The Bucs first practice following their preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night was sure to be telling. Head coach Dirk Koetter had a lot of praise for the defense following the game, but didn't see many other positives from his team. He emphasized that special teams and turnovers were what made the difference.
As you figured they would, Tampa spent extra time working on their special teams units, both in coverage and on the return. They threw in a new blocking drill for those returning punts and kicks, and had a few of the more notable players in both special teams units, too. That might've been because of the number of players that were held out of practice due to injury, but who knows? It might've been Koetter wanting to step up the effort, too.
Ten players were walking around without their pads on today: JR Sweezy, Louis Murphy, Caleb Benenoch, Cassanova McKinzy, Charles Sims, Vernon Hargreaves, Andrew DePaola, Elijah Shumate, Brandon Myers and Leonard Wester. Hargreaves' appeared to just need some rest after the game. He was never taken out on Thursday because of an injury. Myers on the other hand was one of the players who had to leave the first preseason game because of a leg injury, but he too looked OK on the sidelines today.
Now let's get to the good stuff.
The Offense Needs Work
Only scoring nine points isn't encouraging. Even with the starters only playing about a quarter and a half, the chemistry within the offensive units just isn't there. At some point offense needs to look easy -- something Tampa fans are not used to seeing. It just doesn't look easy for them yet. They have splash plays here and there, but it's not consistent enough. There's certainly a lot of time left before the regular season, but even today in practice, the offense just does not look sharp (or creative) enough to win football games. It's a work in progress.
Bad Kenny Bell
Even with some redemptive comments of Bell playing well as a receiver at the end of the preseason game, fumbling the opening kickoff meant Bell needed to have a bounce-back practice today. Well, he didn't, at all. In fact, Bell looked like the worst receiver out there today.
Kenny Bell end zone drop pic.twitter.com/uqBnz7C4tg— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 13, 2016
As if that play wasn't a killer enough for him, he also dropped a pass that bounced up and was picked off later in 11-on-11s. The coaches want Bell to make this team; they really do. But as of now, he's in danger. I don't expect him to be one of the first players they cut, but with Russell Shepard and Evan Spencer trending upwards, Bell's inconsistencies now make his bad days look even worse.
Speaking of Evan Spencer, his stock is as high as it's ever been.
Evan Spencer had three targets and three catches in the 2-minute drill for the second team. Here was the first pic.twitter.com/3CGFzWgMlE— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 13, 2016
In the 2-minutes drill with the second team, Spencer was targeted three consecutive times for three catches and put them in field goal range. The routes were: a nine route (vertical), an slant route and an out route.
But Spencer wasn't done showing off. About a half hour later, he made this beauty of a catch.
Evan Spencer with the diving catch in 7-on-7 pic.twitter.com/xet7k1aHmB— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 13, 2016
My cousin was sitting next to me for practice this morning and as I told him about Spencer, he dubbed him "Showtime Spencer". I like it. Let's hope it holds true.
The Defense: Still #good
Whether it be tackles for loss or simply stopping a play before it can develop, this defense is making plays early and often. There are a lot of offenses that would look shaky practicing against this unit. Here were two of my take away plays this morning.
Look at McCoy's jump on the snap in the middle. Whew. pic.twitter.com/3coIhhxHQg— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 13, 2016
If you're a Tampa fan, seeing this doesn't get old. Seven years in and Gerald McCoy can still dominate when he wants. Teams can double team McCoy all they want (and they will), but when an interior lineman gets a jump like that it doesn't matter.
Noah Spence blowing by Kevin Palmer around the edge for what would've been a sack. pic.twitter.com/OhQmdckBxc— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 13, 2016
The first play was McCoy being old reliable. This play is Noah Spence being the new guy in town. A relatively quiet practice from Spence, but this play caught everyone's attention.
From the Stands
Today's "From the Stands" segment comes form Noah Spence as well.
Noah Spence was asked who he wants to sack the most. Someone yelled "Cam!"— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 13, 2016
Spence smiled. (He didn't say no.) pic.twitter.com/6J9tEQMzZn
When Spence came over to sign autographs, one fan asked him who he wants to sack the most this year. Another fan yelled out "Cam!" Spence laughed, but he didn't deny it. I'm sure Bucs fans are hoping he warms up with one against Matt Ryan in week 1 as well.