Training Camp Report: Slimmer Jameis Winston a better Jameis Winston?
TAMPA, Fla. – The PFF training camp tour overcame its biggest drive so far yesterday, rolling nine hours down the road from Spartanburg, S.C., into Tampa to take in Bucs practice on Tuesday morning. The weather forecast called for thunderstorms starting before 10 a.m., so practice was moved forward 30 minutes, to 8:15 a.m., and it was almost as if everybody was still running on the old schedule. The entire team seemed to take half an hour to shake the cobwebs off, and the opening portion of the session was very sloppy overall. By the end, though, we had seen some good football from a team that looks ready to see another color jersey and start hitting for real.
Slimmed-down Jameis Winston primed for huge year two?
One of the first things you notice watching practice from any distance away is how noticeably slim Jameis Winston looks compared to last season. We hear every year about a player adding or dropping 15 pounds, but Winston has lost a lot of weight, and looks dramatically more athletic in appearance because of it.
He started off slowly, missing on several routine throws in warm-ups to his receivers with no defensive backs in the drills, but by the latter portions of the session, he had caught fire, and in red-zone drills, almost every pass was a touchdown, until one poor decision led to an interception. The sluggish start was far from pretty, but it was a team-wide issue, and when he did get in a groove, he looked excellent.
Almost all of his negative grades last year came from two disastrous games, but he graded well for the rest of his rookie campaign. His ceiling looks to be incredibly high, and the new, slimmed-down Winston could be primed for a huge year.
Mike Glennon, by contrast, struggled all day, throwing some poor passes, being intercepted on the first pass he attempted in the two-minute drill, and maybe answering why he hasn’t been traded for by some QB-needy team already. Ryan Griffin, the team’s No. 3 QB, did a little better in the same drill, marching the team into field-goal range, but then a pass slightly behind his intended receiver on a quick out route was bobbled and picked off.
First-rounder Vernon Hargreaves standing out
The Bucs made a big splash in the draft by taking two players that many would have seen as first-round talents in Vernon Hargreaves (Florida) in round one, and Noah Spence (Eastern Kentucky) in round two. Neither player was working with the first-team defense in this practice, but from what we saw out on the field, it won’t be long before Hargreaves, at least, makes the jump.
The former Gator looked incredibly quick in his movements, able to mirror receivers with ease and react to moves without thinking about it. He dropped an interception in the end zone during goal-line drills, which should have been taken back to the house, but he was in excellent position the whole way and, most importantly, was making sure that his man never had a shot to catch the ball.
Spence looked less impressive and surprisingly slight compared with the rest of the D-line. He was easily handled at the point of attack when the team ran his way, and though he did beat Donovan Smith quickly on one play, he looked far less ready to step in and play with the first team than Hargreaves, perhaps backing up the slide he had in the draft in the eyes of those that saw him as a first-round talent.
Mike Evans ready to improve on up-and-down 2015 campaign
With Vincent Jackson not practicing, Mike Evans was left to lead the receiving corps, and did so by example, taking the first rep of every drill. He was visibly more impressive than the rest of this group, which doesn’t count a single rookie among their number, a real rarity for this time of year in today’s NFL. Evans made a spectacular one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone on a fade route, and showed up in team drills, too.
At one point, he won a contested catch on a hitch route against Brent Grimes (Dolphins), and when Grimes forced his hand between those of Evans’ to dislodge the ball, Evans simply adjusted to one hand and held it away from Grimes to complete the catch. Winston is going to need a No. 1 WR to be the best QB he can be, and Evans looks well able to be that guy.
Other camp notes
– Rookie K Roberto Aguayo (Florida State) missed the longest kick he attempted in Tuesday’s brief field-goal drills. It was tough to get an accurate range from where we were watching, but it looked to be around a 45-yarder. Given the circumstances around his draft pick, he needs to be nearly perfect to avoid an unreasonable level of pressure on his shoulders. Misses from that range won’t help.
– This practice featured more deep passes than pretty much any other we’ve taken in so far, and Winston hit on a few very nice ones, including a perfectly-weighted ball to WR Evan Spencer for a touchdown.
– The Bucs’ defense was in nickel almost every single snap during the day. Brent Grimes, Alterraun Verner and Jude Adjei-Barimah were the first-team cornerbacks in nickel, while Hargreaves was playing in the slot when the second team went to nickel.
– Winston and RB Doug Martin worked their way down an 80-yard-long line of autograph seekers after practice, signing more and spending more time doing it than pretty much anybody we have seen this tour. Mike Evans also made a point of making sure a child wearing No. 13 got an autograph on his t-shirt before he was whisked away by the team. Kudos for the Bucs who had that part of things nailed.
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) August 9, 2016