- CB Vernon Hargreaves has had a productive offseason, playing both inside and outside. The 2016 first-round pick came up big on Thursday, immediately smacking the ball out of tight end Cameron Brate’s hands on a would-be touchdown during the 7-on-7 period while the Bucs were in a red zone simulation. During OTAs, Hargreaves has taken snaps at nickel corner as well as on the outside, covering receiver DeSean Jackson on deep balls in those situations. The focus has been bumping up the corner’s confidence to play either position, as the Bucs’ secondary demands flexibility schematically. * *“Vernon worked, played both in and out and made a nice play here in the red zone just a few minutes ago,” Head Coach Dirk Koetter said after the team’s last mini-camp practice on Thursday. “I think he’s taking it [seriously], he’s working at it. I won’t say that the competition is over because we have some other guys that are going to push him but I think Vernon has his head in the right place. I think it’s important to him.” The Bucs have added to their secondary through the 2018 draft, boasting three defensive back picks in rounds two and three. Rookie cornerback Carlton Davis III seems to be Hargreaves’ main competition to start outside opposite veteran cornerback Brent Grimes. During OTAs, Davis was lining up against receiver Mike Evans and taking snaps with the 1s. His length remains Davis’ strength, but his adaptation to more off coverage (versus the press he was used to in college) will be the wildcard with the young outside player.
- RB Shaun Wilson among undrafted rookies that are standing out. The running back out of Duke was among a few players that had caught Coach Koetter’s eye, which Coach mentioned following the second day of mini-camp on Wednesday. Almost as if on cue, Wilson then had a touchdown reception in 7-on-7 drills during Thursday’s practice. With the signing of second-round pick Ronald Jones II following the conclusion of mini-camp and the team’s retention of projected-starter Peyton Barber, along with Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims, making his mark in those ranks won’t be easy. * *Special teams play will be important for Wilson, along with any other on-the-bubble player, who can prove their worth by way of versatility at their native position, along with solid special teams contributions. 3. QB Jameis Winston and WR DeSean Jackson connected on a beautiful deep ball. The ever-important quarterback-to-receiver connection has been a point of emphasis for Winston and Jackson this offseason. Jackson is a notorious deep threat, known across the league for his streaking speed. It’s just been a matter of Winston getting the timing down with Jackson for the Buccaneers. Onlookers got a glimpse of what that timing looks like on Thursday. Jackson booked it on a vertical route and faked to the outside, made a quick cut in to beat his defender as Winston aired it out and Jackson hauled it in for an easy touchdown. It was a thing of absolute beauty and looked completely effortless. While the two may be still working on getting the consistency down, when they’re on – they are ON. * 4. DE Jason Pierre-Paul is caught up to speed. *The eight-year NFL veteran reported to mandatory mini-camp this week for his first practices with his new teammates. While the defensive end spent all eight of those seasons in New York with the Giants, he had a few inside connections here in Tampa Bay. He and linebacker Lavonte David played ju-co football together and he and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy have ‘known each other for years’ according to McCoy. That veteran status comes with a built-in trust that both Buccaneers players and coaches have in how JPP is preparing. “I think he did fine,” Coach Koetter said following practice. “I heard, when we’re going no huddle and I’m standing in there like the ref, I’m listening to the D-line talk and listening to him communicate with Gerald [McCoy] or Beau Allen or with Lavonte [David]. When JPP first told me he wasn’t going to be at the first part of OTAs, he said, ‘Coach, I’ve been doing this a long time, there’s only so many things a defensive end has to do.’ I think he’s done a good job. You can tell – we all know who he is from afar but when he gets here, he’s a big man and he’s long, 280 pounds. He plays the run a lot better than people think he does so, he’s going to be fine.” The only thing he hasn’t been able to work on from his home in Deerfield Beach, Florida, has been chemistry with his teammates, but he’s not out of the loop, either. According to McCoy, the defensive line has a group text message that they started this offseason. That communication will continue until training camp in five weeks. 5. Leave it up to the kicker. Veteran placekicker Chandler Catanzaro was acquired in free agency from the New York Jets to help bring some stability to the specialist group. To wrap up mini-camp, Coach Koetter gave the reins to Catanzaro, offering to end practice early if he made his kicks – including one final ‘going-for-the-win’ long boot. After an initial attempt where the Coach Koetter said the defense jumped offsides from about the 40-yard line, Cat was backed up and ended up clearing a 58-yard field goal to the loud cheers and applause of his teammates, as well as spectators at practice for the Buccaneers’ family practice day, signaling the offseason program was officially over. Play of the Day:** Safety Justin Evans made a perfect read and jumped a route in the end zone to nab the interception.