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TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers agreed on their first mandatory minicamp under new head coach Todd Bowles on Thursday. It was the first time all veterans and newcomers took the field together this offseason before a six-week break ahead of training camp.
And while quarterback Tom Brady may have launched a clothing line, signed a lucrative TV deal, starred in two films and gone through a 40-day retirement this offseason, he showed no signs of rusting. The ball placement was there, the branded footwork was excellent and he was in great physical shape. At one point, Brady was not happy with the pace of training and shouted, “Come on, guys. We’re not having all day!”
“We have scheduled training for two hours and we’ll be out in an hour and 30 minutes. … That’s a lot to talk about,” left tackle Donovan Smith said of Brady, who pushed the pace. “It will do nothing but make us better.”
Brady was solid, even with some players on the attack missing, despite being picked from twice during the three-day training session – first on a pass over the middle that went into the hands of safety Mike Edwards and then on a route , where Jamel Dean jumped on to catch a pass intended for Tyler Johnson.
“He continued where he left off,” Bowles said of Brady. “He saw things on the first day. The second day he was sharp as a sharp, and [Thursday] he was sharp. So you can not say enough good things about him – his work ethic and what he brings to the team. “
With wide receiver Chris Godwin recovering from knee surgery, the Bucs will expect newcomer Russell Gage, who came over from the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, to step into No. 2 as the receiving role behind Mike Evans. While Gage received passes from Brady when he warmed up, he did not attend any team periods.
“He’s going to have a great year,” Brady said of Gage. “It’s a very important role for an offensive player who throws the ball as much as we do. … Russ, when he’s out there, there’s a lot of work to go into the next six weeks to be ready. We’re challenged right out of the box this year. We have really good teams [on our schedule]. “
When Gage sat out, Jaelon Darden and Johnson got a lot of looks along with Cyril Grayson and Breshad Perriman. Johnson’s inability to create consistent separation when he was pressured into action was a problem last season, something Bucs hopes Gage can help with.
As for Darden, the chemistry is not quite there with Brady – there were timing issues with the deep ball early in the minicamp, and that was also a problem last season – but it improved during the three days of minicamp, with Darden made a leaping grip behind the defense on day 2 during the 7-on-7s that drew lots of “Oooohs!” He made another leaping grip shortly after in the two-minute long exercise.
Grayson also had a nice catch-and-run from a Brady pass on Day 2 of the 7-on-7s. Grayson’s edge over the others – and that’s rare for a converted star who did not play a downturn in college football at LSU – is very physical unlike Johnson, who was pushed around last year.
As for Godwin, he has started running, but it is too early to say where he will be six weeks from now when the players sign up for training camp. Scotty Miller was also on the field but did not attend camp. The coaching staff feels that Miller disappeared last season because his foot injury lasted much longer than people were aware of.
When asked if there was an under-radar player who stood out, Bowles wide receiver Deven Thompkins, an exhausted free agent from Utah State, noticed. At 5-foot-8 and 167 pounds, he is undersized, but made an impression with his speed. I recorded a 4.35-second 40-yard line.
“I would love to see what Thompkins does in training camp,” Bowles said. “He’s fast, he’s fast, he’s explosive off the ball, and he’s made some good catches. So we want to see how he continues to learn and how he performs in training camp and preseason. I want to look at him. “
As for Brady’s safety blanket, free-agent tight-end Rob Gronkowski, the quarterback said he would not pressure him to return, saying it was “entirely up to him.” The two have gotten together for some throwing sessions this offseason. There are also members of the coaching staff and front office who are optimistic that he will return.
Right now, they have very little experience in a tight end outside of Cameron Brate. Codey McElroy has only one career catch, and he is joined by rookie Cade Otton, who is recovering from ankle surgery, and Ko Kieft.
Kieft was able to grab a couple of passes in the minicamp, and just as much as his blocking ability has been praised, he showed he has some consistent hands, even though he does not run by anyone with a 4.98-second time in the 40-yard line.