Something resembling an actual football practice took place on Tuesday morning at the AdventHealth Training Center as the Buccaneers began Phase Three of their offseason program. It includes meetings and on-field work in the form of a practice with the players in attendance.
The workouts are completely voluntary but there were over 40 Bucs on the field – enough to execute a full practice complete with individual and team periods, though no contact is allowed at this juncture. It was mostly young players, rookies and second-year guys, with a sprinkling of veterans like new running back Giovani Bernard, who despite his nine years of experience in the league says he feels like a rookie given that he is now having to get used to an entirely new system for the first time since he was actually a first-year player.
Given the limitations in what players can and cannot do at this point of the offseason, the practice wasn't full tilt but there were still some standouts throughout the morning.
-Two quarterbacks took the field for the Bucs in veteran backup Ryan Griffin and rookie second-round pick Kyle Trask. Griffin looked comfortable, especially connecting with familiar targets like tight end Tanner Hudson. Yes, the infamous Griffin-Hudson connection of preseason lore is alive and well. Trask isn't quite as comfortable yet but his throws were sharp and were pretty zippy, if you ask me.
-The wide receiver group as a whole was pretty aggressive, running their routes full out. It's no surprise that Jaelon Darden was a standout, hauling in every catchable ball no matter what level of the field.
-Darden had one particularly impressive catch where he cut back on an underneath route and Griffin hit him just as the window was closing with three defenders in the area. They pulled up before they actually hit Darden but it was an impressive catch and the kind that Darden was famous for at North Texas despite his size.
-General Manager Jason Licht and Head Coach Bruce Arians talked about how much they loved linebacker Grant Stuard's energy, which ultimately led to him being the team's last pick of the draft. Well, Stuard is living up to those expectations. The team took a break and Stuard yelled out, "Let's get that water… expeditiously!" He clearly has no problem being vocal with his teammates.
-In fact, the entire defense had no problem being communicative. It's an important part of the defensive system because there are so many checks and variables. The young defensive backs, in particular, were calling out coverages and what to look for as if they'd been in the system for years.
-To be fair, some of them have. While there were plenty of rookies in attendance, there were also familiar faces like Pat O'Connor, Anthony Nelson, Cam Gill, Quinton Bell and Jeremiah Ledbetter on defense, and the aforementioned Griffin, Hudson, Ke'Shawn Vaughn and tight end Cody McElroy.
-McElroy got a great ball from Griffin down the field that he snatched from out in front of him on the run. The coverage couldn't have been better but it was placed in the right place for McElroy to grab it.
-Offensive tackle Brad Seaton was also on the field. Seaton opted out of last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic but it seems he is back to work. His 6-foot-9 frame is pretty hard to miss and he was primarily working at right tackle.