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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Training Camp Takeaways: Day 5 

Top highlights during Day Five of Buccaneers’ 2023 Training Camp as players underwent their first padded practice

AWJ Monday

On Military appreciation day at Buccaneers 2023 training camp, honoring veterans and their families, Tampa Bay players also suited up. After two practices that featured no pads and a couple more in "spiders," the Bucs had their first padded workout on Monday with a Florida heat index of 116. The evaluation process took a step forward as the competition increased in full gear. Nothing compares to the physicality and contact of an NFL session in pads, cultivating an environment that is conducive for comprehensive assessment. During the two-hour practice featuring one-on-ones, nine-on-seven and 11-on-11 team, several players stood out on the practice fields at the AdventHealth Training Center. Here are the top takeaways from the Bucs fifth practice: 

Russell Gage Jr. and Deven Thompkins Came up Big in One-on-Ones

In pads, the one-on-one drills between receivers and defensive backs garner attention. Among the notable reps was a sensational diving catch by second-year player Deven Thompkins, who got separation down the left sideline before extending his body to haul in a pass that appeared seemingly out of reach for the 5-foot-8, 155-pound athlete. He stuck his foot in the ground and exploded upfield, creating cushion. The agile playmaker not only has the speed to stretch the field vertically but possesses an impressive high-point leaping ability to win over the top. In the battle for one of the Bucs' remaining receiver spots on the depth chart, Thompkins continues to make an impact on the field. 

When the Buccaneers began their first week of training camp practice, Russell Gage Jr. was not on the field. He was recovering from a lower leg injury sustained during the offseason and spent time individually working with the training staff on a separate field. On Sunday, the sixth-year receiver joined his teammates for positional drills but did not participate in the team period. On Monday, Gage continued to progress, showcasing his route-running precision during the one-on-one session. Gage hit a deceptive double move to generate separation off the release and gained inside leverage on the defensive back to make the catch. He dealt with various injuries throughout the 2022 season but with a fresh slate in 2023, Gage has limitless potential in the Bucs' receiving corps alongside Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. 

Antoine Winfield Jr. and Yaya Diaby Snagged Interceptions

The goal for Bucs' defenders entering the 2023 season is "30 takeaways." Well, the unit capitalized on Monday with two. Generating more turnovers has been a focal point for Todd Bowles' crew during the offseason, with a perpetual cycle of ball drills ensuing position-by-position. Following the 2022 season, Winfield moved to a full-time role at free safety to maximize his ball skills and it paid dividends on Monday during the red zone period. He read Baker Mayfield's eyes, reacted and broke on the ball. Winfield's range, athleticism and instincts were on full display Monday morning. 

Yaya Diaby, a three-year starter at Louisville, was selected by the Buccaneers with the 82nd overall pick (third round) of the 2023 NFL Draft. With an impressive height/weight/speed profile, Diaby made a mark during the team period. Following the snap, the ball bounced off the hand and helmet of Anthony Nelson. Diaby, who started the play on the left edge, powered through the shoulder of the blocker like a missile and dove to catch the deflected ball. With jaw-dropping speed in pursuit, Diaby made his presence felt. In 2022, Diaby hit personal bests in sacks (9.0) and tackles for loss (14.0), and he will strive to continue that ascension at the pro level. 

Vita Vea, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Tristan Wirfs Shine in Pass Rush Drills 

Pass rush drills always make for a prime viewing experience during training camp and Monday did not disappoint. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka put on a show. He baited the blocker, made the appearance of going inside and once the offensive tackle overset, Tryon-Shoyinka spun around for a free lane into the backfield. Finishing at the top of the rush has been an emphasis for JTS in 2023 and he flashed on Monday. As Tryon-Shoyinka continues to hone in on technique and launch point fine-tuning, he will reach unimagined heights. With a quick get-off, elite bend, active hands and burst to close, Tryon-Shoyinka has the imposing traits to become a game-wrecker. 

Vita Vea, the Bucs' formidable nose tackle, showed his ability at the point of attack. Isolated with the center, Vea overpowered and drove the blocker back. Vea used his power to press the blocker off his frame, knocking him backward. Despite playing a position that is often linked to eating up blocks in order to create opportunities for teammates, Vea is a disruptive force in the interior. No. 50 is a nuisance for offensive linemen and consistently demands double teams. He is the tone-setter of the Bucs' defensive line, making an impact in odd- and even-fronts. Vea essentially personified a bulldozer on Monday, sparking excitement from the packed bleachers. 

 Stalwart offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs is undergoing the transition from right to left tackle in 2023 and has showed no signs of taking his foot off the gas. As Wirfs continues to build muscle memory manning the blindside, his stock will rise. Tampa Bay's lone Pro Bowl selection in 2023 allowed the lowest pressure rate last season with a minimum of 500 pass blocking attempts (0.9%) and he certainly continued his streak of dominance on the practice field. On several reps, Wirfs held his own, not allowing the defender to bypass. He stayed square and showcased precision in his kick slide. Wirfs redirected the rusher's power to protect the pocket. The technician will be one to keep an eye on during pass rush drills as camp continues.

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