Despite head coach Dirk Koetter's best efforts to avoid the Florida heat and summer showers, Saturday's training camp session featured a good amount of both. This was the first practice that was open to the public, and as cliche as it is to say, you really could feel the anticipation and excitement in the stands, even through elements.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers do a good job of trying to bring a little slice of game day into these open practices, even beyond the football being played on the field. The pirate ship was out in full force with music, beads and a few other fun giveaways. There were quite a few stations where kids could go through some of the drills they watched their favorite players perform. Plus, the organization does a nice job of making the setting as intimate as it can be with player access. Overall, it's a good time for fans of all ages.
But let's get down to the good stuff.
The pace of practice was something I tried to keep my eye on. Part of the reason why Koetter moved practices to the mornings was to avoid any build up of fatigue. He recognized that, though it is good to train yourself in the environment you'll have to perform in, overtraining can come quick in this heat. I thought the pace was decent. I'll be interested to see how that pace changes once cuts begin and there are fewer players to rotate through. But for now, Koetter kept things pretty light.
From a broad stance, the defense is certainly more polished than the offense -- as expected. I thought it was pretty obvious that the offense was trying to keep things simple. Even in 7-on-7s, there was only one throw more than 25-30 yards down the field, which didn't connect.
Jameis trying to go deep to Evans. Nice breakup by Conte. pic.twitter.com/dRhkfFn9Wd— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) July 30, 2016
On defense, the most important observation I saw was that rookie Noah Spence spent most of his time during 11-on-11s at left defensive end with the first team. I can't recall seeing him dominate an assignment -- though, to be fair, I was on the other side of the field -- but it's assuring to see that the hype around Spence isn't just encouraging coach speak as we've seen in the past.
Rookie Vernon Hargreaves spent most of the day playing nickel corner with the second team while Jude Adjei-Barimah played nickel on the first team with Brent Grimes and Alterraun Verner on the outside.
The man of much controversy, Roberto Aguayo (because of how high he was drafted... It's a joke, people), went 3-for-3 on his kicks before ringing one off the left upright. I'm not sure if it was the FSU faithful, or maybe we really are all just that excited for football, but when Aguayo hit his first kick, the stands erupted in cheers. He finished 4-for-5, I believe.
Mike Evans, WR
The Jameis Winston-Mike Evans connection appeared to still have the all-time green light. Evans is the go-to player anytime he and Winston were on the field together, and their confidence was evident in ways like Jameis audibling the first play of 11-on-11s to get Evans the ball.
Jameis to Evans.— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) July 30, 2016
(Jameis audibled to it, too ) pic.twitter.com/kTztOS1GzB
The key note is no drops for Evans today. Talent is never the question with Evans, but focus became one on more than a few occasions last season. He looked focused today.
Donteea Dye, WR
After Evans and Jackson, Koetter said spots 3-8 on the wide receiver depth chart are wide open. He noted Dye having a tough first day of camp, but today he showed some skill the other wide receivers he's battling for don't have. If the Bucs want speed in the slot, Dye is going to get a chance to have a lot of playing time this camp. He was running all kinds of routes, and even bailed Mike Glennon out with a nice sliding catch near the sideline.
Brent Grimes, CB
Grimes has firmly placed himself in that starting unit at outside corner with back-to-back days now with an interception.
Brent Grimes with the pick off a Kenny Bell bobble. pic.twitter.com/toe7PX88mz— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) July 30, 2016
Grimes is so natural for the position. He anticipates where receivers are going and puts himself in a position for a takeaway more than any other corner. He's the top dog as of now.
Kenny Bell, WR
After having what I read was a great first few days of camp, Bell struggled today. He had two drops on my count, one of which led to an interception. A great day one and a forgettable day three. A little inconsistency from Bell in the first week, but it's nothing to get too worked up about.
Major Wright, S
The practice this morning was still a limited contact practice which meant you could go full speed and bump into guys, but no hits or knockdowns. Well, I guess Major Wright decided to push the envelope a bit.
I was pretty pumped up about the contact myself, but Koetter wasn't too pleased with it, noting such a hit would been a penalty and an ejection. Wright getting on the coach's bad side lands him on this list.
The Bucs Lightning Evacuation Procedure
When lightning entered the area around 9:30, practice was suspended for about an hour. When they made the call, the staff members told fans they had to leave the covered stands and exit the facility just to stand outside with no covering in a wide open parking lot. I know it's all liability stuff, but that seemed very odd, no? It would've been safer to keep everyone under cover. Oh well.
From The Stands
Football fans do some wacky and fun things to show their support for their team. I'm going to try to find the most eye-catching moment or piece of merchandise I see each open practice and post them. Today's is a good one.
This guy had a custom-made Kenny Bell shirt complete with its own hashtag. I talked to him during the rain delay and he said he isn't a family member, or even a friend of Bell's. He just loves the way he plays and wanted to show his support. Now that's dedication.
I should be at almost every open practice this training camp season, so if you attend any yourself, tweet at me or just come find me! We'll hangout and talk some football!