Pictures from the Buccaneers' mini-camp practice on Tuesday.
Throughout the offseason, the Buccaneers' offensive additions have dominated the headlines. The team signed DeSean Jackson, one of the NFL's top free agents, and selected a tight end with their first-round pick in the draft. But when the Buccaneers took the field for their first mini-camp practice on Tuesday, it was the defense controlling the tempo. That's nothing new, according to Head Coach Dirk Koetter. The Bucs' defense has been thriving all offseason.
"They've had a lot of guys nicked up, they've had a lot of guys missing, and they've probably gotten the best of the offense," Koetter said. "If you just went through 11 'OTA practices', I'd say overall the defense has won more than they've lost, and that's with Noah Spence out, Jacquies Smith out. J.J. Wilcox has been out the whole time, Justin Evans has been out the whole time.
"The defense, they've improved their depth. The main players in that defense – Kwon [Alexander] and Lavonte [David], Gerald [McCoy] in the middle, Vernon Hargreaves – have consistently made plays every day. Vernon Hargreaves had another nice interception there in that last period, too."
Hargreaves' interception came on a deep pass intended for Jackson. Robert Ayers got his hands on a pass too, recording an interception at the line of scrimmage at the start of practice. Despite contact being forbidden during mini-camp, the Bucs' defense made their presence felt.
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"We have a great defense," Jameis Winston said. "A lot of people look at the offensive production and the guys we have on that side, but we wouldn't have won the games that we won without our defense last year and I think everyone knows that – especially inside this building. So our defense is a great defense and just the challenges that they throw at us every single day, it really helps us."
When competing in a practice setting, the glass is half-full when one side turns in a strong performance. Usually that means that the other side of the ball isn't performing up to speed. Koetter wasn't pleased with the way the offense played on Tuesday during their first mini-camp practice, with dropped balls being a point of concern.
"It was sloppiness, way too many balls on the ground," Koetter said. "That's why I said offense, I didn't think the offense played very good, way too many balls on the ground. The offense was kind of just walking around out there today."
The Buccaneers have two more practices scheduled before training camp, one on Wednesday and another on Thursday. Time will tell whether Koetter's message will resonate with the team's offense of whether the defense will continue to dictate the pace of practice.