FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• The Bucs waited until the final week of training camp to break out their new 3-4 defensive wrinkle. On Tuesday, the Bucs featured Clinton McDonald at nose tackle with Gerald McCoy and Will Gholston at defensive end and had Noah Spence and Adarius Glanton standing up as outside linebackers. Lavonte David and rookie Kendell Beckwith, who was subbing for an injured Kwon Alexander, were the inside linebackers.
“It was a little something new,” Spence said. “It’s still football. When you stand up you can see a little more, but at the end it’s still football with the same responsibilities. You have to keep them guessing and give them different looks. It’s a little easier for them if you keep giving them the same thing to prepare for all the time.”
Beckwith, who had an impressive week of practice to close out camp, has experience playing in a 3-4 scheme.
“My first year at LSU we played a 4-3,” Beckwith said. “The second year was a 4-2-5 – we played a lot of nickel. In my third year we went to the 3-4. That helps me when it comes to learning the defense. The only real difference is the assignment differences. Playing Mike is the same thing no matter what defense you’re in. You have to do a great job of communicating, getting everybody lined up and getting to the ball. You have to know your assignment, play fast and do your job.
“In the 3-4 you can be a two-gap linebacker. I’m not going to say which one I like more. I think they’re both good defenses. When we switch to a 3-4, I’ve been there before and it doesn’t look like any crazy thing to me. I’ve seen it.”
On Thursday, the last practice of camp, the Bucs had Sealver Siliga at nose tackle with Chris Baker and Clinton McDonald as the defensive ends. Spence and Beckwith were stand-up outside linebackers with David and Glanton in the middle.
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• The Cleveland Browns are giving second-round draft pick DeShone Kizer his first start at quarterback on Saturday night in Tampa Bay’s preseason home opener. Kizer has thrown for a touchdown, rushed for a touchdown and completed 61.5 percent of his passes in his first two exhibition games.
We’ll see how he fares against an improved Bucs defense that is filled with several pass rushers, including defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive ends Noah Spence and Robert Ayers, Jr. The Bucs defense recorded eight sacks in a 30-13 drubbing of the Browns in the third preseason game a year ago in Tampa Bay.
Cleveland’s offensive line has been bolstered this offseason though with the addition of right guard Kevin Zeitler, who plays opposite Joel Bitonio. Both guards have Pro Bowl potential and left tackle Joe Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowler, is still one of the best in the game. Sacking Kizer should prove to be more difficult than it was getting to Robert Griffin III last year.
As I said on the latest Pewter Nation Podcast, what I want to see from the Bucs defense is more splash plays – notably sacks and takeaways. The Bucs only have three sacks in the preseason and only one came from a starter – a blitz from linebacker Lavonte David. Tampa Bay’s starting defensive line has yet to record a sack in the preseason, although McCoy came close last week at Jacksonville. The Bucs lone takeaway was Vernon Hargreaves’ interception in the first quarter of the Cincinnati game.
• Tampa Bay rookie middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith has made an amazing recovery from a torn ACL just nine months ago during his senior season at LSU. Beckwith missed all of the offseason workouts since the draft, but was cleared for training camp and hasn’t looked back.
“I started feeling normal again – almost,” Beckwith said of his injury before surgery last November. “But I went in to get my surgery and then the next day I started my rehab. It’s almost been nine months. I don’t think about it. I’ve been knocked down. I fall awkward all the time. I make all kind of crazy cuts and moves, but I don’t think about it. That’s the last thing on my mind. I’m blessed.”
Beckwith said he did some “pre-hab” between injuring the knee and having surgery, which he believes helped speed up his rehab.
“I was doing light squats – things to keep my quad firing,” Beckwith said. “I think it helped out a little bit, but after surgery, that quad goes, man. It’s like you’ve never worked out in your life. It just goes. Right after my surgery I went into rehab.”
Beckwith’s hard work paid off, as he has stayed healthy in training camp, which has had tremendous benefits for the rookie. When starting strongside linebacker Devante Bond injured his knee against Cincinnati in the preseason opener, Beckwith was moved from backup middle linebacker to the starting SAM linebacker spot. When Kwon Alexnader was injured this past week and missed a few practices the team moved Beckwith into the starting middle linebacker role as Adarius Glanton stepped in at SAM.
Beckwith’s early morning study sessions with Alexander and defensive coordinator Mike Smith have paid off and it’s shown on the practice field.
“We do it at 7:30 a.m. every morning,” Beckwith said. “It’s like a 10-15-minute thing – me, Mike [Smith] and Kwon. It’s the three of us. It’s definitely helped me. Coach Duff (linebackers coach Mark Duffner) definitely helps me out a lot.
