round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins, was on the far side of the field and spent a lot of time working on their footwork as blockers.
Seferian-Jenkins was held out of contact drills due to soreness in his foot, but he did participate in walkthroughs and individual sessions. The soreness is related to the stress fracture surgery he had on his foot, which was discovered by doctors at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. However, Lovie Smith said after practice that the team will bring him along slowly and that he shouldn’t be held out much longer.
UC-Davis tryout Taylor Sloat showed excellent strength when asked to block sleds, nearly flipping over the sled on multiple occasions, but he looked athletically limited and struggled to separate as a receiver.
The defensive backs and linebackers joined forces with the receivers and running backs for a one-on-one session.
California running back Brendan Bigelow looked explosive throughout practice. He roasted Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham on an angle route coming out of the backfield, leaving the linebacker in the dust as he caught the pass from Brett Smith.
Robert Herron made a tremendous leaping catch over Eastern Michigan safety Mycal Swaim by contorting his body and catching the ball at its highest point. The 5-foot-9 receiver plays much bigger than his size and was easily the second-best receiver behind Evans on Friday.
Third-round selection Charles Sims nearly made a terrific diving grab after beating linebacker Chase Garnham on a route headed towards the left sideline. He laid out and extended his arms fully but could not hang on for the catch. As expected, Sims looked explosive on Friday and showcased great skills as a route-runner out of the backfield.
Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith did not throw the ball with great velocity and struggled to get passes downfield to his receivers on deep passing patterns. With the wind at his back, Smith threw a deep post too short for Herron and later under threw a ball intended for receiver Solomon Patton on a go route.
Following the one-on-one drill, the team split up into offensive and defensive squads to go through walkthroughs. The first team featured Purdue fifth-round pick Kevin Pamphile at left tackle, Tennessee State fifth-rounder Kadeem Edwards at left guard, second-year pro Jace Daniels at center, Louisiana-Monroe free agent Josh Allen at right guard, and Boston College free agent Matt Patchan at right tackle. Mike Evans lined up as the receiver on the left side of the field, with Austin Seferian-Jenkins holding down the tight end position and Robert Herron in the slot.
The day concluded with a 7-on-7 drill that ended up turning into the Mike Evans experience. The Texas A&M stud stole the show after making an incredible one-handed catch on a pass thrown by Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith. The first-round pick ran a crisp post route and showed off his incredible leaping ability, hauling in the pass with his right hand. The outstanding catch was the easily the best play of Friday’s practice. Evans then went on to catch multiple passes on quick-hitting slant and hitch patterns. It was only the first day of camp, but Evans is already making his presence felt in Tampa.
After practice, Smith talked about the first day of rookie mini-camp.
“I look forward to this day every year; you go through an awful lot drafting guys, but you kind of want to see them on the football field. This is your first time seeing them. We’ve worked with some of the players all week which is good; some of the plays you talk to the players about doing something to make the coaches notice them and seeing how guys can perform on the center stage.
“We have a first-round draft pick, great catch by (wide receiver) Mike Evans out there today, but he’s been doing that all week – he’s a good football player. It’s good to get (tight end) Austin Seferian-Jenkins into camp, he made it in last night for the first time, he has a foot that’s a little sore right now so his reps are limited, but we’ll bring him a long slowly and hopefully get him out there. Besides that, it’s just good work.” Rookie mini-camp continues on Saturday at 1:30 PM and is scheduled to take place on Sunday as well, although nothing has been officially announced. With the lack of QBs (just Smith) and only four wide receivers, it is possible Sunday’s on-field portion of the mini-camp could be scaled back or even dropped from the schedule altogether. Be sure to check PewterReport.com for more reports and information from One Buc Place throughout the weekend.
And last note that came late on Friday afternoon was a press release that the Buccaneers have signed 2014 draft picks Edwards and Herron to their rookie contracts. Terms were not disclosed.
–Eric Dellaratta and Mark Cook contributed to this report
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