Takeaways from Bucs OTAs: Days 8 & 9

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Wednesday

-The Bucs were in the indoor facility Wednesday and were therefore on one field versus their usual two. The indoor provides its own perks from the outside including air conditioning, but also situational drills just seem to feel a little more real when every sound is magnified and players are all watching the action on the field.

-It’s something that was noticeable Tuesday, too, but the defense seems to be forcing shorter routes and/or checkdown options from the offense. Though there aren’t pads, plays are blown dead when there most likely would have been a sack. The pressure may be simulated, but the quarterbacks feel it and are having to get rid of the ball quicker as a result.

-Tight end O.J. Howard can catch underneath, O.J. can catch and then use his feet. O.J. Howard catches here, O.J. Howard catches there. O.J. Howard catches everywhere. Howard looks back to his incredible pass catching self after having to cut his season short last year due to injury. The offense used him all over the field Wednesday. He made a couple great catches in situational drills where the Bucs needed to move down the field quickly. He was a reliable target to get chunk yardage when it mattered and looks poised to continue to be that guy as the season approaches.

-Rookie wide receiver Scotty Miller did a good job finishing plays Wednesday. He made a diving catch just outside the numbers and upon realizing he hadn’t been called down, he immediately popped back up to get some extra yardage. That awareness is important for receivers to master and Miller looks to be on his way in just his first few practices.

-Running back Ronald Jones had a one-handed catch in a red zone situation for a touchdown. There has been a lot of buzz around RoJo recently, and rightfully so. You can see the contrast in his demeanor and comfortability even without pads in practice from his rookie season. However, it’s still without pads. Running backs are hard to evaluate at this point in the year. Offensive linemen can’t block for them. Defenses can’t tackle them.  

-Rookie linebacker Devin White was going up and down the sideline at one point saying, “Bucs win! Bucs win! Better get used to hearing that,” towards the end of practice. I can’t tell you how much I like these guys’ swagger going into the season.

THE BEST THING I SAW:

Wide receiver Chris Godwin made catches all day but he had a great catch on an out-route in a situation where the Bucs needed a field goal to win the game with just over a minute left and no timeouts. Godwin was able to gain outside leverage on the defender, make the long catch and get out of bounds in order to get another play off for the offense. It may have been a little routine looking after some of the splash plays we’ve seen so far, but the execution was on point and its translation into a game situation was obvious that it warrants a best play.

View the best photos from the eighth day of Bucs OTAs.

Thursday

-O.J. Howard had a great, toe-drag diving catch on the sideline after not giving up on a play. The team was in the red zone and as the quarterback was ‘flushed’ out of the pocket and forced to scramble, Howard was able to cut and juke his way to some separation to make the grab. If a guy his size has that skill set, good luck to any defender trying to get in his way.

-After two days with two great reads to make a couple pass breakups, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves finally nabbed himself an interception as he jumped a route in the back middle of the end zone to prevent a touchdown.

-I didn’t see wide receiver Chris Godwin drop a pass. That’s all.

-Speaking of Godwin, quarterback Jameis Winston threaded the needle perfectly in the red zone to connect with Godwin, who wasn’t his first read. Winston threw the ball into the perfect window as three defenders went to close in around Godwin. It was a great throw and great catch that has now become a routine occurrence to Godwin.

-Two young receivers that earned some praise from their coaches today were second-year guy Justin Watson and newcomer Anthony Johnson. Watson ran a great route to the outside and turned his head around at the exact right moment to locate the ball and make the catch in the front corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Wide receivers coach gave Watson a slap on the helmet and told him what a good route it was.

Johnson earned praise from Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich on a similar corner route for a touchdown. Before the ball was even in the air, you could hear Leftwich yelling out, ‘GOOD ROUTE, AJ’ and after Johnson hauled in the catch his receivers all crowded around him in celebration.

-Outside linebacker Carl Nassib has turned into a pretty vocal leader for his unit. He’s regularly hyping up his teammates, trash talking the offense and today, in a third-down situation with eight yards to go for the offense, Nassib yelled out in the defensive huddle, ‘Let’s go! Third-and-eight, we’re getting off the field!’

…Ok, that may have included a couple more expletives than I typed but you get it. The energy is there and it’s awesome.

-Rookie linebacker Devin White already has celebrations with the cornerbacks. He’s another one who is constantly talking to the defense as a whole and on Thursday after cornerback M.J. Stewart jumped in front of a pass, White was the first over there with a subtle but personalized celebration.

-Both kickers, Cairo Santos and Matt Gay, hit from a long of 53 yards today.

-One thing that’s been very clear about Head Coach Bruce Arians even to the media is how he is always himself. It doesn’t matter the situation, BA is BA. Well, that goes for when he’s coaching, too. Arians doesn’t just coach his players, providing tough love in a pretty colorful way, his coaches get it, too. He’s said many times before his job is to coach coaches, too, and he means it. No one is safe.

THE BEST THING I SAW:

Running back Peyton Barber not only ran a great route on a short screen to catch the ball, but how fluid and natural he looked when weaving through the defenders was a sight to behold. He side-stepped a linebacker on his way to cutting back inside on a defensive back and even if tackling was allowed, I doubt anyone would have been able to bring him down before the first down marker if not further.

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