“The main thing I’ve learned is that you have to be a student of the game. You really have to study and you have to take time out to learn.”
Beckwith’s knowledge will be tested on Saturday night as he is expected to start at middle linebacker in place of Alexander against Cleveland and he will serve as the quarterback of the defense.
• Bucs legendary defensive end Simeon Rice spent two days at One Buccaneer Place watching practice and keeping a close eye on second-year defensive end Noah Spence, who appears poised for a breakout season after recording 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles as a rookie last year.
“He reminds me very much of myself,” said Rice, who is the third all-time sacker in Tampa Bay with 69.5 QB captures. “He has the talent. He has the capabilities. He has to allow it to shine now – don’t hide it from the world. Be what you are capable of being, do what you are capable of doing. It’s interesting to see because I’m like watching him after practice and they’re working. I’m like, ‘Yo, this kid wants to be special. This kid is going to be special.’ If you search for it long enough, you will find it.”
Spence was thrilled to work with the 43-year old Rice after practice and get some pointers from one of the NFL’s best pass rushers.
“It’s humbling,” Spence said. “It’s a blessing. To be that great and a player in his position to single me out – I’m at a loss for words. It’s a blessing to have him come talk to me. I’m trying to take it all in and use it on the field.”
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• Bucs tight end-fullback Alan Cross only caught one touchdown pass last year, but it was an important one. Cross hauled in a play-action touchdown from Jameis Winston in the fourth quarter at Kansas City that proved to be the game-winner in a 19-17 Tampa Bay upset victory.
“The big part of that game was [the Chiefs fans] were doing the Florida State chant,” Cross said. “So it was a home game for Jameis [a former Florida State quarterback] and he played like it. I just happened to get a ball thrown to me, which was cool. Yeah, that felt pretty good. Now I need to get a touchdown at home.”
While Cross is not necessarily a lock to make the team, he has played well in training camp and the preseason and is a “steady Eddie” – a reliable player that is always assignment sound. The PewterReport.com staff would be surprised if he didn’t make it.
• The popularity of the Pewter Nation Podcast continues to grow thanks to YOU, Pewter Nation! After hour-long podcasts during the offseason we are now producing two shorter podcasts (30-40 minutes) during football season – one mid-week and another one immediately after the Bucs preseason and regular season games. Here is a link to the latest Pewter Nation Podcast – Episode 23: Winston Is MJ And Mariota Is Kobe.
Make sure to visit PewterReport.com Sunday morning for our post-game analysis of Tampa Bay’s preseason home opener against Cleveland in a new Pewter Podcast Podcast, which Mark Cook, Trevor Sikkema and I will record immediately following the Bucs vs. Browns game at the stadium. In addition to listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on PewterReport.com you can also subscribe to the free podcasts at PodBean by clicking here and on SoundCloud by clicking here.
• PewterReport.com’s coverage of the Bucs 2017 training camp has concluded and I want to thank several people for their hard work, so please indulge me for a minute. Vice president of editorial content Mark Cook did an excellent job of writing and doing a lot of the executive tasks that kept our Pewter Report ship going full steam ahead. In his seventh season with PewterReport.com, Cook is a veteran and it showed. A big “thank you” also goes out to camp interns, Austin DeWitt, Taylor Jenkins and Eric Evans for doing interviews and transcriptions – and a job well done.
Rookie Bucs beat writer Trevor Sikkema did an outstanding job of capturing some amazing practice video for our @PewterReport Twitter feed and for including those highlights in his detailed camp recaps. Sikkema was relentless on Twitter, handling about 90 percent of our in-game tweets. A couple of his videos for @PewterReport landed on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football program, including the infamous clip of Blake Bortles overthrowing Allen Robinson, who cursing was picked up by our audio. That clip was subsequently picked up by Bleacher Report’s Twitter account and liked over 9,000 times and was re-tweeted 19,000 times. Amazing.
A big thank you also goes out to PewterReport.com’s director of photography Cliff Welch, in addition to PR’s assistant photographer Mark Lomoglio and newcomer Mary Holt for their great photos during camp. Welch, who is entering his 31st year of working for PewterReport.com dating back to the Buccaneer Magazine days, has covered the Bucs longer than I have and keeps getting better and better in not only capturing the action on the field, but getting the shots that actually tell a story.
And finally, thank you, Pewter Nation, for turning to PewterReport.com for your Bucs news and insight during training camp. Thanks to your visits PewterReport.com posted record numbers for August, and attracted several new advertising partners along the way.
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