The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were back on the field and in pads on Saturday for their eighth practice of camp at the AdventHealth Training Center. Head Coach Todd Bowles said practice showcased a "lot better effort on both sides [of the ball] than yesterday." He called it more "give and take," as players emerged on offense and defense during team drills and situational periods. Evaluations are in full swing, with several veterans making their mark during the session. Here are several takeaways from day nine of Bucs' training camp, including the highlight plays on the grass.
Lavonte David Pick
On Saturday, Lavonte David's coverage ability flashed again. He dropped in coverage and picked off Tom Brady, undercutting a route to the elation of spectators. David was a dominant force in a defense that finished fourth in yards allowed per pass play and sixth in points allowed last season. With elite read-and-react skills, hip-flip fluidity, and prowess in man coverage versus tight ends/running backs, David generates consistent splash plays. The trend continued for David on Saturday. The staff has repeatedly emphasized takeaways as the defensive focal point during the summer and David delivered. "It's making the right plays," Bowles commented on David's interception. "It's not just him, it's the entire defense. We're trying to get turnovers overall. We were decent last year but we can be a lot better. The ones we dropped and the misfits we had when we dropped, we're trying to clean that up some. It's not just him; the defense overall, they're going out every day trying to make turnovers happen." In 2022, the Buccaneers face three of the league's best tight ends in Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Mark Andrews. David's ability to neutralize YAC-threats over the middle of the field with instinctual play will come in clutch come fall. Keep an eye on No. 54.
Antoine Winfield Jr. Pass Breakup
Antoine Winfield Jr. previously served more of a stationary role at free safety for the Buccaneers but with added depth, Winfield's role has become multi-faceted in order to optimize his skillset. Winfield is playing more in the slot and has been featured in blitzes. During the 11-on-11 red zone period on Saturday, Winfield broke up a pass from Brady intended for Julio Jones. Whether a pass breakup or key tackle near the line of scrimmage, Winfield finds his way to the football. He has had an impressive camp, bolstering the secondary with his versatility. Winfield received a Pro Bowl berth in 2021 after compiling two interceptions, six passes defensed, two sacks, four tackles for loss and 88 combined tackles (62 solo). Winfield adds a speed element to increase pressure up front, stout run support and new wrinkles in blitz packages. If he continues to take strides, Winfield could have another breakout year in 2022. He is a defender that quarterbacks will have to be mindful of on every play.
Russell Gage and Tom Brady Build Chemistry
Players and coaches have raved about Russell Gage Jr. all camp long for his production on the field and growing synergy with Tom Brady. Gage continues to gain separation, garnering No. 12's trust. He has shown the ability to stretch the field vertically with straight-line speed, but also possesses the capability of winning on short-to-intermediate routes. "Well, they've got to keep building the chemistry," Bowles said on Gage. "We've got a couple new pieces on offense so they're all going to have to build chemistry together. But Russ is a vet. He knows how to get open and Tom understands that. They seem like they have a natural vibe. I'm sure there's more to go and there's a lot more to learn before they get to know each other fully, but they're off to a good start." With Chris Godwin's continued recovery from a torn ACL and MCL, Mike Evans' tweaked hamstring and Breshad Perriman dealing with an undisclosed injury, more reps have been distributed among the remaining members of the receiving corps. Gage has taken advantage, along with Tyler Johnson, who scored a touchdown during the red zone period. Brady through a dart to Johnson on a crossing route, shifting the momentum on the field.