The Buccaneers were in full "football" gear on Sunday, and that meant the coaching staff got their first look at the 2014 team doing real, football-like activities.
It also meant the fans got a chance to hear pads popping and see some battles out on the field as the players proved they were itching to hit.
The offensive players are lagging behind the defensive players when it comes to sharpness and execution, and that showed today at One Buc Place. It all starts with the quarterbacks.
Josh McCown and Mike Glennon both had "okay" days. Neither one did anything special, and neither one did anything horrible. Both players made a fair share of mistakes, and also had a few strong moments on the practice field.
McCown's release looks quicker, and his natural head movement in the pocket is evident in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. He scans the field so much more naturally and easily than Glennon, and that's something we saw in real games last year as well.
But McCown is still little more than an average quarterback, and he did miss on some throws. But for a first day in pads, both signal callers can be happy with how they played, and hope for improvement as camp wears on.
The tight end position is another that will be hotly contested this summer, and against all odds, the player who stood out the most on Sunday's practice was Luke Stocker.
Remember Luke Stocker? The Tennessee product is bigger and stronger than any of the other tight ends, and when the position was working the sleds, it was obvious. Derek from WhatTheBuc.net was sitting with me and was amazed at Stocker's strength compared to Brandon Myers, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tim Wright and Cameron Brate. Stocker would follow up his strong performance on the sled by catching some passes in scrimmage periods, as well.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins continues to move well, but doesn't stand out as much as someone of his size and athleticism should. He flashes moments of brilliance, but has work to do to become the player he was drafted to be. But considering his delay in getting started with the team due to NFL rules, he's looking just fine, and there's reason to be optimistic.
The offense has been working a lot on bubble pseudo-screens in camp so far, walking through a play that looks like a bubble screen but with limited blocking, and then running those plays in scrimmages. Since the team hasn't run a ton of screens in the recent past, and definitely hasn't run many successful screens in quite a while, it will be interesting to see how much of the screen game is used in real games this year.
One thing we do know about the offense is that we'll see plenty of the running backs, and they put on a show yet again on Sunday. Doug Martin looks full speed and then some, and has been catching passes with ease so far in camp. Rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Martin has competition behind him, as Bobby Rainey, Charles Sims and Jeff Demps have all been doing well in camp too. Demps has been seen on highlight Vines over and over as he blazes past linebackers, but he's also looked good taking handoffs like a "normal" running back. Rainey and Sims have been good in all areas of the game, and seem to be solid depth behind Martin.
The odd man out in this discussion is Mike James, who just doesn't look as sharp as the other backs. His routes aren't as crisp and he doesn't move as well. But his style of play isn't particularly suited to a training camp setting, so he'll earn his roster spot in preseason rather than at One Buc Place.
As for the receivers, the unit as a whole seems a step behind most of the others on the team. There have been lots of drops and lapses in concentration so far from the group, but there have been some positive moments as well.
Tommy Streeter had a fairly good day, and despite a drop and a few body catches that lacked proper technique, the tall Miami product looked at home running slants and posts in scrimmages. He's a big, fast target, but his inconsistent hands will be an issue.
Skye Dawson had a poor day, not following up well on a decent performance on Saturday. He dropped multiple passes and just didn't stand out in any way.
Mike Evans isn't at 100% mentally and physically yet, but he's still able to show why he was such a highly touted prospect. He can get separation and has great size, and as he gets into shape and used to life in the NFL, he'll settle into his role.
And if there is a battle for the fullback position (the team may not even keep one), Jorvorskie Lane is winning it so far, hands down. He moves better than Lonnie Pryor, and he's a much better physical presence in every way.
Steven Means is the biggest standout so far in camp, as the second-year defensive end has been putting on a show and earning praise from everyone watching the defensive line.
After some strong one-on-one drills, Means showed up multiple times in a run scrimmage, getting into the backfield and making plays. A month ago, many would assume that Means was on the roster bubble, but he's quickly earned respect in camp, and must prove in the preseason that he's not just a practice field success.
The other defensive linemen, apart from Gerald McCoy, didn't show much during scrimmages. I wasn't able to see most of the one-on-one drills, but in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11, the linemen didn't stand out. Da'Quan Bowers has been playing inside and outside, and doesn't splash at either position. William Gholston had a pass breakup on Sunday, but seemed a bit slow and might have been dealing with an injury.
Adrian Clayborn similarly seemed a bit slow, and might also be practicing through pain. The first full day in pads might have aggravated or caused some bumps and bruises for players who haven't been playing football all summer.
Mason Foster made a big play in coverage on Sunday, dropping back and picking off an under-thrown pass. Otherwise, the linebackers were fairly quiet, apart from being burned by Jeff Demps in one-on-one passing drills.
Alterraun Verner was on the sideline quite a bit during practice, apparently dealing with some kind of ailment. Leonard Johnson and Mike Jenkins played in his place with the first team defense. While Verner was still on the field, he wrestled a ball away from Russell Shepard in the air in one of the more physical receiver vs. cornerback battles of the day.
Danny Gorrer was on the wrong end of a few plays in one-on-ones, but also showed terrific closing speed to recover from a mistake and break up a pass intended for Eric Page.
The defense generally seemed ahead of the offense on Sunday, but very few individual players stood out. And that's just the way a Lovie Smith defense should be.