Like every team in the NFL that hired a new head coach this year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were allowed one additional mini-camp on their offseason schedule, which is strictly governed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And, like the other six clubs on that list, the Buccaneers chose to place that voluntary three-day session before the upcoming NFL draft.
Clearly, the extra camp is designed to give teams in transition a bit more time to get their new playbooks installed, and Lovie Smith's Buccaneers certainly appreciate that opportunity. These three days of organized work on the field provide another very important advantage, however: It's the perfect tool for self-scouting before the all-important draft arrives.
"That's the good part about being a new staff – when you get this extra mini-camp in," said Smith. "It's one thing to watch guys on video, but you want to see them on the football field to know in a lot of ways [what you have]. "Of course we want to see our roster but, too, with the draft coming up, to see exactly what we need. Maybe we're not as strong or maybe we're a little scrawny at some of the positions. And that's what they'll tell us during these next two days. So I can't tell you how much it helps."
The Buccaneers own the seventh, 38th and 69th pick in this year's draft, which opens with the first round on the evening of Thursday, May 8. That will be exactly two weeks from the final day of the extra mini-camp, two weeks in which Smith and company can combine their many hours of college scouting with an enhanced knowledge of their own roster needs. By May 8, the Buccaneers should know exactly what depth chart needs they need to address first with those three high picks.
Coach Smith addressed the value of this week's mini-camp among a variety of topics at the conclusion of Tuesday's practice:
"It's always good to get started, as much as anything. For us, I don't think any other team is practicing already. For us the reason why, we're a new staff and we watch the guys on video, but we wanted a chance to get our hands on them, see them out here, let the players see our routine. For the most part, a typical day during the season will play out the way the practices and really the schedule that we have for this minicamp through the day. We won't practice that long once we get going during the season. The guys haven't complained about anything we've asked them to do. They're anxious to prove where they belong on the depth chart. We're anxious to see where everyone belongs on the depth chart and again, to set the pace, we have a lot of work to do, long ways to go, but we'll get there. Up-tempo practice today, made a lot of mistakes which you expect. You just want to set the bar as much as anything. We set the bar and I can't wait to get back out there tomorrow and start all over again."
(On if there was full attendance)
"Yes, everyone is here. Everyone has been here all offseason really and that's what you expect. It's voluntary work, but if you want to get better, why would you pass up an opportunity? I appreciate that from the team - again they want to do something. All you can do at this time in April is just show up each day and get better and they've done that."
(On what area will it take the longest to get sharp)
"Through the years I would be hard pressed to say who has who or who's behind or who's ahead. We expect mistakes early on from most positions, but we expect quick improvement. We just asked the guys don't make the same mistakes over again. As I said, we set the bar today. We had some miscues out there but we'll have a few less tomorrow."
(On how quarterback Mike Glennon performed in the first practice)
"Initial impressions on Mike, is how they've been all along. He's been a pro about everything. We've asked him to take a step back and let (quarterback) Josh (McCown) take the lead position, he's done that. He's just trying to get better, that's what we're asking all of our guys to do. To come in and prove your game, you're competing against you as much as anything and he's done that. Mike made some good throws out there today, he has good control of the offense at this stage. I like what he was able to do. Of course I like what Josh McCown was able to do also today."
(On what the starting rotation is at wide receiver)
"At receiver, we're working to get a starting rotation. Is that what I said or did I say had one? We're working to it. It's safe to say (wide receiver) Vincent Jackson will be out there once the season starts and from there we have some other younger players that will take chances, be in a position to prove to us that they belong in that position opposite him right now. We have a long ways to go and right now I don't know a lot about some of our younger receivers, except for we have them on video right now and we get a chance to evaluate them a little more."
(On his impressions of the running backs group)
"I love what I've seen from them. We have three running backs that have a 100-yard game on record and that's hard for most teams to say. I like their quickness that they have. I went in the room the other day and I asked them if there was a requirement of being under 5'10" to be in this room. I like everything about all of them, they can catch the ball even though they haven't been used that way, they can run inside the of the tackles, [they] have good quickness, they can make you miss, they come to work with a smile on their face every day, again that group of guys that we're going to have and as far as how many play, we'll have – Doug Martin is our starter but) Bobby (Rainey), they'll all play, we'll let them have their reps."
(On if guard Carl Nicks can be ready for training camp)
"I think it's definitely a realistic goal. We like to think that until someone tells me otherwise, but he's been good. He has a ways to go, but it's good for Carl to just get back into the mix with the rest of the group. Early on there is a lot of mental work for all of our players, we had a couple of other guys - (safety) Dashon Goldson didn't do anything, (safety) Mark Barron didn't do a lot - but eventually those guys will get back into the fold but it's just good to get them back into the mix right now."
(On the challenge of bringing in a new system)
"Of course we want to eventually end up playing good football, not making mistakes and executing the way we want them to. You have to have a starting spot and that's get to the first day. For us, it was exciting to get to the first day of the offseason, for phase one of the offseason program a few weeks ago. But to get out on the football field. It's just growing pains you have to go through. Each year you start over, but for us, we understand that and we just want to make improvements each day, no more than that, make improvements and I'll be surprised if we didn't have a better product on the football field tomorrow than we did today."
(On his confidence level as it pertains to the current defense)
"Of course, with the draft, we plan on adding to both sides of the ball. But I'm very confident (in the defense). You start with our three-technique. When you have (defensive tackle) Gerald McCoy on your team, you have a little more giddy-up in your step. You come in knowing that we have possibly the best interior lineman on our football team. We have a great linebacker – No. 55 – Derrick Brooks, going in (to the Pro Football Hall of Fame), but they're gone. The new group coming in – (linebacker) Lavonte David is as good an outside linebacker as there is. So that gives you confidence. I talk about our two big safeties. I saw Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson walking down the hall today. I thought they were getting ready to go into the linebacker room, but they were going to the DB room. So we feel confident about it. (Defensive end) Michael Johnson coming in right away, (defensive tackle) Clinton McDonald… those guys getting into the mix. We can add some more, but we have some scholarship players on our football team right now."
(On the usefulness of offseason workouts and having minicamp prior to the draft)
"I think it's a must. That's the good part about being a new staff – when you get this extra minicamp in. It's one thing to watch guys on video, but you want to see them on the football field to know in a lot of ways – of course we want to see our roster, but, too, with the draft coming up, to see exactly what we need. Maybe we're not as strong or maybe we're a little scrawny at some of the positions. And that's what they'll tell us during these next two days. So I can't tell you how much it helps. And, for the team, they're wondering, what is it like? What's the practice routine? How are these guys going to coach? And they know that now. So we've gotten a lot of those questions answered quickly."
(On the offensive line)
"We don't want to have to do a lot of shifting. We'd like to be able to get five guys locked in. The offensive line does everything together, so we eventually want to get to that. But, at the same time, you want to have some guys with flexibility. We'll dress seven offensive linemen each game, so we'll have one guy who will back up on the outside and one on the inside. The guy on the inside – you'd like to have a guy who can play guard and center, a guy like (center) Evan (Dietrich-Smith). Evan has played a little bit of guard. You want flexibility there, but, at the same time, you want to lock the guys in and let them get comfortable in their positions. I think it's safe to say Evan will be our center and hopefully he can get a little bit more comfortable each day."