-Rookie running back Bruce Anderson looks to have natural hands. He looked extremely fluid in catching dig routes in individual drills today. Another thing all the running backs are doing is running through the line and all the way down the field after the play is blown dead. One running play after another, though there's no tackling so there's no question of whether or not they'll escape, backs are bursting full speed beyond the scrum. It's more a sign of effort rather than skill, but encouraging, nonetheless.
-Anderson wasn't the only running back talked about today, either. Quarterback Jameis Winston was asked specifically about second-year running back Ronald Jones and said he's been 'showing out' in practice. He also talked about how much more comfortable Jones seems to be coming into the 2019 season.
"I know how talented he is – that's why he was a second-round pick," Winston said of Jones. "But sometimes, guys – shoot, my first year, my first game wasn't like I would have wanted it but you've always got to continue to move forward, always continue to grow and get better, and I've seen him [show] drastic improvements coming in this season."
-Tight end and birthday boy Antony Auclair had a casual little one-handed catch in drills before team work began. It was a dart over the middle and Auclair reached out with ease to haul it in with one hand. He proceeded to catch every ball thrown his direction the rest of practice save for one ball that was at his feet.
-The defensive backs did a footwork-mirroring drill before team work began that looked so inconspicuous upon first glance that you might have missed it, even if you were watching. One defensive back would trail behind another who was acting as a wide receiver. They'd have to make cuts, no matter how small, in step with the receiver. It taught them to pick up on certain cues to eventually be able to anticipate where their receiver would end up going. It translated almost immediately as the team entered seven-on-seven and full-team scrimmage drills where corners were jumping routes and breaking up passes. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves nearly had an interception after he made an absolutely perfect read and cut in front of the receiver down the sideline to break up the pass. Even Head Coach Bruce Arians admitted the defense won the day today.
"It was a really good start to the week," Arians said. "Situationally, we put them in some really tough scenarios. The defense won this one today and it was good to see."
"All of the rookie defensive backs are doing well," Winston said. "I think Coach Todd Bowles does a great job of getting those guys to attack the football. I mean, they have one of the greatest cornerbacks, probably of all time, with Coach Ross on their side. He was a dog back there in the secondary for the Kansas City Chiefs, so I'm excited to see them. I'm excited for Vern [Hargreaves] coming back out on the field and bringing energy and his full-self so we just have to keep getting better and keep growing."
-It wasn't all about the defense, though. Rookie wide receiver Scotty Miller had a couple of those head-scratching 'how-did-he-do-that' catches. One in particular, I saw my life flash before my eyes as a perfect ball sailed directly in my direction on a corner route with no receiver in sight. Well, me of little faith. Miller came out of nowhere and sniped the ball out of the air while probably simultaneously saving my life. He made a couple catches down the sideline in hurry-up situations to help the offense advance the ball downfield quickly, too. He really is as quick as advertised.
-Wide receiver Chris Godwin showed some great instincts after the catch today. On a short screen, he sidestepped his defender after making the catch and probably got another 20 yards downfield before he would have been tackled.
-What's funny to see is how much the offense and defense chirp at each other during practice. There seems to be a real rivalry developing between the two sides and it adds to the energy and competition on the field. And this is without pads on.
-Head Coach Bruce Arians was asked about the Bucs' signing of Ndamukong Suh for the first time today and had some great things to say about his new defensive tackle.
"Dominant player," Arians said. "Inside penetrating but he's a great run stopper. He's a pass rusher, but he's a great run player. With him and Vita [Vea], it's going to be really tough to run the ball inside against us. But they're both going to be able to rush the passer for us effectively. I think he's a great addition."
THE BEST THING I SAW:
The very end of practice, the Bucs' offense was in a two-minute situation, no timeouts, needing a touchdown to win the game. The defense did a good job in keeping the offense in-bounds, forcing them to hurry back to the line to get another play off before time expired. They ended up doing it with time to run one last play but it was a floater pass to the back left corner of the end zone where rookie cornerback Jamel Dean was waiting underneath his receiver, nabbing himself an easy interception to end practice and win the game (and the day) for the defense.
"Dean had a game-winning interception right at the end of practice," Arians said. "All those guys are getting their hands on balls but I think a majority, 95 percent of our turnovers, have come from rookies in practice and they're going against our best guys."