The combination of an odd starting time with an overcast sky led to an eerily empty One Buc Place early this morning. Rain was in the forecast once again today, so the organization made an executive decision to move the start time from 8:45 up to 8:15 to try to avoid cancelling another open practice. The decision ended up being a good one as the team got a full practice in just before the big storms arrived. However, yesterday's storm wasn't as kind to the players.
Among those without their pad on today were running back Charles Sims and wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Sims gave us a bit of a scare yesterday as he tweaked his ankle running on the turf field at Tropicana Field, and apparently Jackson was a bit banged up as well. I assume Jackson's injury is much less worrisome and more of a resting day to get ready for Thursday's preseason opener against the Eagles.
The team was still without Louis Murphy, Cassanova McKinzy and J.R. Sweezy. It was reported that Sweezy is currently in California visiting a specialist. The team hasn't ruled this visit as a "setback", but let's be honest, it's not ideal or in the plan either. With the team not making known his exact injury, this recovery might be more serious than we thought.
The Rise of Noah Spence
Through the first weeks of camp the coaches and players have been raving about Spence's performance in practice. Some of it you have to realize is PR speak; none of the guys are going to speak down or critique one of their high profile teammates early on. I've tried to be honest when fans have asked me about Spence. I've seen some good things, but not the "amazing" player some were quoting him as -- not to say I don't think he's incredibly talented, I know he is, I just didn't see it yet.
But today Spence certainly showed off that talent. In the first 2-minute drill, Spence got the nod with the starting front four. On the third play of the drive, he made a nice move inside on starting left tackle Donovan Smith for what would've been a sack.
Noah Spence with the inside move on Donovan Smith for what would've been a sack. pic.twitter.com/jmehsCXf1R— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 9, 2016
Not a great look for Donovan Smith, but he could've just been flustered or ticked from what Spence did on the first two plays. You want to see better from your left tackle, but the domination from Spence was good to note.
Spence also got the start in the run stopping unit, too -- a first. To this point, the staring four on the run topping group was: McCoy, Gholston, McDonald and Ayers. Spence took Ayers spot as the LDE to start.
It's been an upward trending camp for Spence leading up to the first game. When he was drafted, the talk was that he could be the true pass rusher Tampa fans have been waiting for. The coaches seem to be grooming him to be just that.
Battle for the Final DB Spot
Though I don't put too much weight into initial depth charts, the one the team released a few days ago was pretty true to what we we're seeing on the field.
One of the biggest talent cuts will come at the cornerback position. Grimes, Verner, Hargreaves and it appears Jude Adjei-Barimah are the four secure ones, but we assume the team will keep at least one more. That leaves Josh Robinson, Jonathan Banks and Javien Elliott fighting for that final spot.
A few days ago we saw Elliott have a day that kept his name in the conversation. Today, it was Josh Robinson's turn to steal the show.
CB Josh Robinson just ended two 2-minute drill drives with INTs. Here's the second one. Coaches gotta love that. pic.twitter.com/S2DQ12h5lr— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 9, 2016
Robinson had picks on back-to-back drives for the defense during this drill, the one above being the second interception. The first one was even better as he under cut a post route and returned it for a big chunk of yards.
If I had to say now I would say that Robinson is going to be that 5th cornerback kept on the roster with Jonathan Banks as the first man out. The one reason I see them keeping six is if they think one can play safety, too.
From the Stands
Even though the crowd was a bit thinner today, that didn't mean the energy from the fans was any less passionate.
This guy is having every defensive player sign his giant letters. Made sure everyone knew: "SECTION 119, BABY" pic.twitter.com/uPv4JQdJam— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 9, 2016
This guy was awesome. During the final drill of the day (the red zone drill), he was up and yelling for the defense while holding his signs. After practice, he had any defensive player who came by sign the letters. He told them he holds up in section 119 every game. A little rain wasn't going to keep a guy like that away from an open practice.
With the first preseason game being on Thursday, the next practice I'll be at will be on Saturday. If there's a certain player or group you want me to highlight that I'm not already, let me know! I'll also ask some of the players any questions you want answered as well, if I can.