-Head Coach Bruce Arians talked a lot about the Bucs' secondary on Wednesday. The unit is young but he's satisfied with the depth all the same.
"I feel fine," Arians said about secondary depth. "Mazzi [Wilkins] has been solid, [Parnell] Motley had a hell of a camp, Ryan [Smith] has had a good camp, D'Cota Dixon and [Javon] Hagan – they've been impressive at times. There's good, quality depth and we'll be releasing good players."
An emerging leader of that young group is third-year safety Jordan Whitehead, who despite being one of the more 'veteran' players is still involved in a battle within his talented position group.
"Every day, everybody's competing, everybody's learning, and it's been a great competition so far throughout camp. You've got a lot of position battles at the strong safety and free safety [positions]. Everybody's getting interchanged [at] either safety position, some people [are] playing nickel, so you have a lot of work being done. It's good to have that competition because right now, we're limited on time and we need that extra push and somebody behind you trying to take your spot that's lighting the fire. It's been good, though. Everybody's getting along."
The position itself has changed and taken on more responsibility, according to Safeties Coach Nick Rapone. The first year in Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles' system was spent laying the foundation. Now, the defense and secondary especially is looking to take the next step.
"I would say [Todd Bowles] has added quite a bit," Rapone said of the defensive scheme. "Last year we tried to set a foundation down, but he's added quite a bit. He's going back to where he was the second year in Arizona, now. There's quite a bit more on the safeties and there's quite a bit more on the whole defense."
That includes the front seven, who is returning all seven starters this year. The only downside to that is that teams have tape on the group together. Guys like outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, who came out of the gate with 9.0 sacks in the first four games and finished the season as the league's sack leader with 19.5, can't fly under the radar anymore. Teams will plan for them. But according to Arians, Barrett has a varying skill set and has been working on new things this offseason.
"He learned a lot from those guys (his teammates in Denver) – he's got a huge tool box," said Arians. "He's got more than two or three [pass-rush moves]. Shaq is very, very slippery [and] he knows it. He uses it every day – he tries new stuff all the time. He's been great work for Tristan Wirfs and that's been a great battle to watch that over there. Shaq – he's legit."
Barrett will be opposite a healthy Jason Pierre-Paul to start the season for the first time and Pierre-Paul was asked what he thinks their potential is playing together in 2020.
"What [do] you think?" Pierre-Paul laughed rhetorically. "I came in last year and got 8.5 [sacks]. I'm excited for these 16 games. Thank you, Lord, in the name of Jesus. Man, I'm excited. I don't think anybody knows how excited I am. I'm low key under the radar, but come this first game you'll see how excited I am."
The media also got to meet newly signed kicker Ryan Succop on Wednesday, who is excited himself to be able to compete for kicker duties with the season right around the corner.
"Any time that you get an opportunity in this league, that's something that I don't take for granted," said Succop. "It takes a lot of work to get here, so I'm excited about the opportunity, and right now, I'm just focused on doing everything that I can to make sure that I'm as ready as I can be and to get acclimated as quickly as possible so that I can go out there and hopefully help the team."
-Check out what we learned during this year's training camp overall:
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