The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got back to practice Monday after a Sunday off, and while the offense and defense had solid days, the same could not be said for either of kickers who remain locked in a battle for a starting job Dirk Koetter would like a guy to go out and earn.
“Not too good. It’s one day on, one day off. Whatever they ate for breakfast today – off the menu, Koetter joked.”
There’s no reason it should have to go all the way to the 53,” Koetter said about his desire to find his kicker sooner than later. “If it does it does, but we don’t have to take it that long. We’re looking for a guy to win the job.”
While you might think Koetter would like to wait and see each kicker perform in all four preseason games, the Bucs head coach explained the team can’t really depend on games to determine the battle at kicker as the team could at another position.
“The problem is, in games we don’t have any control,” Koetter explained. “We might go four weeks and not have any kicks come up, so we’d like to make a decision sooner than later, but it’s hard right now.”
Whether the decision would be easy or hard, it’s one that Koetter seems to want to get behind him.
“It’s a simple process, OK. You’re a kicker in the NFL – inside 50-yards, you gotta make your kicks,” Koetter said. “I’m not being a hard ass or anything, that’s just what it is. That’s what it is in this league. They know it, I know it, everyone here knows it.”
When it comes to players Koetter isn’t frustrated with, cornerback Brent Grimes had another solid day of practice, and he really got his head coach’s attention when he broke up a pass between Jameis Winston and Desean Jackson.
“Brent Grimes is good every day,” Koetter said. “That play he made knocking that pass away on the deep one, that was a fantastic play. That’s just a good learning situation because DJAX had him beat and Jameis hasn’t had a guy who can run like that. If Jameis puts that out there another five yards that’s a touchdown. Brent Grimes was beat by a step and made a super-human effort to knock it away. That’s two of our best players – that’s what you’re talking about when you say compete in practice to make each other better. That’s making us better.”
Despite being in the league for a decade, Grimes continues to work every day at practice. With veterans like Grimes and Gerald McCoy (who was given a veteran day off) continuing to work hard late into their careers, it sets a tone for a young football team, and Koetter talked after practice about how important that is.
“It’s huge,” Koetter told 620 WDAE. “Your leaders set the tone and everyone else follows.”
One guy who should have a part in setting the tone for the Buccaneers defense is second-year defensive end Noah Spence. After a rookie season that saw him used primarily as a pass rush specialist, Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith says the team now views him as a four-down player.
“We think Noah’s got a chance to be a four-down player for us,” Smith said. “We don’t feel like he’s just going to be a designated pass rusher. We’re going to be a rotational group up there with the defensive line. We want to make sure we don’t play the guys as many snaps as we did last year. That was one of the things that we looked at. We felt like we gotta do a better job of rotating the defensive line, but Noah has progressed. He missed the offseason, but so far, thus far, through camp he’s done a really good job.”
While Spence may play on rushing downs, and proved to be a better run defender during his rookie camp than many expected, there’s no question his biggest asset will be his ability to get to the quarterback. When it comes to getting to the quarterback, Noah Spence and his teammates should be helped quite a bit by the presence of new Defensive Tackle Chris Baker.
I asked Smith how much Baker will help McCoy create a push on the inside, and the Bucs defensive coordinator lit up with a smile!
“It’s gonna be fun to watch those big men up front,” Smith told 620 WDAE. “They’re going to demand resources and if they do then we’re going to have second-level players that are going to be able to make plays closer to the line of scrimmage. That’s what the defense is designed to do.”
A season ago a lot of the talk about what the defense had to figure out was about communication, and today Smith said the team has come a long way when it comes to communicating on the field.
“I think we’re lightyears ahead than where we were last year,” Smith told 620 WDAE. “I think we’re even a pretty good amount ahead of where we were at the end of the season. That was one of the things I did a very poor job last year in the first four or five games is not really assessing what our guys didn’t know. Sometimes you look at it in what they know, you gotta really figure out what they don’t know and that allows you to maybe put a little tighter game plan together.”
The Bucs have two more practices before their first preseason game Friday night in Cincinnati and will be back on the field tomorrow morning at 8:45.