On the second – and what would be the final – day of the Buccaneers Rookie Mini-Camp, all 56 participants were out under the good Florida weather once again with a day of training already under their belt to try and impress this Buccaneers coaching staff as best they could.
One of the receivers who stood out over the past two days is Boise State’s Thomas Sperbeck, who seemed to catch everything (as shown above).
Sperbeck was a 1,000-yard receiver in each of his last two years at Boise State. During the course of the mini-camp, he’s been one of the more clean wide receivers in terms of footwork and release, and showed good separation because of it.
Can't be slow to react with WR Thomas Sperbeck. CB Alex Gray was here. Got beat to the sideline. Mismatch for him. pic.twitter.com/LaEGxUj4HP
Sperbeck, who is 5-foot-11, 187 pounds, was incredibly reliable, being where he was supposed to be and making the catch. It was hard not to draw comparisons to Bucs third-year receiver Adam Humphries, who is 5-foot-10, 194 pounds and is also an incredibly dependable target.
Sperbeck, who went undrafted, ran a 4.59 at his pro day. Humphries was a tick faster at 4.53. It will be interesting to see if Sperbeck can mount a real challenge versus Humphries in training camp.
CB Jonathan Moxey
Boise State CB Jonathan Moxey with a good rep here in 1-on-1s. He's separating himself from most of the other DBs here. pic.twitter.com/EC8HGhayGJ
Sperbeck wasn’t the only Boise State Bronco who was showing out on Saturday. Cornerback Jonathan Moxey picked up right where he left off with a strong finish to practice yesterday, and looked like one of the best defensive backs (if not the best one) in the position group on Saturday.
There was another play like the one above where Moxey simply got the best of his assignment with good technique and patience. Moxey, 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, started in 36 games in his four years at BSU. Over the last two days he showed traits of a guy who had experience and looked, not only comfortable, but confident in his own abilities.
Westerkamp, much like Sperbeck, put on a good display of separation and concentration over the last two days, and his skills all came together on the highlight reel catch of the weekend shown above.
At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Westerkamp is another player who would compete for a special teams and “gadget” receiver role – he did return punts for the second day in a row on Saturday. He’s a player who had good production in college, when used, but had his senior season cut short when he injured his meniscus in a non-contact injury. He looks to be moving just fine now.
Here are some of the other notes from Saturday’s practice.
Bucs secondary coach Jon Hoke was really getting on cornerback Maurice Fleming and safety Isaiah Johnson during individual drills. Hoke works his defensive backs hard on backpedaling and then breaking on the ball out of the backpedal and Fleming and Johnson turned the wrong way twice in a row and had to do the drill for a third time. What didn’t help was the fact that Fleming and Johnson were walking back to the drill instead of hustling. Fleming is a try-out player, and that didn’t make a great impression. Johnson was a practice squad player last year in Tampa Bay and should have known better.
To add to the defensive back notes, safety Alex Gray looked hot and cold over the last two days, but it is hard to be consistent in just two days of work. he had one play in particular where he was late to react to a route on Sperbeck, but on the flip side, covered Chris Godwin very well in 1-on-1s on a deep route. He was one of the better defensive backs from the weekend, but didn’t standout as much as someone like Moxey did.
Tampa Bay rookie safety Justin Evans dropped a pass during the individual drills and immediately dropped to the ground to do 10 push-ups. Evans has good quickness and lateral movements, and with his footwork at times he resembles a big cornerback rather than a prototypical safety. It’s no wonder than Evans had eight pass breakups and four interceptions last year as a senior at Texas A&M.
Bucs offensive coordinator and wide receivers Todd Monken kept saying, “Get vertical!” over and over and over again during the first two days when doing release and catch drills with his receivers and with Ben Steele’s tight end group. That certainly could be a sign of things to come with a Tampa Bay offense that added a speed receiver in DeSean Jackson and a pair of fast weapons in the draft in tight end O.J. Howard and wide receiver Chris Godwin.
Kentucky running back Jojo Kemp and Montana State running back Chad Newell haven’t really stood out as tryout players. Kemp keep gets some drills wrong with his footwork and Newell seems a step slower than an NFL running back should be. Neither looked particularly agile or comfortable in pass protection drills. The only area that Kemp shined in was pass catching, winning nearly all of his drills against linebackers in 1-on-1s.
Running back Blake Sims, who was signed earlier this offseason, is the most smooth and polished running back on the field. He’s still making the transition from college quarterback to NFL running back, but has a great position coach in Tim Spencer. Sims has a good set of hands too, and was winning most of the 1-on-1s, including burning linebacker Riley Bullough for a long touchdown down the seam.
Tampa Bay didn’t use a fullback last year on offense, instead leaving the lead blocking duties to tight ends Luke Stocker and Alan Cross. But the Bucs have two fullbacks on the roster this year in Austin Johnson and Quayvon Hicks, who was signed this offseason and participated in the rookie mini-camp. Hicks, a 6-foot-1, 256-pounder out of Georgia, blocked for Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb in college, and has a shot at making the roster to help the Bucs’ run game, which struggled in 2016. He’ll likely have to beat out Cross for a roster spot to make that happen, but looked good hitting the sled in practice and displayed more power than any other back at the team’s rookie mini-camp.
Tight ends O.J. Howard, the team’s first-round draft pick, and Antony Auclair, a priority free agent signing, really stood out during the first two days of Bucs rookie mini-camp. Auclair, a Canadian player, was a more consistent pass catcher than Tevin Westbrook, who has been in Tampa Bay over the past year as a practice squad player. It was a really good start for both young tight ends, and Auclair looks like a mix of Bucs veteran tight ends Cameron Brate and Luke Stocker.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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