On the first play of a red-zone passing drill between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense and the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive on Tuesday, Mike Evans made a dazzling, toe-tapping reception in the back right corner of the end zone. On the first play of the one-on-one pass-rush drill between Tampa Bay offensive linemen and Jacksonville defensive linemen, a post-whistle scrum broke out.
The two outcomes may have had a related origin.
The Buccaneers are spending their third week of training camp in Jacksonville, conducting a pair of joint practices with the Jaguars prior to Thursday's preseason game at EverBank Field. The Buccaneers are appreciative guests on the three turf practice fields outside the stadium, and on Monday Tampa Bay Head Coach Dirk Koetter praised the set-up and the Jaguars' coaching staff. That doesn't mean, however, that every onfield interaction has been filled with pleasantries. As Buccaneers offensive tackle Demar Dotson described it, things got a little "chippy" on Tuesday.
While extracurricular activity after the whistle is not welcomed by either coaching staff, it's not a terribly surprising development when 180 highly competitive football players are battling for two hours in oppressive heat. In this case, the intensity may have been dialed up an extra notch by coaches who were not completely pleased with the first joint practice on Monday.
After a less-than-perfect outing by the Buccaneers' offense on Monday morning, Koetter urged that group to work harder on Tuesday, according to Dotson.
"He said we needed a sense of urgency," said the veteran lineman. "The offense, especially, didn't play up to his standards. We thought we competed hard, but when the head coach tells you that it wasn't good enough you've got to have a little more chip on your shoulder and come out here and compete a little harder. And I think we did it. Especially across the offensive line, you could tell in one-on-ones that the guys had a sense of urgency. It got chippy today. We weren't trying to take nothing. I think we did a good job answering the call."
The two teams combined to run four two-minute drives near the end of practice, lining up first-team offenses against first-team defenses, followed by second-team matchups. None of the four drives resulted in touchdowns but the Bucs' first-team offense did get close to scoring range.
"Well, we had a little urgency about us today, better than yesterday, as far as the offense goes," said Koetter. "It's a different practice because I'm only on one field but the offense had a little more urgency."
Dotson conjectured that some of the Jaguars' players may have gotten the same message from their coaches, leading to a heightened sense of urgency on both sides of the line. That same intensity that likely contributed to the dust-up in one-on-ones might have also lit a fire under Evans, who was targeted with great frequency by Jameis Winston, leading to a handful of highlight-reel plays. Jaguar defenders responded with some impressive moments of their own, but it was still an eye-opening afternoon for Evans, one of the NFL's rising stars.
Koetter said that there was not a concerted effort to get the ball to Evans more often on Tuesday, but he also wasn't surprised to see Winston look in the receiver's direction when the end zone was near. Evans also made a one-handed end zone catch in one-on-ones and snagged two medium-range passes over the middle to start the aforementioned two-minute drill, among a handful of other highlights.