Following the team's much need day off on Sunday, many of the Bucs' regular contributors were back in full pads this morning. Vernon Hargreaves and Charles Sims assumed their normal rotation in drills in full pads, though Brandon Myers and Donovan Smith remained sidelined in their bucket hats.
As much as I would've loved for the last open practice to be one that carried a lot of weight with new lineups, drills and looks, it wasn't too much different from what we've previously seen.
Here were the highlights.
Jameis going through a pocket pressure drill. Fumbled in the first game in a situation where he needed to move. pic.twitter.com/yS5KD2YOIr— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 15, 2016
The first preseason game versus the Eagles was like getting dumped into ice cold water for Tampa's offense. Throughout camp, the pocket pressure and hits were monitored and limited to where Winston and the rest of the quarterbacks could make sure they were getting down what they needed to with their plays. But when Fletcher Cox and that first team defense took the field against them, you could tell that the offensive unit was not used to the all-out pressure.
On the first offensive drive, Winston fumbled due to being hit from behind and he was slow to climb the pocket -- which led to an Eagles touchdown. The drill above was one I had not seen the team run yet, and the whole point was to make sure the quarterbacks are always moving. In a conversation I had with a fan on Twitter after practice, you don't know game speed until you actually experience it; there is no simulation. The team isn't going to improve until their next game and the one after that, but being ready to adapt and remember how fast everything moves takes reminder drills like this. It was a concern I had after the first game that I'm glad the coaching staff realized needs extra attention, too.
Alexander vs. Brate in 1-on-1 pic.twitter.com/F28C888HlI— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 15, 2016
A good amount of time today was spent focusing on 1-on-1s, whether that was offensive and defensive lines, linebackers and tight ends or corner backs and defensive back. This led to some great battles. One of them is the one above which was Kwon Alexander vs. Cameron Brate. It's a drill that purposely had the defense at a disadvantage so in turn they would get more aggressive. This usually causes the offensive players to get more frustrated, and you get a good level of competition.
The one above was a good match up. I also remember Alexander going against Doug Martin. Cornerback Josh Robinson had a great battle against Russell Shepard. And Austin Seferian-Jenkins reminded everyone of why he isn't going anywhere with a great route and one-handed catch against starting safety Chris Conte.
Bucs practiced some 3-4 in that 11-on-11. Had Spence in there with McCoy & Ayers as the three down linemen. Athleticism still the priority.— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 15, 2016
For the first time, from what I've seen, the Bucs ran in a base 3-4 for some of the scrimmages. They've been switching up which players lineup where for certain run stopping drills, but I'd never see a full-out 3-4 been played throughout a drive. Traditionally, teams look to make sure their 3 down lineman are the bigger, stronger defensive lineman since they have to try to maintain gap control without a fourth.
But the Bucs did something a little unorthodox. Instead of playing, say, Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence or William Gholston, they had McCoy in the middle with Robert Ayers and Noah Spence at the defensive ends. So instead of subbing speed for size, they prioritized speed, which is something not nearly as common in a 3-4 base. The linebackers are certainly athletic enough to help out with pressure along the line, and it's worth noting that defensive coordinator Mike Smith loves getting as many athletes on the field as possible, even on the line. It's bold, but I like it.
We'll see how it fairs against live competition. Until then we won't really know if it can survive. I don't expect to see it soon, but it could be something they go to during the regular season.
From the Stands
My second-to-last From the Stands segment highlights a guy who I'm hoping sticks around a while -- and it appears he will
For the second time (that I've seen), Russell Shepard picked a kid from the crowd, brought them on the field to help pic.twitter.com/y7AwKPvdDr— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 15, 2016
For the second time, when practice ended and fans began to crowd the fence for autographs, Shepard walked over to the fence, asked a little fan if they wanted to help him with something, lifted them up, and let them run on the field to help with after practice drills.
Shep is great. He's always trying to make teammates and fans laugh, and always has a smile on his face himself. Pair that with they fact that he works at his craft everyday, and is willing to sacrifice his body to lay out for a catch. I expect Shep to be the team's No. 4 receiver (first backup to Evans and Jackson on the outside) when it's all said and done.