FAB 4. 5 Takeaways From OTAs
The Buccaneers had three OTAs (organized team activities) this week and the local media was allowed to watch the first one on Tuesday, May 20, which was held at the AdventHealth Training Center at One Buccaneer Place under sunny skies and hot conditions. Here are my five takeaways from watching Tuesday’s OTA.
1. Nassib Is In For A Big Year
Bucs outside linebacker Carl Nassib looks like a man on a mission this offseason. Entering a contract year and looking awfully comfortable in his new role as a stand up pass rusher from the strongside linebacker position, Nassib seems poised to have a big year blitzing off the edge. Nassib looks bigger and more muscular than he did a year ago when he arrived in Tampa Bay as a waiver wire claim in September prior to the start of the season.
What head coach Bruce Arians noted is how hard Nassib practices, and without Jason Pierre-Paul around, Nassib has quickly taken on a leadership role. The confidence gained from a career-high 6.5 sacks last year is definitely a factor. How will Nassib perform playing opposite Shaq Barrett, Noah Spence or newcomer Anthony Nelson instead of JPP this year? Can Nassib shoulder the Bucs’ pass rush load in Pierre-Paul’s absence? We’ll have to see, but it won’t be due to a lack of effort.
2. Dotson’s Knee Is Feeling Great
Much to the chagrin of many, including yours truly, the Bucs didn’t address the offensive tackle position in the 2019 NFL Draft. There isn’t an alternative on the roster at left tackle in case Donovan Smith’s play regresses now that he has a contract extension, nor is there a capable starter at right tackle in case something happens to Demar Dotson, who enters his 11th season in Tampa Bay. And no, I don’t consider Caleb Benenoch a starting-caliber option at right tackle.
The good news is that Dotson is in great shape, weighing a slimmer 300 pounds this offseason, and feeling much better heading into 2019 than he did a year ago when his knee was bothering him. Remember that Dotson had offseason surgery after missing the last month of the 2017 season and was never really right at any point in time during the 2018 campaign. After four months of rest and recovering, Dotson said he’s pain free and can move around like he did years ago. The Bucs gambled that they get one more year out of the 34-year old Dotson at right tackle and if he can stay healthy he should play better than he did a year ago.
3. Hargreaves Returns To OTAs
Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III returned to practice on Tuesday after missing last week’s three OTAs due to a nagging injury. He addressed Arians’ comment last week where the head coach said that Hargreaves needed to be mentally right to practice and said that he and Arians are on the same page and he has no problem with anything that was said.
Hargreaves told me that he plans on picking up where he left off last year in Week 1 as he was asserting himself as the vocal leader in the secondary. It’s hard to believe that at age 23 Hargreaves is the elder statesman in the cornerback room now that Brent Grimes is gone. The Bucs have drafted four Day 2 cornerbacks ready to take his job if Hargreaves doesn’t ball out this year. With PewterReport.com breaking the story that Hargreaves’ fifth-year option got picked up by the Bucs for 2020, he has $9 million reasons to play well in 2019. Playing in a press man scheme this year in Todd Bowles’ defense should help.
4. Fitzgerald Still Practicing With QBs
The Bucs signed former Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald as an undrafted free agent with the hopes of making him a utility player in Tampa Bay, much like New Orleans did with Taysom Hill, a running quarterback at BYU. The Saints have used Hill as a runner where he rushed for 196 yards and two touchdowns, while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Hill caught three passes for four yards, and completed 3-of-7 passes for 64 yards with one interception and no touchdowns. Additionally, Hill returned 14 kickoffs for 348 yards for the Saints.
There was some talk that the 6-foot-5, 226-pound Fitzgerald could see some time at tight end to increase his chances of making the 53-man roster. That may come in training camp, but so far Fitzgerald has been practicing exclusively with the quarterbacks and wearing an orange jersey. However, Fitzgerald has been taking part in the special teams portion of practice, using his 4.64 speed to run down to cover kicks and punts. Of course there hasn’t been any tackling during the non-contact OTAs.
5. Perriman Injured His Shoulder
While Arians was praising the likes of running back Ronald Jones II and wide receiver Bobo Wilson this week, he also took the time to note that newly acquired veteran receiver Breshad Perriman was not able to practice on Tuesday due to an injury. Perriman dove for a pass during the OTAs last week and injured his shoulder because the players don’t wear shoulder pads until they get into training camp.
While Perriman isn’t the first Bucs player to dive for a pass in practice, it speaks to the competitive nature of the OTAs thus far in general, and to his desire to turn the corner professionally on his career and live up to his first-round draft billing by making plays. I wrote about Perriman in last week’s SR’s Fab 5 column and how impressive he looked last Tuesday during the OTA in the indoor practice facility. Perriman didn’t have to dive for that pass last week – and probably won’t do any more diving unless it’s a game day. But the effort and willingness he demonstrated in doing that, says a lot about his hunger for a breakout year.