Bucs Training Camp Report: Day-16

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got back to practice Tuesday after a Monday off as the team kicked off its final week of training camp, and its first week of any kind of game planning as the Bucs host the Cleveland Browns Saturday night in their home preseason opener. The third preseason game is always used to see where a team is as their starters will usually go for three quarters, as Dirk Koetter has suggested they will Saturday night.

Sunday the team ended practice with gassers which some took to mean Koetter was unhappy with this team’s effort for the morning, but today the Bucs head coach left no question about how he may have felt about the day’s practice.

“The tempo was good,” Koetter said. “I thought they fought through. That’s what you’re going to get at this time of training camp. We’ve got two days left of real training camp before we play Cleveland, and then next week we’re going to make it more like a normal week with a Thursday night game going into the Redskins. I was pretty pleased with today.”

While some often call the third preseason game a “dress rehearsal,” Koetter likes to say that’s not what he considers the game, and Tuesday he spoke about what he’s hoping to get from his team when they take the field at Raymond James Stadium for the first time in 2017.

“Just improvement across the board,” the Bucs head coach said about what he needs to see from his players on Saturday night. Continuing to build towards September 10th. We’re making progress as a football team. You’ve got guys on all different levels. You’ve got some guys ahead, some guys behind, some guys still learning, and some guys polishing. That’s what preseason is.”

One position that seemed to be more of an open competition before the offseason than it does today is at safety where returning veterans Chris Conte and Keith Tandy who have all but solidified their starting roles.

“Really good,” Koetter told 620 WDAE when asked about Conte’s play. “Really good. I couldn’t be happier with the work Conte and Tandy have put in with the first safety group. Both those guys are confident and doing a lot of good communication in the back end. They’re tackling was good in the preseason games; really happy with those two guys.”  

Koetter is so happy with the play of his likely starters at safety that he went on to say that he’s also happy with Justin Evans and J.J. Wilcox behind them.

“They’re working with the first group,” Koetter told 620 WDAE about Conte and Tandy. “J.J. and Evans are working to catch up.  They missed all of OTAs, so they were already down in experience in Smitty’s system. Now they’ve just been working to catch up. We’re happy with those guys too, but there’s only going to be two starters at safety. Right now, it would be those two.” (Conte and Tandy)

The Buccaneers head coach isn’t only happy with this depth at safety, as he’s been singing the praises of rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith during much of camp, and today it was back up linebacker Adarius Glanton being praised by Koetter.

“Not just in the Jacksonville game, but Adarius did everything he’s ever been asked,” Koetter replied when asked about Glanton’s play Thursday night in Cleveland.  “Last year when he got in a game, he made plays. He was a stalwart on special teams. He made plays. That’s what back up players do. They make plays when they get their opportunities, and eventually they may get a chance to move into the starting lineup, and he’s a good example of that.”

Beckwith spoke with reporters after practice Tuesday as well, and expressed how grateful he is just to be back on a football field.

“I’m just happy to be back,” Beckwith said. “It was a long wait – a lot of down time, and I just hope and pray I can stay healthy. It was tough not playing this game. It was definitely tough.”  

For Beckwith, the return to football isn’t only about getting back on the football field, but also about learning multiple positions at the pro level as he’s taking snaps at strong side linebacker and middle linebacker. Tuesday Beckwith said while it’s a lot, he’s taking it all in stride.

“It’s a lot, but I don’t really think about it,” the Bucs rookie linebacker said. “I just go out and try to attack the day. I just try to go as fast as I can. If I mess up, I’m definitely going to definitely try to mess up going 100 miles-per-hour.  I just try to do a good job of studying. There’s nothing to it but to do it.”

Things weren’t always going so well for Beckwith. Koetter explained early in camp how uncomfortable and rusty Beckwith looked during the two rookie-only days at camp, but days later when on to talk about how his rookie backer might be the most improved player in camp. Tuesday Beckwith spoke about his growing comfort in the Bucs defense, and how it took him a couple of days to knock the rust off.

I’m a lot more comfortable,” Beckwith told 620 WDAE. “Each week I feel like I get better and better. I’m a whole lot more comfortable now than I was then. The first couple of days of rookie camp, I hadn’t played football in a while. I just had to get readjusted to everything and catch up to speed a little bit. Once I got rolling, I got rolling, and I feel real good now.”

One of the things that’s helped Beckwith get comfortable quickly is playing alongside fellow former LSU Tiger Kwon Alexander, but Tuesday Beckwith explained that the entire linebacker room is full of guys trying to make each other better.

“It’s been a huge help,” Beckwith told 620 WDAE about the benefit of having Alexander on the team. “Kwon helps me out a lot. Lavonte helps me out a lot. Even the other guys help me out a lot. I can always turn to them and ask them questions if need be. I just love that about our room. We’re all pretty helpful. None of us guys are selfish at all.”

Alexander missed practice with a tight hamstring, and could give Beckwith and Glanton even more opportunities if he missed Saturday night’s game. Given how touchy hamstrings are, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kwon held out of action.

The Bucs offensive line played musical chairs today as J.R. Sweezy was given a veteran day, and Demar Dotson remained out with a groin injury. Today Kevin Pamphile kicked over to right tackle to replace Dotson, Joe Hawley played next to him at right guard, and Evan Smith slid in at left guard to replace Pamphile. Right now it still looks likely that the Bucs starting five will line up where they’re projected to on September 10th, but it will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

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