Buccaneers rookie draftees, undrafted free agents and tryout players all convened at AdventHealth Training Center Thursday night to start rookie mini-camp. Friday afternoon was their first practice and therefore, the first chance to prove themselves to Bucs coaches. Though all the NFL offseason rules such as no contact and no pads still applied, there was definitely a spirit of competition and excitement on the field.
--The defense overall had a good day. When you consider that six of the Bucs’ eight drafted players were on that side of the ball, it’s encouraging to hear that. The reality is this is the first taste of football these players have had in months. Before this, they were focused on draft efforts and how fast they were going to run their 40s. Getting back into the swing of things is all the staff can ask for this first day.
“It was a good start,” Head Coach Bruce Arians said following practice. “Good start. Obviously a lot of nerves, a lot of anxiety. I think some of them were burned out before we got through individual. A couple of them I don’t think worked out in a month or two. But the rest of them I thought really looked good. A couple pick-sixes, by [Jamel] Dean and [Sean]’Murphy-Bunting and Devin [White] dropped a pick-six. They were getting their hands on balls, which speaks good for the defense and not too much for the offense. Overall, typical, probably better than normal rookie mini-camp, because we weren’t fumbling snaps all over the place. These cats, a lot of them it’s the first time they’d ever been in a huddle. A couple offense lineman – first time they’d ever put their hand on the ground and they struggled mightily trying to pass block that way. So, it’s a big learning curve, but I was pleased with what I saw.”
--Cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean both had good days given the couple of interceptions they caught hold of that Arians mentioned.
“Yeah, [Dean] should’ve had a pick-six on the tip and he was kind of hesitant,” Arians said. “On the second one he made a heck of an interception and took it back. So, both of those guys have really good length and they showed their speed already.”
After one play in particular in which Dean showed tight coverage and jumped a receiver’s route to get a pass breakup, Coach Arians came up to the huddle and slapped Dean on the helmet with a probably more colorfully worded ‘good job’ accompanying it. The big knock on Dean has been his injury history but his last knee surgery was over three years ago. He’s been healthy ever since and has showed it with his speed and athleticism. Both were as advertised on Friday, along with his intelligence in picking up the defense and executing it.
--CB Sean Murphy-Bunting got a few looks at the nickel corner position on Friday. He seems to be the most likely candidate of the rookies to assume that role. Though he was used mainly as an outside corner in college, his size and toughness make him a pretty good fit inside. He did well in his first day on-field with it and said he’s been learning more about the position at this level already than he did in college.
--Devin White was already calling out checks and moving his teammates around during scrimmage drills. He even jumped up and batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage, one that could have definitely been intercepted, as well. He helped the defense in having their day against the rookie offense for sure.
--Running back Bruce Andersen took every play all the way. At one point, he got the handoff and bounced to the outside. Since there’s no contact, he wasn’t actually tackled but he kept sprinting down the sideline well after the whistle blew to finish the play and see it all the way through.
--Wide receiver Scotty Miller showed his speed in individual drills catching passes. He also got a nice long ball on a deep slant from quarterback Tyler Gangi out of Nevada. He blew past the defenders pretty easily, especially when he got the afterburners on once he made the catch. He took most of his snaps out of the slot so he’ll need his speed to get behind the defense.
“Scotty had one long catch and we expected that,” Arians said. “It’s a little bit different on what we do in the slot that he’s used to on making decisions and those things. But, he looked pretty solid.
--Tryout quarterback Vincent Testaverde (yes, son of that Vinny Testaverde) completed a nice pass to undrafted free agent wide receiver Anthony Johnson out of Buffalo during scrimmages. The ball arced downfield over the middle and right in the hands of the waiting Johnson, who took a few steps forward for the easy touchdown.
“He came in early for the workout for the local guys and was impressive throwing the football and he had a solid day today,” Arians said of Testaverde. “So, he’s another guy that – it’s a big weekend for him, especially tomorrow being able to protect the ball a little bit better. Some of them, it wasn’t the quarterback’s fault that those guys were running all over the place. But, he showed enough to get to this point.”
--One little anecdote (because you know there had to be one with BA) came out and that was when he was asked what he remembers about the older Testaverde quarterback. His response?
“Oh, I remember when he got the Heisman Trophy over my running back at Temple.”