As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gear up for their first preseason game on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, I think today’s practice says a lot about where the squad is in terms of its depth chart and its approach to the season. I want to follow-up on a couple of position battles of note:
In the backs on backers drill, the LB’s generally got the better of the RBs. My goodness Spencer Larsen, I hope the ringing in your ears has stopped, since Mason Foster knocked you into the next zip code. Lavonte David beat Doug Martin pretty good, and Martin needs to continue to improve on his blitz pickup. He has nice hands out of the backfield, which he put on display in drills this morning, digging a lot of low passes and making catches easily.
I thought Gabe Carimi was missing in action, and I did not see him working with the first team. Demar Dotson took all the snaps I saw with the first team offense. On other OL news, and this is big news, Carl Nicks moved well and looked like his old self out there. Bucs fans can be really heartened about this.
Kevin Ogletree scooped some nice passes from the slot. He ran with the first team most of the morning and the third receiver job looks like his to lose. Olgetree did solid work today.
As for the TE’s, I have noted that I felt the Bucs were thin at the position. Today the front-runners for playing time were clear – three guys got the lion’s share of the snaps when Freeman worked: Luke Stocker, Tom Crabtree, and the surprise for me – Zach Miller. Crabtree, folks, is the real deal. He did have a drop on a drag pattern on which he was targeted by Mike Glennon, but he is being used a lot as an H-back and move TE by the Bucs and I think you can expect to see him a lot this fall.
Mike Glennon looked a little lost today. He could not make a read and flushed to his right on two consecutive plays. He has a lot of maturing to do, and he threw several lame ducks today. I think he will improve, but it scares me to think of the consequences if Josh Freeman loses any significant playing time. Dan Orlovsky is looking more and more the elder statesman with the clipboard as the clear-cut number 3 QB.
Likewise of Da’Quan Bowers, who provided a nice push on the nickel drills, which the Bucs ran a lot today. Bowers is moving inside on obvious pass rush downs, and I like that move, even if it says that the Bucs are a little thin on the line.
I did not see any spectacular linebacker play that made me think the OLB position battle between Jonathan Casillas and Dekoda Watson is settled by any stretch. I did enjoy watching Casillas go against Peyton Hillis in the backs on backers drill. Hillis battled him to the end and but I would give the edge to Casillas on a Sunday afternoon.
Speaking of Hillis he is to me the most interesting story to follow with the Bucs at the moment. Can the former Pro Bowl RB and one of the latest victims of the Madden curse cut it? Brian Leonard continues to run a lot with the second team, but the plays I saw Hillis work he showed good burst. He looks hungry and he looks like he belongs. I would feel a lot better about our backfield if Hillis is second on the depth chart with his extensive credentials. Based on what I saw today, I think Hillis has to make this team. We’ll know a lot more on Thursday night.
(Michael Decker is a staff writer for The Pewter Plank. His thoughts and accounts are a product of his attendance at Buccaneers’ training camp today, which he would like to thank the Buccaneers’ staff for being so accommodating for the event.)