When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took to the field on a warm morning in the Tampa sun, I don’t think anyone expected what they’d see out of quarterback Josh Freeman.
Freeman was precise, mobile, and generally awesome in individual and team drills all afternoon, firing short to intermediate passes with ease, and connecting on some deeper throws as well, as he impressed everyone in attendance at One Buc Place on Thursday morning. Our friends at JoeBucsFan had this to say on Twitter:
Not sure if Josh Freeman has had a better training camp practice. Today, he looks every bit the franchise QB the Bucs have always hoped for.
— JoeBucsFan (@JoeBucsFan) August 1, 2013
But Freeman’s “heir apparent” Mike Glennon was no slouch, either, managing the offense well, taking a few less chances, but showing good accuracy. There was definitely a sense that the Buccaneers’ quarterbacks are getting into “game shape” slowly but surely, and the results are encouraging.
Here are some other notes from practice today:
- Doug Martin is ready for the season. He looks sharp in the passing game as well as the running game, and he is juking everyone out of their shoes in the ground game. There have been no negative words out of camp in regards to Martin, and all indications are that he’s ready to have an even better season than last year.
- Vincent Jackson may be undefendable in the slot. The Bucs’ primary receiver has lined up inside during drills and scrimmages, and he’s making a huge impact there. It seems there’s more of a comfort level for Josh Freeman to deliver a perfect strike to a wide receiver attacking the seam, so this plan to move Jackson to the slot seems to be reaping benefits. The plan is not to use Jackson as a decoy for Mike Williams, the plan is to keep Vincent Jackson open and make sure the team maintains a wide-open offense.
- Peyton Hillis has almost certainly fallen behind Brian Leonard as the Buccaneers’ primary backup running back. The former Brown and Chief fell dropped the ball a couple of times during practice Thursday, and doesn’t seem to be standing out so far. Leonard, however, has been running as the third down back with the first team, and impressed during night practice with an impressive run during scrimmages.
- I cannot get enough of Eric Page. I want to see him get more chances to shine by playing with the first team more often, but I love how he runs routes, and his hands are a vacuum. He’s not very big, but he’s a reliable receiver who I believe will succeed when he gets a chance.
- Tom Crabtree and Nate Byham might be leaving Luke Stocker in the dust. With Stocker still dealing with injury, both Byham and Crabtree have been running with the first team, and playing well. Josh Freeman already trusts Byham, and Crabtree has shown flashes in practice thus far. I had faith in Stocker heading into this season, but there’s a chance he could fall off the roster if he doesn’t get on the field and stand out as compared to roster hopefuls like Danny Noble and Tim Wright.
- The three safety look we alluded to last night was put on display during scrimmages, and I really like the look. The Buccaneers were actually running some dime packages, and they actually had four safeties on the field at one point, as Ahmad Black, Mark Barron, Dashon Goldson, and Keith Tandy were all present on defense. Tandy was playing a cornerback role, and Barron was essentially a linebacker, but the athleticism of that defensive unit is scary, and the possibilities are endless.
- Sean Baker was playing as the backup strong safety, with Cody Grimm filling in at free safety on the second team when Black was running with the ones. Interesting to see Grimm playing at FS, a position he might not be well suited to play.
- Rashaan Melvin has made some noise during camp so far. The undrafted rookie corner has stepped up to the first team, filling in the absence of Darrelle Revis and getting some reps against Mike Williams during scrimmages. He’s a competitor, and he’s smart, and I believe he’s destined to make the roster for the Bucs, maybe even ahead of more heralded offseason addition Deveron Carr.
- Kevin Ogletree and Chris Owusu are both professional route runners. The duo of Bucs’ receivers are in a battle with Eric Page for the last roster spot, with Derek Hagan figuring into the competition as well. The Buccaneers’ will have some serious decisions on their hands when it comes to filling out the depth chart at wideout.
- Unheralded rookie corner Branden Smith has been getting a lot of time returning punts, and he seems to be picking up on the things the special teams’ coaching staff is asking of him. With the other punt returners being star receiver Mike Williams and roster bubble candidate David Douglas, Smith might have a chance to make the roster as a reliable punt return option.
That’s it for our report from Thursday’s camp. We’ll be back tomorrow with more comments on the Bucs’ journey to get ready for the 2013 season.