As anyone who has ever started a new workout regimen can attest – and as Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano mentioned on Friday – the second day is usually the toughest. Day One, you're "amped," as Schiano put it and motivated to give it your all; Day Two, you're just plain sore. Sometimes, Day Two can become a bit of a step backward.
Don't tell that to the Buccaneers' secondary. The second practice of the team's 2013 training camp had its ups and downs, like any practice does, but if there was a crew that appeared to step up on Day Two, it was the defensive backs. Key rookie Johnthan Banks, driven second-year man Leonard Johnson and intriguing late-summer addition Michael Adams all had flashy interceptions among a string of notable plays from the defensive backfield.
"In the secondary, we want to get our hands on as many balls as possible, and I think today was a good job, a good showing of what we can do," said that crew's new leader, safety Dashon Goldson. "We still have a long way coming, but a lot of guys stepped up big-time today and made plays."
Goldson may have inspired his crew before Friday's practice by pulling them together and urging them to step up and lead the defense to a new level. It would seem they got the message, even with top corner Darrelle Revis still limited to individual drills and "teaching periods" and returning player Danny Gorrer sitting out for part of the workout.
"I stressed that a little earlier today with the team," said Goldson afterward. "As a secondary, you want to be the best athletes on the team and definitely set the tone. You've got to get that ball back so the quarterback can go out there and put points on the board. With that being said, we've got to just keep coming and get on the same page."
Of course, interceptions are some of the easiest plays to judge from the sideline during a practice, during which the etiquette of contact can sometimes make the results misleading. Fortunately for the Buccaneers as a whole, the secondary's eye-catching plays were balanced at other times during the morning by good work from the offense.
"[The run of interceptions] was encouraging to see from a defensive standpoint," said Schiano. "Guys made some plays. As a head coach, you sit back and say, 'Well, that's not good because that was our offense that just gave it to them.' But I look at practice like this: As long as it's a back-and-forth. I don't want one side to dominate the other because that's not going to be good for any of us. But as long as it's back-and-forth, and that's what it was today. It was a good back-and-forth."
Of course, there are both team and individual agendas at work in any given training camp practice. The only goal for the coaches – and a significant goal for every player, too – is to get the team ready to win in the regular season. For many of the 90 men on the practice field, however, it will also be necessary for them to win a job in order to be a part of that success. Making it through the cut from 90 to 53 is the first concern, and landing a prominent spot on the depth chart is the second concern.
Adams, for instance, is battling for a spot on the active roster after only signing with the team in June following a tryout during mini-camp. Adams has played six seasons already, all with the Arizona Cardinals, and he is trying to make sure he makes a good enough impression to catch on with a second NFL team.
"Every day I set a goal to catch at least one interception or get a pass break-up, somehow get my hands on the ball," he said. "I was able to get one today and hopefully it's just the first of many."
As for the linebackers and defensive linemen, it really didn't matter to them which of the competing defensive backs came up with the big plays on Friday morning. There is promise of a much tighter secondary in 2013 after a difficult 2012 campaign, and that would be a game-changing development for the men tasked with getting to the quarterback."
"Oh man, it feels good," said DE Da'Quan Bowers of the active secondary on display Friday morning. "It feels really good to have that extra 1.5 seconds to get to the quarterback. That sounds small but it makes a big difference."