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Updates from Week 4
Tom Brady returned to practice this week after his planned two-week absence. He played against the Colts in the preseason finale, completing passes to multiple receivers and looked like the absence had zero impact on his game. Blaine Gabbert is locked in as the backup. The bigger question is whether Kyle Trask will make the team. Gabbert hopes to compete for a starting role next year in Tampa Bay or elsewhere. Mike Evans praised Gabbert’s leadership as a teacher to younger receivers. The Buccaneers staff is saying all the right things about Trask’s long-term potential and effort as a student of the game. Head Coach Todd Bowles felt Trask displayed good command of the offense.
Although not the quarterback position, offensive line play is a vital part of the passing game. Robert Hainsey is projected to start in place of Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen who will miss significant time with a knee injury. However, Hainsey injured his left ankle against the Colts in the preseason finale. He walked off the field with a noticeable limp but was able to put significant weight on the ankle while walking the sidelines during the game. Aaron Wilson reports that Hainey’s X-rays revealed a short-term injury. Nick Leverett, who has been competing for starting spots at center and guard earlier in the summer, suffered an injury to his AC joint during the preseason finale. It’s considered to be a manageable issue.
With multiple injuries to the unit, how the Buccaneers handle Jenson’s absence will factor into the overall construction of the roster, according to Pewter Reports’ Scott Reynolds. A short-term IR designation would make Jensen eligible to return after four weeks, but he won’t be ready anywhere close to a month from now. However, if the team wants to leave the door open for Jensen to return in December, they can’t place him on injured reserve prior to final roster cuts without losing Jensen for the year. How they manage this factors into the offensive line and other units like the running backs. See below.
Ke'Shawn Vaughn wrapped up the preseason with another good performance and earned praise for showing facets of the game the staff hadn’t seen before. “I thought he had a good night,” said Bowles. "I thought he hit the holes well, I thought he had some positive yards. He's tough. He did some things he hasn't been able to do in the past from just seeing him, from that standpoint – cutback runs. And he showed a lot of toughness. I'm very pleased with the way he played."
The injuries to the offensive line may force Tampa to consider cutting veteran Giovani Bernard. According to Reynolds, if the Buccaneers cut Bernard, it will be to get Jensen on short-term IR and then re-sign Bernard a day later. If they don’t do this, they’ll roll with three back and add a fourth to the practice squad.
The Buccaneers aren’t making any predictions about Chris Godwin’s availability for the season opener after rehabbing a torn ACL during the offseason. Godwin began participating in team drills a week ago, and Bowles says Godwin is running a lot. Despite not being cleared for full contact in practice, Cyril Grayson told the media, "I think Chris is going to surprise people. I think he’s going to be back sooner than everybody thinks.” The Buccaneers waived Grayson on Thursday after he suffered an injury and reached a settlement with the team. Bowles says Russell Gage is making progress with his hamstring injury. While what he said could be read as optimism that Gage will be ready for the opener, Bowles didn’t make any definitive statements about Gage’s readiness.
Scott Miller had a strong camp but made mistakes in consecutive preseason games, including a pair of drops on vertical shots. The first drop was a difficult catch, but he dropped a perfect target from Gabbert this week. He also missed a block on a running play that stuffed Vaughn in the backfield.
Reynolds believes the Buccaneers will keep four tight ends. Cameron Brate is the projected starter and seam stretcher. Kyle Rudolph is the second option in two-tight end sets and a solid red-zone threat. Cade Otton could push for more playing time as the season unfolds. Ko Kieft has proven worthwhile as an in-line blocker and versatile enough to do quality work as a fullback. Bucsreport.com’s Jeremy Morrow predicts Otton will eventually become a plus starter, noting a fast-developing trust that Otton was earning with Brady before Brady’s departure.
Jose Borregales missed a 52-yard kick, his second of the preseason, which basically sealed his fate as the loser of the kicker competition to Ryan Succop. The Buccaneers had hoped Borregales could match Succop in consistency and give the team a boost in field goal range. They could revisit Borregales as an option if Succop falters, assuming Borregales doesn’t catch on elsewhere.
Tampa Bay signed veteran journeyman linebacker Genard Avery. Formerly a fifth-round draft pick of the Browns and two-year veteran with the Eagles, Avery is known for his pass-rushing skills. Pewter report’s J.C. Allen expects Avery to compete for a role on special teams. Bowles told the media that safety Keanu Neal, who will be a part of three-safety packages, will be ready for the season opener after missing time with an arm injury.
The Buccaneers have a deep receiving corps, but his experience as the team’s primary punt and kickoff returner will likely give Jaelon Darden an edge to make the final roster.
