Today’s training camp practice was plenty eventful with many highlight reel plays to break down and talk about. The star of the show was once again newly-signed receiver DeSean Jackson - hauling in three touchdowns on the day, two of which were from 80 yards deep. Rookie tight end OJ Howard, picked 19th overall in this year’s NFL Draft, showed out in a variety of ways from an in-line role or flexed out to the slot. Other new additions such as hard hitting safety JJ Wilcox and third-round receiver Chris Godwin continued their strong performances. I was in attendance today from the stands and was able to shoot a good amount of video, so let’s go ahead and break it down.
Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson
Jackson was the Bucs’ biggest free agency signing and was signed to provide a speed demon and deep threat for Jameis Winston. Jackson has easily shown that he was worthy of the three year, $33.5-million dollar contract he received in free agency, continuing his dominance in training camp.
The first play I’ll break down here is pretty simple — Jackson starts off with a nice release off the line and does the stutter-step while maintaining speed and bursting out of it. He tracks the ball over the shoulder and is already in the endzone. Jackson adds a little celebration at the end by spinning the ball, too.
I've got a fever ... and the only cure is MORE D-JAX pic.twitter.com/RrxD1NYe52— Riley Auman (@junioraumanac) July 29, 2017
This is more of the same from Jackson — he leaves his man in the dust at the line on the stutter-and-go route and accelerates from there, creating more than enough separation that despite a slight underthrow from Jameis, he can catch it over the shoulder and be off to the races.
This is another one of those plays that the defense can’t really even do anything about — Hargreaves does a good job of mirroring him as he moves downfield on the nine route and times his jump perfectly to tip it away, and under most circumstances that would be it, an incompletion. However, the safety doesn’t follow it up and Jackson continues to concentrate and fight for the ball and it happens to land right where he needs to, and he’s gone.
Jackson also did all of this while wearing an emoji sleeve, obviously earning points in my book.
Tight End O.J. Howard
Howard was considered by many draft evaluators, myself included, to be the best tight end to come out of the draft since Vernon Davis ran a 4.38 in the forty yard dash coming out of Maryland. Howard, however, slipped out of the top ten where most projected him and right into the Bucs’ lap with the 19th overall pick. Bucs GM Jason Licht began his career with the Patriots and understands the value of having two elite tight ends on a team, which is why he was okay with investing a top twenty pick in a position where he already had a player in Cameron Brate who led the NFL in touchdowns with 10. I’ve said that I think the Bucs will play with two wide and two tight ends just as much as they do with three receiver sets, and Howard showed just why today.
I think the Bucs plan to use Howard both in-line with his hand in the dirt as well as in a flex position where he can play both outside and in the slot. Howard is in the slot here and runs a route up the seam where the linebacker is going to have to both watch the quarterback and guard a player who’s 6’5” and 250 pounds but also runs a 4.51 forty-yard dash. Luckily the safety comes down and contests the pass, forcing Howard to have to juggle it, but as he’s falling down he reaches out with one mitt and snags the ball, pulling down a catch that Odell Beckham would be proud of.
This is another simple warmup play, but I think it shows what Howard does best in terms of focus and having good technique in catching the ball.
Safety J.J. Wilcox
The Bucs signed Wilcox from the Cowboys this offseason on a two year, $6.25-million dollar contract to compete with Chris Conte for the starting strong safety job. Wilcox had an up and down time in Dallas, but was notorious for being a hard hitter and a guy who could talk some serious smack. Today, however, I liked seeing that Wilcox could play in structure and had some technical things down.
This is a play that Wilcox loses off the snap due to Howard’s physicality, but he recovers and times his jump perfectly with the ball so that he can get a hand in the way and tip it away. As a guy who normally plays in the box, seeing that Wilcox can be serviceable in coverage is something that will only help him get more and more reps with time.
Wilcox is just in the right place at the right time — Freddie Martino, who had a down day today after being one of the best in practice on Monday, is open on the in-breaking route, but the ball is thrown a little bit high and Martino couldn’t react to it soon enough, so it bounces off his chest and up into the air, where Wilcox is ready to play the ball. Playing safety has a lot to do with tackling and being able to process quickly, but sometimes it’s being able to position yourself as a safety net, which Wilcox did here.
Wide Receiver Chris Godwin
Picked 84th overall in this year’s NFL Draft out of Penn State, Chris Godwin continued his impressive training camp performance so far on Saturday with several nice catches. Looking back on this play in the downpour, it wasn’t as much a back shoulder throw as it was an inaccurate ball that was probably wet and slipped as Ryan Griffin released it. However, Godwin recovers for it all the same and as the corner kept running, Godwin came back to the ball and made a very nice sideline grab.
There was a slight concern early on in practice when Jameis Winston came out of the locker room with a brace on his plant knee after having a slightly noticable limp. Early reports said it was the team being precautionary and making sure the limp didn’t turn into anything lingering, but around halfway through practice, lead writer for the team site Scott Smith tweeted that Jameis was fine and that he was just trying out something that many quarterbacks do across the league. Dirk Koetter confirmed the news after practicing, saying:
... per Pewter Report’s story. Tomorrow will be a big day for the players because it appears the pads will be coming on and the hits will start coming as well. It’s the same time at 8:45 AM (EST), with gates opening at 8:00. I should be in attendance again, so stick with us.