With the 2022 football season on the horizon, voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) are in full swing. Self-motivated veterans and hopeful rookies join forces on the gridiron to simulate facing an opponent in 11-on-11 drills. During open media availability on Wednesday, Shaq Barrett and Devin White headlined the workout program as a chance to facilitate development entering the 2022 NFL season. As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers build the foundation for training camp in late July, both Barrett and White assumed their leadership roles on the grass.
Optimizing Growth and Development in 2022
Two cornerstone players made an appearance on the practice field for Wednesday's positional drills and team period. Inside linebacker Devin White and outside linebacker Shaq Barrett attended the second week of OTA practices out of their own volition as the defensive shifts under the direction of co-coordinators Larry Foote and Kacy Rodgers. The club's previous defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles, is now the head coach. After self-evaluation, both players wanted to get a jump start on the field to maximize growth in 2022 and optimize their respective position groups. Players do not have to attend offseason practices until mandatory mini-camp from June 7-9, but White and Barrett are committed to taking their individual games to the next level.
White expressed, "I feel like it is great for me to be here because we are putting in new defenses and I don't want to just learn it on Zoom. I want to actually come in and learn it full-speed and get the feel of it down. Be able to go fast, obviously I have to hold it down for Lavonte [David]. I know he is doing his thing, what he has to do, so one of us has to be here to run the show and I took it upon myself to keep getting better."
With the absence of distinguished veteran Lavonte David, who has been playing at an elite level for 10 seasons, White has the opportunity to ascend and work through additional reps to foster the same David-esque level of consistency. He has prioritized diet and strict training to elevate not only the physical aspect of the game but his mental fortitude. White referenced Luke Kuechly, the former Panthers Mike linebacker who played at a premier level due to his football intelligence. In 2022, White is looking to emulate the same cerebral mindset.
For Barrett, attending OTAs was motivated by simulation. He described, "I just want to get better, and I have stuff that I need to work on, and I think the only way to work on it is in practice, simulating actually going against a tackle and going against tight ends and stuff. The offseason work that you do is still good, but you can't really simulate unless you are actually doing it. So, I think people just want to get better and if they are in town, why not come in? Get to know the new defense and change of plays."
The Buccaneers will still operate out of a 3-4 base defense with certain sub packages sprinkled in to generate penetration up front, but learning to counteract last year's "holes" in execution will fine-tune the new system and accelerate development. Whether it is shedding blocks or carrying a tight end on an underneath route, repetition breeds success. The Buccaneers have one goal in mind: "Super Bowl or nothing." Both White and Barrett are focused on achieving the ultimate goal.
On New Position Coaches
In addition to an overall defensive transition, both White and Barrett have new positional coaches in 2022. Larry Foote, who coached the club's outside linebackers for three years, will step into the team's inside linebackers coaching role and replace Mike Caldwell, who recently accepted the defensive coordinator position for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bob Sanders then assumed the vacant outside linebackers coaching role. Both men have been influential in the progression of two cornerstone chess pieces in the Bucs' attack-styled defense.
On Wednesday, Foote worked with the inside unit on reading the quarterback and ball drills, placing an emphasis on takeaways. The coaching staff has routinely mentioned missed opportunities last year on turnovers in correlation with sound fundamentals, both of which have become stress points this offseason. "Coach Foote is technician this and technician that," White explained. "He is talking route concepts and where to be. He has more so, just to this point, been more focused on the ball; getting the ball, getting picks, getting turnovers. He is an arsenal at that…him coming from my background - having a lot of man-to-man, chasing running back type of background, all the zone stuff, the route concepts – everything is still a walking book. I am reading and learning as I go. I think he is doing a tremendous job…I am thankful for everything he is giving me right now."
For the outside linebackers, Bob Sanders harped on change-of-direction drills, shed strength, leg strength to drive blockers and get-off burst. All will maximize skill level come fall, generate leverage and provide improvement in the trenches. Speed to power conversion is at a premium and the tutelage of Sanders has elevated Barrett's play.
"He has been helping me just with my angle and then, consistent get-off, turning hips, working hands," Barrett stated. "We have been doing a lot in the few days that I have been here. I am looking forward to practicing everything that I am learning so that I can get better and become a better player. I think coach Bob will be a big part of that."