Updates from Week 3
Tom Brady has returned to practice after a planned two-week absence. The biggest news impacting the Buccaneers’ quarterbacks during Brady’s absence happened along the offensive line. Guard Aaron Stinnie suffered a torn ACL and MCL during the preseason game against the Titans. Stinnie was competing for the starting spot at left guard as part of a three-way battle with Nick Leverett and rookie Luke Goedeke and was considered the default starter before the injury. Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds says the offensive line is “woefully thin at guard.” All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs suffered an oblique strain this week and he sat out the Titans’ game. Although considered day-to-day, Reynolds broached the possibility that Wirfs would miss the season opener because the injury “can be tricky” to rehab. Blaine Gabbert has nailed down the backup role thanks in part to his safe decision-making in contrast to Kyle Trask having difficulty avoiding turnovers.
Ke'Shawn Vaughn continues to perform well in camp and during the preseason. Reynolds noted that Vaughn looked like the best player on offense against the Titans on Saturday. Rachaad White remains fourth on the depth chart, but his reps increased this week during practice. His up-and-down performance is commensurate with a rookie, following up big plays with errors. This included a fumble lost at the end of an impressive 16-yard catch and run against the Titans. Tampa added former Dolphins reserve Patrick Laird to the depth chart early this week after losing Kenjon Barner to an ankle injury.
With the Buccaneers resting or being cautious with its veteran quartet of starters, the focus of camp has been on the back half of the receiver depth chart. Scotty Miller continues to perform well, according to Scott Smith. Miller has been a daily standout during practices. After dropping a difficult vertical target against the Titans, he followed up with a big play. After being a standout on offense throughout camp, Jaelon Darden made a questionable decision to return a kickoff that landed four yards deep in the endzone. His lack of productivity and decision-making as a return specialist was an issue with his game as a rookie. Rookies Jerreth Stern, Devein Thompkins, and Kaylon Geiger continue to deliver strong play during camps and games, but the depth chart in Tampa might be the strongest in the league. Thompkins arguably shined the brightest during joint practices against the Titans, displaying “rare vertical leaping ability and physicality at the catch point.” Their performances have helped them outlast veteran Vyncint Smith, whom the team released on Sunday.
Kyle Rudolph earned every first-team snap against the Titans, starting ahead of rookie Cade Otton while Cameron Brate sat out the game. Bucsreport.com’s Jeremy Morrow predicts Otton will eventually become a plus starter, noting a fast-developing trust that Otton was earning with Brady prior to Brady’s departure.
Ryan Succop made his only field goal attempt in the loss to the Titans, but it was a big one from 52 yards, which was longer than any kick he made in 2021 or 2020. Jose Borregales has the better leg strength, but that made kick should reassure the Bucs if they decide to go with the veteran, which it looks like they will at this point.
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is translating the pressure he’s generating in camp to his preseason work. Tryon-Shoyinka’s work set up one of Tampa’s four sacks against the Titans and he generated a tackle for a loss. Reynolds notes that if not for Malik Willis’ uncommon mobility, the defense would have had at least three more sacks than the four it recorded. Inside linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi earned two of those sacks in addition to two quarterback hits, two tackles for a loss, and deliver consistent pressure on Willis. He also performed well against the run. It’s the game that will likely earn the undrafted rookie an active roster spot. Head coach Todd Bowles praised rookie defensive tackle Logan Hall’s “outstanding” pass rushing skills while delivering a balanced assessment of Hall’s learning curve. Teammate Will Gholston predicts Hall will earn at least six sacks this year.
Elite center Ryan Jensen was likely lost for the year with a knee injury early in camp practices. Jensen is a dominator, and his loss hurts this team's grade. The team used a third-round pick on Robert Hainsey (Notre Dame) last year. Hainsey has stepped up and played well. The staff wanted this year's second-round pick Luke Goedeke (Central Michigan), to challenge Aaron Stinnie at left guard, but that competition is over after Stinnie's injury. Goedeke will have to play. In other news, right tackle Tristan Wirfs suffered an oblique injury, but he should start opening day. The Bucs' have an excellent group, despite losing Jensen and Stinnie.
Updates from Week 2
Perhaps the most curious news of the preseason is Tom Brady taking 10 days off practice to deal with personal things. TampaBay.com’s Rick Stroud notes that Brady missed or was excused for three of the past six practices prior to the extended break. Head coach Todd Bowles told the media that Brady’s absence was a planned event “well before” training camp and that Brady will only play in the preseason finale. While a curious development, Tom Brady has been as sharp as ever, earning praise for his arm strength from long-time quarterback coach Clyde Christensen two weeks ago. Brady took a lot of reps early in training camp as an attempt to compensate for his absence. Pewter Report’s Bailey Adams notes that Blaine Gabbert “has a firm grasp” on the No. 2 spot, making the easy throws and limiting turnovers. While Bowles praises Kyle Trask’s decisiveness, Adams says, “a few bad practices in a row seemed to send the young quarterback spiraling.”
