It’s only been two days of non-contact practice following their first NFL spring, but rookie cornerback Jamel Dean, drafted by the team out of Auburn in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, has learned a lot.
“I came to understand that the little things really matter a lot because when you watch film, you see a false step that could have separated you from having a [pass break-up] from an interception,” Dean said. “It’s like, ‘wow’ I guess that separates being great and being good.”
You hear qualifiers all the time for what separates the ‘good’ from the ‘great.’ Dean realizes that in a general sense, that separation is really quite simple. It’s about doing the little things right – and the more you’re out there, the more opportunity you have to perfect those little things. Dean is part of a rookie class that will largely be expected to be immediate contributors.
As a result, Dean has been all over the field in practice, despite the fact that he’s had to get adjusted to the speed of things.
“Oh my God, practice is extremely fast,” Dean said. “The pace of it is just something I’m not really used to. I’m used to being at Auburn where you place the ball and then everybody is slowly lining up and you’re able to see things happening. Now, it’s just [snaps fingers] fast-paced.”
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Training Camp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
The good news is that Dean, who had an excellent spring and has had his fair share of plays so far during training camp, seems to be catching on quickly with his fellow rookie defensive backs. Dean also has the added luxury of having a former college teammate in Carlton Davis in the very same position group as him. Dean said that Davis has been a big help as far as breaking down expectations in his first year, having just gone through his rookie season in 2018.
“It really feels like my dream is becoming reality and being able to get these reps at practice, I really feel myself building upon that,” Dean said. “I know that as a rookie, I have a lot of learning to do, so being able to get these reps in, seeing what situations we could possibly get in a game, is really helping me out.”
Another thing helping him out? Going against the likes of wide receiver Mike Evans in practice. Dean said Evans is his favorite receiver to go up against because he feels it will make him better as a player.
"I like to go against Mike Evans just because he's a Pro Bowl receiver. [He's] bigger, got more experience, so I know that if I keep going against him, it's only going to help me get better."
That doesn't quite sound like a rookie to me.