The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started Phase 3 of their offseason training program under a roof. On Tuesday, the first of a run of 10 organized team activity practices (OTAs) was moved inside the team's still-new indoor facility due to what proved to be an accurate forecast, as a heavy rainstorm battered the building for much of the two-hour workout.
Even with only field to work with rather than the three getting soaked outside, the Buccaneers still stuck to Head Coach Bruce Arians' plan of dividing the 90-man roster into two and essentially running dual practices during the full-team and seven-on-seven periods. Each group started from just inside the 50-yard line and bombed away at the end zone on that side of the field. While a group of mostly newcomers worked from east to west, quarterback Jameis Winston headed up a largely veteran group going in the other direction.
That meant Winston was throwing to a lot of familiar targets, including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Justin Watson and O.J. Howard. However, there were some new faces in his group as well, most notably wide receiver Breshad Perriman. On the last play of the seven-on-seven passing drill, Winston launched a deep pass that Perriman hauled in as he streaked into the end zone on a diagonal path towards the back right corner. Several offensive coaches loudly signaled their approval.
Arians, in his first year at the Bucs' helm, has made it clear that he wants an aggressive approach on offense and that he intends to take plenty of shots downfield. Perriman, who ran a sub 4.30-second 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, could be a key factor in that part of the offense. That speed coupled with his 6-2, 212-pound frame prompted the Baltimore Ravens to take him with the 26th-overall pick in 2015. Injuries largely derailed his run in Baltimore but Perriman rediscovered his big-play potential with a strong second-half run in Cleveland last year. The Buccaneers signed Perriman to be a field-stretcher after trading the speedy DeSean Jackson to Philadelphia.
One play in practice doesn't prove that signing will be a hit, but Perriman has seen enough to know that Arians is definitely going to air it out, which could be a boon for him. Perriman's earlier impression of the Arians offense:
"Big plays – simple, cold-cut, big plays all around, run-game and pass-game. You can just see from being out there, he is going to take his shots and it's just a great offense to be a part of."
Furthermore, there were several other shots in Perriman's direction that did not end up in his hands, such as a deep pass straight down the middle during a full-team drill that landed on the end zone turf a few feet in front of the receiver. Despite some record-setting numbers in his first four NFL seasons, Winston has not yet made the deep pass one of his strengths, but Arians and Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen think that can be remedied through some technique work and more practice reps.
And, in the case of that missed connection down the middle, that might have actually been a perfect throw, just one that got lost to the receiver in the facility's roof. At the very least, it was a good decision in the head coach's estimation.
"It looks really good right now," said Arians of the developing connection between Winston and Perriman. "BP slowed down on the one he lost up there in the ceiling and that was a great throw and a great read by him taking another field versus cover so, you love seeing those things because you know they're going to start connecting. In the other practices – yeah, that's going to be a heck of a combination."
Perriman, who averaged 21.3 yards per catch during his resurgence in Cleveland last year, thinks that he and Winston are already well on the way to getting on the same page. Perriman knows how big that connection could be to the Bucs' offensive fortunes because he can look around and see so many other types of weapons already available to the quarterback, all of which could be better exploited if defenses fear a deep threat, too.
"I feel like we are at a good point right now though and we will continue to grow," said Perriman. "It's day one and we are already completing some of them, so it's not going to do nothing but grow.
"I feel like we bring a lot to the table, a lot of guys. You think it, we have someone that can do it. That's just a great thing to be a part of."
There's a secondary benefit to Perriman frequently racing downfield, beyond the forming of a deep-ball connection with his new quarterback. It just happens to be great practice for a defense that needs to get better at denying such plays.
"It's different; as you can see, there are going to be a lot of shots taken down the field," said linebacker Lavonte David after the first OTA on Tuesday. "I am sure Coach is going to add that to the game plan. Defensively, we gave up a lot of shots, so it will help us big time covering those deep balls down the field, helping us get better in that category defensively. There is going to be a lot of competing out there between offense and defense and it's going to be fun. It's going to be a fun offseason."