The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took to the practice field once again, and are now three days and a wake up away from facing the Miami Dolphins in their second pre-season contest of the year.
Let’s take a look at some news and highlights from the day’s practice session.
Typically, the kicker comes last. Whether it’s in poker, your fantasy football draft or as a thought in typical football conversations.
But we’re going to start here. Yesterday, rookie Matt Gay put a ton - a TON - of pressure on veteran Cairo Santos. Today, Santos answered. The crowd wasn’t as big or as loud, but they were just as pleased as Santos went 9-for-9 with a long of 59-yards.
It was Cairo Santos' turn to kick today, perfect on 9 attempts with his deepest kick coming from 59 yards out.— Taylor Jenkins (@TJenkinsTampa) August 12, 2019
I’d still put good money on Gay to win the job, but credit to Santos for keeping the contest a good one and perhaps providing the Bucs with some trade value as the regular season approaches.
Jameis Continuing Red Zone Performance
A recent Pewter Report article talked about Jameis Winston’s performance up to this point in training camp.
Particularly, it pointed out just how good Winston has looked in the red zone, and the trend continued today.
Winston is connecting early and often with guys like wide receiver Mike Evans, and is looking to all of his play-makers to help get the Bucs into the end zone more often than not.
One pass did end poorly from Winston and was picked off by Kentrell Brice. It appeared at the time tight end O.J. Howard had run the wrong route, and this assumption was later verified by Bruce Arians after practice who said, “It’d have been a perfect touchdown, if O.J. would have ran the right route.”
#Bucs HC Bruce Arians on the miscommunication between O.J. Howard and Jameis Winston on Kentrell Brice’s INT, and his thoughts on Winston’s passing. pic.twitter.com/7QFqjOAleT— PewterReport (@PewterReport) August 12, 2019
Dare Getting Attention
Buccaneers running back Dare Ogunbawale has been around for a little while, and he’s just one guy who’s career is getting a potential shot in the arm with the arrival of Bruce Arians, Byron Leftwich and a more versatile offensive scheme.
We’ve seen Ogunbawale getting more work as a pass protector, catcher and of course as a runner, and to this point he’s made good on the chances.
This is drawing more attention to him, something evident today as he was cornered by more than one reporter looking to speak with him individually.
Coach Arians was asked about his influence and how Ogunbawale helps the running back room. “He helps it a bunch. You know, he’s fighting for a job, and he’s one of those top guys that I have trust in all three downs.”
Early in practice, on a screen pass, Ogunbawale appeared to release too early and the result would have gotten his quarterback sacked had it been an in-game situation. He was immediately coached on the mistake, and on the next chance he had, his pass blocking was much better and he carried his defender away from the quarterback nicely allowing his unit to win the rep.
There’s going to be much conversation as we near regular season on which positions will carry additional players, whether we’re talking about three quarterbacks, four running backs or six wide receivers.
As long as Ogunbawale continues taking coaching and improving, he’ll make the decision a hard one when the time comes.
Young Receiver Things
Nice touchdown catch on high lob in corner of end zone by Bucs rookie DaMarkus Lodge.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 12, 2019
Coach Arians didn’t pull any punches talking about the receiver depth in relation to how they failed to handle their first NFL playing time properly as a group.
All eyes will be on them when the Miami Dolphins visit Raymond James Stadium on Friday, and some of them are turned their way in practice as well.
Spencer Schnell continues to flash Adam Humphries type talents, and has shown consistently he can take short catches for big gains. He did so today as well.
One particularly disappointing sight was Anthony Johnson dropping a pass inside the 10-yard line which would have set the team up close to a first-and-goal situation given the yard and down the scenario was placed.
Johnson is one of the names giving coaches headaches when determining playing time and upcoming roster decisions as he’s peformed well overall since coming to the team as an undrafted free-agent. Drops like that one though, will not help his case moving forward.
A welcome sight this week has been the return of Damarkus Lodge to the practice field. An even more welcoming sight was Lodge torching cornerback Mazzi Wilkins down the right sideline with the offensive unit operating inside their own five-yard line.
Wilkins didn’t appear to realize just how quickly Lodge could accelerate and allowed the receiver to eat up too much cushion before turning to run with the rookie out of Ole Miss. Positive notes for fans of Wilkins is he clearly learned from the experience and didn’t get burned again.
Lodge later made another great catch on a corner fade rising above cornerback Ryan Smith and coming to the ground with the ball securely in his grasp. Good defense by Smith, better ball placement by the quarterback, even better hands and concentration by Lodge.
Cornerback Conditioning and Competition
All the talk of the cornerbacks competition this pre-season has been focused on the depth chart. What I liked out of today’s practice however, was how much the cornerbacks were competing with the receivers - and at times the officials.
On multiple reps, there was not only strong play, but strong support of successful reps and plenty of pass interference accusations when the offense won. The defensive backs may have had a case on some of them.
Something I really liked seeing which I didn’t notice yesterday was Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis taking extra opportunities to run the width of the field early in position drills, and then again multiple times during 11-on-11 sessions.
It looks like the pair have the two starting outside positions all but sewn up, and seeing them taking some opportunities to improve their conditioning is encouraging, and will certainly help in keeping them in the fight during the long season.
Today’s practice was relatively short, but there are still plenty of things to draw from it. Of course, there are also areas to learn from as well. The blitzes were getting home pretty regularly again today, and the quarterbacks would have needed some training room love and care had there been hitting involved.
Howard will obviously have to work on his understanding of the play-calling language so the team doesn’t drop sure touchdowns again in the future.
All fixable mistakes, and ones everyone involved walks away confident they’ll get done well ahead of Week 1.