Day-17 of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp could be described best with two words, hot and uneventful. Two days removed from their second preseason game, it was no surprise to the team’s head coach.
“It was a little choppy today,” Dirk Koetter said about Monday’s practice. “Traditionally my experience is, you get back 3 O’clock in the morning after that second preseason game, after Sunday off, that first practice back, it’s not an excuse, you don’t want it to be that way, it was probably typical of that.
Everything we’re doing is affected by that. Everything at practice is affected by that, and all four preseason games are affected by that.”
While it’s to be expected a couple days after a game, the team will have to pick it up Tuesday as they continue to get prepared for the third and most important preseason game Friday night at Raymond James Stadium against the Detroit Lions.
Rookie receiver Justin Watson who had a much better performance Saturday night than he did in Miami, spoke after practice about scoring his first NFL touchdown, and the fact that it came in a preseason game didn’t seem to diminish the accomplishment at all for the fifth-round pick.
“It was awesome,” Watson said with a big smile on his face. “You’re excited whether you catch a touchdown in practice, or if it’s preseason or anywhere. It was cool to see the response. A lot of people reaching out on social media, and a lot of my Penn family really excited to see one of their guys succeeding in the NFL.”
Like a seasoned vet, Watson knew to share the praise with his quarterback Jameis Winston who shined with 226 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
“It was third down and 19 seconds on the clock, so we knew we had either to get a touchdown or get out of bounds,” Watson said. “We got in the huddle and he called go routes on the outside, so I knew my route was going to be live and he was going to be looking. We got a cloud look, and that’s a tough throw for any quarterback putting it in the hole against cover two, but it was an unbelievable ball. I just tried to go up and make a play on it.”
Watson is trying to make the team at what is the deepest position on the team, but he’s also trying to take advantage of playing with a couple of the league’s better receivers.
“A lot,” Watson said when asked how much he’s learned playing with receivers like Desean Jackson and Mike Evans. “The number of snaps those guys have taken in NFL games is unbelievable, so they’ve seen just about everything. Both of them have been in this offense before. In the film room they’ve done a great job of coaching us rookies up. Mike and I are pretty similar receivers as far as liking to use our size, so he’s helping me out tiring to play bigger.”
Watson might be battling a handful of guys for just a spot or two behind Evans, Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries, but he says the competition is helping keep all of them driven.
“I think that competition is what’s driving all of us to keep our focus,” Watson said. “We’ve got a deep receiving room. We’ve got those top four guys who are unbelievable, and then our next couple are really talented too. We’re just pushing each other in practice, we’re a tight nit group.”
Watson’s teammates weren’t the only ones pushing him at Monday’s practice, as he heard about one mistake late in practice loud and clear when one of his coaches laid into him pretty good.
“It was just a communication thing,” said Watson. “That’s going to be really big for us. We do a lot of checks at the line, and we got a deep receiving group so we’re going to be subbing in and out, so communication is going to be huge for us.”
Watson will certainly have to play well Friday night, and likely in the fourth preseason game to find his way onto the roster, but the Buccaneers didn’t spend a fifth-round pick on a position with so much depth unless they saw something in the young man they really like. In the end, it might end up being Watson’s size and upside that land him on the roster if he makes the cut.
The Bucs are back at work Tuesday, with their final public practice coming on Wednesday.