As soon as “Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap blared over the speakers of One Buc Place’s practice fields, you knew it was going to an energetic practice. And in their fourth training camp practice, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not disappoint.
The crowd roared, the intensity was present, and flashes of red, white and a pinch of orange reigned supreme over fields of green. You could tell that in his second year at the helm of the pirate ship, head coach Lovie Smith wanted his team to head into the 2015 season with full force. And in front of a packed house of fans at One Buc Place, the team showed a little bit of everything. Here are the four biggest things I witnessed while taking in two hour long session.
Jameis Winston looked comfortable throwing to all of his receivers.
Although all the hype has been about the Winston-to-Mike Evans connection that will surely blossom the longer they work together, Winston was spreading the love to all of his targets this morning. Fellow rookie Kenny Bell had a couple of nice catches, particularly in traffic. Veteran Vincent Jackson was no slouch either, making a beautiful, diving catch to save a low throw from Winston in individual drills. When the quarterbacks worked with the tight ends, second-year player Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was compared to as a young Tony Gonzalez by offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter earlier today, and Brandon Myers already appeared to have a good rapport with the rookie signal caller. Look for these connections to continue to grow stronger as the season progresses.
The defense is ready to put the 2014 season behind them.
Talk about a unit who hunted down every ball carrier who wore a white jersey. Even without the presence of star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for half of the plays, this was a defense that was eager to show that they were ready to put the ghosts of a lost 2014 season behind them. Linebacker Lavonte David looked rejuvenated following a season in which he dealt with nagging injuries, while new defensive end George Johnson pressured Winston out of the pocket a couple of times. Furthermore, cornerback Alterraun Verner also made a few good plays, batting down a couple of Winston’s passes to show the rookie that he still has a few things to learn. I’m looking forward to seeing them play with that amount of intensity come Week 1.
Koetter is still in the middle of installing his offensive system. For much of the two-hour practice, Koetter was hands-on with Winston, backup quarterbacks, Mike Glennon and Seth Lobato, and the rest of the offense, while they ran through individual, 7-0n-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Between Koetter and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian, the only time an offensive player wasn’t being talked to was when they were running the play. Other than that, he made his presence known on the practice field. Despite a few mistakes made by Winston and Glennon, they already look comfortable in Koetter’s system for the most part. If the rest of the offense can pick it up as quickly as the signal callers, then big things could be in store for this attack come September.
Don’t be surprised if Spencer Lanning is the new starting punter come Week 1. Another point of emphasis was the improvement of the special teams unit from last season. Former Browns punter Spencer Lanning was picked up off of waivers to come in and compete for the starting job against incumbent Michael Koenen. With Smith watching closely, the two split reps as the team ran a variety of special teams drills. And it looked like Lanning is the front-runner for the job, at least for the day. The younger punter performed very well, booming high kicks with plenty of spin to the players competing for the punt return job. Koenen just did alright, booting a few good ones with some wobbly kicks as well. If Lanning continues this performance, don’t be surprised to be see No. 5 deep behind the line of scrimmage at the start of the season instead of the familiar face we have seen the past few seasons.
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