The Tampa Bay Buccaneers put on pads and took to the field at Raymond James Stadium last night to have another practice to get ready for the season, and to give over 30,000 fans a chance to see the progress they’ve made so far this offseason. Night practice is becoming a tradition that brings out Bucs fans who are ready for the season to start, and want to get a glimpse into how the team is shaping up. I made the trip to Raymond James Stadium, and here is what I saw out of the Buccaneers;
- Johnthan Banks is ready for the NFL. It may be a perfect matchup for him to go against a big but slightly slower Vincent Jackson, but he can hang with Jackson step for step, which proves to me that he’s ready to handle big play receivers in the NFL. Other writers have commented that he never gets embarrassed or dominated when in coverage, and he’s actually started making some plays that show he understands NFL route running and quarterback tendencies.
- Eric Page is quick, and can run great routes. The guy is a professional wide receiver who gets in and out of a break like he’s been doing it his entire life. And when he’s on the move, he’s running so effortlessly, he’s just naturally quick over short distances. He appears to be fully healthy and ready to compete for a roster spot, and he stands a good chance to make it.
- Akeem Spence can be more than Roy Miller. I admit this was a small sample size, but in one-on-one drills, he overpowered Jeremy Zuttah to get to the quarterback, and that’s impressive for a rookie. We’ve heard all about his “altercation” earlier in offseason workouts, and I can see why he would get under an offensive lineman’s skin. He is incredibly strong and has no problems putting that strength to work attacking the offense in the trenches.
- Gabe Carimi looked solid in one-on-one drills playing as a tackle. Gabe was absolutely awful last season in Chicago as a right tackle, but there has been speculation that he was playing hurt. And even though the Buccaneers have a starting right tackle in Demar Dotson, I wouldn’t be surprised if Carimi pushes him for that job. There’s a reason Carimi was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, and it’s not because he’s a turnstile in pass protection. At the very worst, Carimi has two years left on his deal, and could find a place to play along the line in 2014 if he can’t win the job over Dotson this season.
- Rashaan Melvin has been a huge surprise. The undrafted rookie corner who got the most buzz up until these past few days was Deveron Carr, but Melvin is the one who has been working with the ones and twos more often, and impressing in drills and scrimmages. At 6 feet, 2 inches tall, this corner from Northern Illinois was active every time he got a chance, breaking up passes and sticking with receivers. He’s certainly shown he deserves a place over a player like Michael Adams, who just isn’t tall enough to handle the Bucs’ receivers in practice.
- Mike Glennon is a fully capable quarterback. He’s not even a fraction of the player Josh Freeman is from an athletic standpoint, but when it comes to throwing the football, he has the ability to make any throw. He dropped in a nice wheel route to Mike James in a scrimmage, and also fired a perfect strike in two minute drills to Tiquan Underwood. But I still think his lack of athleticism is going to hold him back, as he can’t get out of the way when the pocket is disrupted. He’ll need to learn to use his brain to compensate for his lack of quickness.
- And finally, Leonard Johnson looks ready to take a step forward. He made the play of the night leaping and stretching to deflect a pass headed to Vincent Jackson for a touchdown, and tipping it out-of-bounds. He’s been asked to line up in the slot and outside during camp, and has done well in both situations, and everything I see from him gives me more faith that the Buccaneers found a solid corner when they brought Johnson in to cover for the rash of injuries and suspensions last season.