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Buccaneers Training Camp got exciting as the pads came on

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The Bucs put on the pads and started hitting each other.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Training Camp Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Day 4 of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp had plenty of things going on. Monday was military appreciation day, so hundreds of veterans and their families were able to enjoy practice, but also from a football perspective, as the team fully put on the pads and the hits started getting laid. There were plenty of explosive plays and I was able to be in attendance to watch and shoot video of the team in what has been the biggest day of camp so far.

Running Back Jeremy McNichols

The Bucs drafted McNichols in the fifth round of this year’s draft after he slipped due to ball security concerns and a chronic shoulder issue, but so far he’s proven that he’s been one of the draft’s biggest steals. McNichols was known as a great pass-catcher at Boise State, but also was able to also run with power and a good center of gravity.

McNichols does a good job here on the draw play. He makes a quick, decisive cut in the backfield to make Cameron Lynch whiff, bursts upfield and breaks a tackle with three defenders around him. He then maintains his balance and stays upright despite a defender hanging onto his leg, breaking away for what would have been a touchdown. I think as a summary play for McNichols’ running style, this works well — patience to allow his blocks to develop, putting together a string of moves to create a few extra yards, and then breaking tackles.

Here you see McNichols’ receiving ability — he waits for a second before slipping to the right on the screen and accelerating upfield. He then shoves off a defender and keeps going, eventually breaking away. You usually expect running backs to get less physical and explosive when the pads come on, but I think McNichols actually benefited from it and was even more forceful on defenders today.

Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy

Gerald McCoy played with his hair on fire today, throwing his blocker out of the way on multiple occasions and setting the tone from the second the ball was snapped. On this play, McCoy lines up at his usual three-technique spot and does a good job of “shucking” the interior lineman so he can immediately burst into the backfield and make what would have been a multi-yard tackle for loss.

Linebacker Kwon Alexander

Although Kwon Alexander has been relatively quiet so far in camp, today he made his name known, showing off his sideline to sideline speed that Bucs fans have grown to love over the past two seasons. Here he’s playing in zone coverage, shading rookie Jeremy McNichols out of the backfield. Alexander allows McNichols to catch the ball, but it’s thrown to the wrong shoulder by Winston which results in Alexander being able to give the rookie a warm welcome to the NFL, laying him out onto the turf.

Wide Receiver Mike Evans

Evans made one huge play during practice today as he climbed the ladder and high-pointed the ball over the team’s #1 corner in Brent Grimes. He fakes Grimes out on the post with a stutter-step and has enough separation where a guy who’s undersized like Grimes has no chance of breaking up the pass, especially with a eight inch height difference between the two. Evans comes down with it and despite a good recovery from Grimes, it’s easy money for Mike.

Tight End Cam Brate

With rookie tight end O.J. Howard getting plenty of hype with his performance so far, it’s important to not forget about the NFL’s leader in touchdowns from a tight end last season in Cam Brate. Brate does a great job of bursting off the line and blowing past second-year linebacker Devante Bond and timing his route well to create the maximum yards after the catch.

Recap

Today was easily the most exciting day of Bucs camp so far. The general buzz in the stands, even if general fans weren’t allowed in was of excitement and positivity and it looks like that will continue Wednesday at practice after tomorrow’s off day. The gates should open around 8:00 with practice starting around 8:45.