It was arguably one of the most anticipated days Buccaneers fans have waited nearly a year for. COVID-19 robbed everyone of a training camp experience last season, but this is a new year. Arriving just in time to grab a seat, I was amazed at what I saw.
The parking lot of the AdventHeath Training Center at 1 Buccaneer Place was nearly full, and the fans of the reigning, defending Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers, were about to show the team how much they loved being back. The bleachers, underneath a massive tent, were jam packed with loud cheers consistently chanting “TAMPA…BAY” and of course “BRADY, BRADY,BRADY”. The atmosphere was beyond addicting, and it sure got the players going!
The first official practice of training camp started with each position group on offense and defense doing drills. Fans erupted when during wide receiver drills, Mike Evans caught a pass on the sideline and jumped into the fans to embrace them. After that, the already rowdy fans could not hold in their excitement throughout the 2-hour practice. There was a lot to analyze during today’s practice, and here is what I saw:
No Super Bowl Celebration hangover
Yes, the Bucs have had the offseason of a lifetime after winning Super Bowl 55, boat parades, visits to the White House, and most recently receiving their championship rings, but that was put aside as of today. It was business as usual and both offensive and defensive units were locked in. You rarely saw any mistakes, and I am being serious. Usually you see some rust not playing since February, but today, I saw no signs of that.
Jaelon Darden impresses on Day 1
The one player who I was the most impressed with was rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden. Darden was literally all over the field making play after play. One play that stands out to me is during 11-on-11’s session, Tom Brady threw a pass towards the sideline and Darden reached out to make the catch and keep two feet in bounds. Not only did Darden showcase his catching ability and hand-eye coordination, he showed off his tremendous route running and speed.
Darden was put with the 1st team offense and was the fastest player on the field when lined up. Tom Brady went to him consistently all practice, even pulling him to the side to talk after the session. To me, Darden’s quick feet and tremendous route running ability reminds me of a young Antonio Brown, which brings me to my next point.
Antonio Brown arrives late
The Buccaneers had nearly perfect attendance on Day 1 of training camp, however, they had a late arrival, wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown arrived around 10:00am, an hour and a half late. It is unknown why Brown was late to practice, which I’m sure was excused. When Brown arrived, he was quickly approached by Tom Brady, who pulled him to the south end zone for a chat and throwing session. Being late is never a good sign, however, you know what they say, better late than never.
Defense came to play
The Buccaneers defensive unit was fired up from the beginning, to the end of practice. During 11-on-11’s, second-year safety Antoine Winfield Jr broke up a Tom Brady pass deep down the sideline for Scotty Miller, the defensive sideline was amped up after the play. Third-year safety Mike Edwards broke up a screen pass to Jaelon Darden the next play. I was also impressed with cornerback Carlton Davis, who locked down receivers today.
As Day 1 of camp has concluded, the Buccaneers have a long way to go. The team will have practice for the next 3 days of practice with an off day on Thursday. More coverage to come from Buccaneers training camp is underway!