Leonard Fournette earned some time off this week. There’s a spirited competition behind Fournette. Ke'Shawn Vaughn has the early lead as the No. 2 back on the first unofficial depth chart this week. Buccaneers.com’s Briana Dix says Vaughn “has reached another gear in the open field throughout training camp, forcing missed tackles.” Adams believes Vaughn has improved his pass-catching, but J.C. Allen notes that Vaughn’s pass protection remains a work in progress. Allen says Giovani Bernard is the best passing-down back on the roster and is still an explosive player. Adams adds that Bernard is having a great camp and pass protection will be the deciding factor between the two runners. Rachaad White is currently fourth on the depth chart. Although the coaching staff and personnel department have praised White for his mental preparation, he’s still learning the playbook. Allen says it’s a competitive position room and expects changes to the depth chart between now and September.
The Bucs continue taking a cautious approach with Chris Godwin, keeping him out of team drills and waiting for the training staff to give head coach Todd Bowles the green light. Hamstrings are the headline for the Buc’s starters during the past 10 days. Russell Gage exited a joint practice with the Dolphins on Wednesday with a hamstring injury during 1-on-1 drills and is day-to-day. Mike Evans suffered a hamstring strain last Friday. Reynolds notes that hamstring woes have been an annual camp event for Evans and expects the Buccaneers to remain cautious with Julio Jones, who also has a history of hamstring injuries. The team has already given Jones several veteran rest days in camp. Reynolds doesn’t expect Jones to see more than a few series during the second preseason game, saving the veteran for the regular season. Still, Dix reports, "Jones has showcased elite speed, physicality, leaping ability, and catch radius that put him atop the position hierarchy in the league.” Jones beat Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard multiple times during 1-on-1 drills during joint practices with the Dolphins this week. Adams notes that Jaelon Darden continued to be a standout this week, especially during 11-on-11s. He’s currently seventh on the unofficial depth chart behind Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson. Allen says Miller has been exceptional in camp, “stacking strong practices and showing off his versatility.” This includes improved production over the middle. Johnson looked shifty over the middle while leading the team in receiving during the preseason opener. Dix reports that Johnson has been an acrobatic presence throughout training camp. Rookie UDFA Deven Thompkins is an undersized and explosive option with special teams experience who caught the eye of Bowles. Fellow UDFA Jerreth Sterns made some big catches during the preseason opener.
Offensive line coach Joe Gilbert praised rookie standout Cade Otton for his blocking. “Surprisingly, I think we’ve all been really shocked he’s holding the point of attack as far as the run game and as projection goes,” Gilbert said. Bowles echoed Gilbert’s thoughts, noting that Otton is often at the right place at the right time. “He’s always in the right place, he has great hands, he understands how to play the game. I think that a lot of young players don’t have that. He has that coming in, so that’s going to benefit him going forward. Obviously, schematically he’s got to get that down. He’ll probably get a little stronger in the weight room. He hasn’t been healthy long enough to really be in the true [conditioning] program. As the program goes along, I expect him to help us.” Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds says the Bucs are “pleasantly surprised with the rapid development” of Otton and believes the depth chart is good enough to not to abandon its two-tight end sets.
Ryan Succop didn’t kick in the preseason opener, but he was having a great camp, not missing until August 6. Jose Borregales, who was also doing well in camp by all accounts, got the chance to attempt a field goal from 55 yards - longer than any field goal Succop made last year - and converted with a kick that would have been good from 60. Borregales made a 49-yard kick that would have won the game with three seconds left, but the Dolphins called timeout, and Borregales missed the second attempt. The team would save about one million in cap room if Borregales can win the competition - and have the chance to attempt longer field goals - but would lose Succop’s reliability on shorter kicks.
Last week, Reynolds mentioned that Logan Ryan’s presence allows Bowles to be more creative on defense. Pewter Report’s Adam Slivon noted that the Bucs have been experimenting with several new defensive alignments during practice. The defense has placed Antoine Winfield Jr in the nickel back role, Ryan at free safety, and Keanu Neal in the box. Former Bears standout Akeim Hicks has also added versatility to the defensive line, making the unit hard to handle with one-on-one assignments. The double teams give linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David more room to roam. “I know that I can make a lot of plays in the backfield having great guys like those two and the rest of the guys we got,” White said.
Jaelon Darden fielded returns for the Buccaneers last season but suddenly finds himself in one of the deepest receiving corps just fighting for a roster spot. Head coach Todd Bowles is a fan of Darden, saying, "His approach all offseason has been outstanding. He works hard, he keeps his head down, and he plays ball."
