The veterans were all back in the building on Tuesday for the start of mandatory minicamp at AdventHealth Training Center. The Buccaneers started with an earlier-than-usual practice at 9 a.m., which was by design as we found out afterward from Head Coach Bruce Arians.
"Really, really pleased with the speed and quickness and the retention of practice," he said. "We didn't even meet before we went out for practice. I wanted to see how much we learned on the Zoom calls and it was impressive. I thought the quarterbacks hit some big-time audibles that we made and played correctly. And defensively, [we did] extremely well on our adjustments and coverages. So it was good, good spirit. Loved the two fields; obviously we got a ton of work done and we're making up for some reps that we might have missed."
That's right. The two-field practice was back as a preview for what's to come during training camp, which starts at the end of next month. The Bucs held two simultaneous practices on Tuesday, pinning starters against starters on one field and backups on the other. It's so each player can get more reps, rather than reserve or depth players waiting to be subbed in or out on the sidelines whlle starters monopolize the work.
The energy level was definitely up as everyone convened on the same field for the first time since Super Bowl preparations. The stadium was again visible in the background, this time, with Super Bowl Champion banners hanging on the sides.
View the top photos from the Bucs first day of mandatory mini-camp.
Here are some observations from the day:
-The day began with a beautiful throw from quarterback Tom Brady who sent the ball sailing into the waiting arms of wide receiver Chris Godwin down the sideline.
-Outside linebacker Anthony Nelson continued to get some work in and broke up a pass at the line of scrimmage from the interior during the blitz period.
-In the same period, defensive lineman Will Gholston had a pass breakup of his own, but this one came on the run as he chased the ball down at the line.
-Safety Javon Hagan was back practicing. He kept up with speedy wide receiver Jaydon Mickens and was able to get a hand in front of him, knocking the ball away before it could reach its intended receiver.
-Cornerback Herb Miller capitalized on what looked like a route miscommunication in the seven-on-seven period, getting the first pick of the day on a great read.
-The offense fired back, this time on an incredible throw and subsequent one-handed catch by tight end Rob Gronkowski just ahead of safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Winfield came to the sideline after the play shaking his head at how Gronkowski was able to stretch out to grab the ball and haul it in.
-Wide receiver Mike Evans looked leaner coming into minicamp as he made a toe-tap-catch look absolutely effortless. The ball was placed perfectly, right before the sideline, where Evans grabbed it, getting one foot down and dragging the other as if it was an everyday routine play. I guess that's because it kind of is for those two.
-Not only does he protect the quarterback, but center Ryan Jensen is also good for a lead blocker. He hustled all the way down the field, providing running back Giovani Bernard space to escape down the sideline on a screen pass.
-Gronkowski had another catch over the middle from Brady as he audibly 'whooped' his way through would-be defenders to pick up extra yards. It may not come through in print but it was funny in the moment. Just picture Gronk going, 'whoop, whoop, whoop' as he shifts his body back and forth with the ball tucked under his arm.
-The next team period, Godwin snatched a ball out of the air right in front of his defender again before the sideline. He reached his hands out at the perfect time to grab it and makes it look so easy even I think I could do something like that (narrator: she very much cannot).
-In a red zone drill, it was Godwin again, though this time it's hard to decifer if the throw or the catch was better. It might be the former, with Brady placing the ball perfectly in the back corner of the end zone, on the opposite shoulder of Godwin from where his defender was. There was absolutely no way to stop a play like that as the ball dropped right into Godwin's hands for the score.
-Bernard had a nice catch on a better ball from quarterback Blaine Gabbert as he showed off his hands. It's clear Bernard has some practice at this.
-Gabbert had another good ball into a tight window for Gronk this time, who caught it just as two defenders were closing in. Brady isn't the only one who has his timing down pat with Gronkowski.
-Just before the end of practice Brady hit Godwin over the middle for a completion that looked doomed from the start. Godwin didn't look open at all and by the time the ball was thrown from the sideline vantage point, it looked like Godwin was triple covered. It apparently didn't matter, though. Godwin snagged it as he fell over (untouched) into the end zone.
-Pro scout Shane Scannell won't show up on the practice tape, but he had himself a day catching and subsequently throwing back some errant balls that came flying into the sidelines, even making an incredible last-second one-handed grab toward the end of practice. It worked out well considering this author wasn't about to break a nail trying to catch any of the missiles coming her way. Thanks, Shane!