Updates from Week 1
As we’ve come to expect, Tom Brady is as sharp as ever. He’s spreading the ball around, making aggressive and accurate throws, and picking his spots to demand excellence from his offense with vocal leadership during practice. According to NBC Sports’ Peter King, long-time quarterback coach Clyde Christensen, who worked with several top quarterbacks for decades, told GM Jason Licht, “You’re not going to believe this. Brady’s arm is better than I’ve ever seen it.” Brady and multiple veterans earned days off on Wednesday. Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask earned more reps with starters. While Gabbert managed the offense effectively, Trask threw multiple red-zone interception. Pewter Report’s Matt Matera noted that Trask wasn’t reading the field well. Even so, Matera reports that Todd Bowles saw silver linings from Trask’s session, including a better understanding of the offense and greater confidence.
Leonard Fournette arrived at camp in “game shape” after weighing close to 260 pounds this spring. He had a notable blitz pickup against Lavonte Davis on Tuesday and has been effective as a pass receiver. Pewter Reports’ Scott Reynolds expects Fournette to remain the Buccaneer’s three-down feature back and Giovani Bernard enters camp initially with the inside track for the No. 2 spot. The coaching staff and personnel department praised rookie Rachaad White for his mental preparation during the first week of camp. “He’s got a very mature approach, reminds me of [Chris] Godwin when he came in as a rookie…”
Tampa Bay is easing Chris Godwin back into practice. He wore a knee brace during practices, and most of his targets were short slants. He won’t be participating in 11-on-11s or team drills in the immediate future. Brady repeatedly connected with Mike Evans early in the week on plays big and small before Evans exited Friday’s practice with a tweaked hamstring. In terms of the present versus the past, cornerback Carlton Davis doesn’t see much of a difference from Julio Jones. “Still a freak, huge, looks like a tight end, runs like Scotty [Miller], and stops on a dime like Jaelon Darden, so it’s like the whole package.” Jones told Reynolds and other reporters during his initial press conference that opposing defenses will have to play zone coverage and use light run boxes against the Buccaneers’ offense due to his presence. “It will allow Byron Leftwich and Brady to know what’s coming on a weekly basis so they can game plan for it. When teams eventually decide to mix in the blitz and switch to man coverage, all the better for Tampa Bay’s offense.” Davis also praised Russell Gage as an underrated problem for opposing defenses to game plan against due to Gage’s releases, shiftiness, and competitive nature. Reynolds notes that Gage has been hard to cover because he doesn’t draw the opponent’s top defender. Bowles praised two players who’ve stood out this week, safety Logan Ryan and Darden, who did a lot of notable work during practices. Darden made a nice play against tight coverage on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he beat Davis twice. This week, he also displayed toughness as a blocker, opening a lane for Ke’Shawn Vaughn on a screen pass. Darden’s understanding of the playbook is the difference between the buzz last year and this. Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, and Breshad Perriman compete for the depth chart's final spots. Miller stood out early, earning multiple vertical targets from Brady in 11-on-11s, including a tough catch between defenders. Known for his speed, Miller added 10-15 pounds of muscle and claims he’s as fast as ever. Mike Evans praised Johnson for his conditioning, and Johnson made multiple big plays downfield and in the end zone during Tuesday’s practice session with leaping receptions. Perriman got hurt at the end of Monday’s practice and missed Tuesday’s session. Rookie Jerreth Sterns, a camp hopeful, made multiple acrobatic grabs in 11-on-11 sessions against the backups.
Reynolds believes Cam Brate is the best tight end in camp so far. Reynolds noted that Kyle Rudolph lost a step, but his blocking will be an asset. Rookie Cade Otton might be a little faster than Brate and caught the ball well. He had three touchdowns during the weekend’s practice. The Buccaneers think Otton will prove to be a late-round steal. Fellow rookie Ko Kieft earned praise from Otton for his physicality, hands, and intelligence.
Rookie cornerback Zyon McCollum is an athletic freak who lit up the NFL Combine. In training camp, Bowles praised McCollum’s intelligence, athletic ability, and speed despite the ups and downs of the rookie’s acclimation to the NFL. McCollum had some nice pass breakups later in the week and a touchdown-saving run-down of Bernard in the open field. Second-year end Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is having a great camp and showing off the ability to generate a pass rush from either side of the formation, according to Reynolds. Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett is also proving to be stellar against the run. Vita Vea is overpowering the young offensive lineman throughout the first week, generating pressure that would likely have led to sacks. As mentioned earlier, Ryan earned Bowles' praise because, according to Reynolds, Ryan’s presence allows Bowles to be more creative on defense. This will mean more exotic alignments that force offensive coordinators to make more in-game adjustments they can’t game plan for in advance.