Bucs Training Camp Sleepers For 2022

Bucs WR Deven Thompkins – Photograph by Cliff Welch/PR

SR’s Fab 5 is a set of reporting and evaluation on the Bucs from yours really, Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds. Listed here are 4 issues that caught my consideration this week, plus some random tidbits in my Buc Photographs part on the finish. Get pleasure from!

FAB 1. Bucs Sleepers On Offense Heading Into Coaching Camp

With a Tremendous Bowl-ready roster, will probably be more durable than ever for newcomers or fringe expertise to crack the Bucs’ closing 53 this yr. Listed here are three underdogs on offense who might defy the chances and shock with an awesome coaching camp. Will anybody from this trio of Bucs do sufficient to win a roster spot or a spot on the observe squad? Or will the quantity of expertise that normal supervisor Jason Licht and head coach Todd Bowles have assembled be too nice to beat?

WR Deven Thompkins – Small Spark Plug May Ignite Particular Groups

When the pinnacle coach singles an undrafted free agent out and says he’s excited to see him in coaching camp, that’s not factor. It’s an awesome factor. Bucs head coach Todd Bowles talked about Thompkins when requested that query proper earlier than summer time break. Thompkins did have an electrifying offseason in the course of the rookie mini-camp, OTAs and the obligatory mini-camp. The Utah State product flashed his 4.35 pace and sticky arms in observe after observe and has turn into an actual sleeper to probably make the workforce.

Thompkins was one among 4 undrafted free agent receivers the Bucs signed in Might. He was the second-leading receiver in school soccer with 102 catches for 1,704 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Bucs additionally signed the main receiver in Western Kentucky’s Jerreth Sterns, who had 150 catches for 1,902 yards and 17 TDs. However Sterns sat out half of the OTAs and your complete mini-camp with an damage. That allowed Thompkins extra reps to essentially stand out.

At 5-foot-7, 167 kilos, Thompkins is the smallest Bucs participant on the roster. Sterns, who can also be 5-foot-7, weighs 183 kilos, which is 16 kilos heavier. However what separates Thompkins is his return potential. He averaged 24.9 yards per kick return and 14.3 yards per punt return with a landing. Thompkins will battle Jaelon Darden for the return duties in addition to a reserve receiver spot.

The Bucs have 13 broad receivers on the roster and can doubtless preserve six or seven. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage are locks. There’s a probability Thompkins can beat out the opposite undrafted receivers in addition to both Darden or Scotty Miller and steal a roster spot. If not, he’ll be a chief observe squad candidate with an awesome camp and preseason.

TE Codey McElroy – It’s Now Or By no means For McElroy

The percentages are stacked towards McElroy making the 2022 Bucs roster. Starter Rob Gronkowski is predicted to re-sign previous to coaching camp. Veteran Cam Brate returns to fill the No. 2 tight finish spot. The Bucs simply drafted a pair of tight ends in fourth-rounder Cade Otton and Ko Kieft within the sixth spherical. With Tampa Bay historically protecting 4 tight ends, there doesn’t appear to be room for McElroy.

Bucs Codey McElroy – Photograph by: Cliff Welch/PR

However the Bucs have stored the 6-foot-6, 255-pounder round on the observe squad since 2019 for a purpose. McElroy is large and athletic. And typically, the endurance pays off, because it did for broad receiver Cyril Grayson Jr. The previous LSU monitor star developed on the observe squad for 3 years earlier than rising as a key contributor down the stretch final yr. It took Grayson a number of years to be taught the sport of soccer behind the scenes.

The identical could be stated of McElroy, who turns 30 in December. He performed baseball and basketball in school earlier than strolling on to the soccer workforce at Southeastern Oklahoma State throughout his closing yr. McElroy has had loads of catching as much as do by way of studying learn how to play tight finish, particularly on the NFL stage.

Along with competing towards Kieft, McElroy should beat out a pair of undrafted free brokers in Ben Beise and J.J. Howland. Persistently catching the ball and exhibiting some grit and effectiveness as a run blocker are a should for McElroy in camp. However his benefit is that he’s been within the Bucs offense for 3 years now. The time is now for McElroy to rise to the event.

G Sadarius Hutcherson – Uphill Climb For Hutcherson At Crowded Guard Spot

The Bucs have been fairly excessive on Hutcherson, an undrafted free agent guard out of South Carolina final yr. Whereas his move safety wanted loads of work, Hutcherson’s punch and energy within the run sport was evident in coaching camp. He actually turned some heads throughout a couple of practices along with his power and brute pressure. A preseason ACL damage prematurely ended his rookie season and set again his growth. Hutcherson was positioned on injured reserve final August.

Bucs G Sadarius Hutcherson

Bucs G Sadarius Hutcherson – Photograph by: Cliff Welch/PR

His rehab induced him to overlook the OTAs and mini-camp, which put Hutcherson behind in his growth. The 6-foot-3, 321-pounder will probably be cleared for camp, however he’ll have loads of catching as much as do. Guard is among the most stacked positions on Tampa Bay’s 2022 roster. There are 10 inside offensive linemen on the workforce vying for 5 or 6 spots.

Professional Bowl middle Ryan Jensen and proper guard Shaq Mason are locks to make the workforce. Veteran Aaron Stinnie may even make the roster, as will second-round choose Luke Goedeke and final yr’s fourth-rounder Robert Hainsey. These three are battling for the beginning left guard spot. That leaves one potential open spot with Hutcherson battling Nick Leverett, John Molchon and Curtis Blackwell for it.

Leverett is flexible sufficient to play middle and sort out in addition to guard. That, plus the truth that he noticed some motion final yr at Indianapolis, provides him the sting heading into coaching camp. Hutcherson doesn’t have that have or versatility. He’ll really want to face out as an distinctive guard to make the roster or the observe squad. Hutcherson should get wholesome, keep wholesome, quickly enhance in move safety and kick some ass in coaching camp.

FAB 2. Bucs Sleepers On Protection Heading Into Coaching Camp

Tampa Bay’s protection is simply as stacked because the offense in relation to expertise. Listed here are three younger Bucs at three totally different positions which have an opportunity to face out – and probably stick on the 53-man roster – with an awesome camp.

OLB Elijah Ponder – Former DT Has Embraced Livin’ On The Edge

Ponder performed 3-technique defensive sort out at Cincinnati in school, the place he weighed 275 kilos. He switched positions as soon as he signed with the Bucs as an undrafted free agent in 2021. Ponder is now taking part in exterior linebacker, having misplaced 35 kilos over the past two offseasons. The Bucs appreciated his quickness and talent to penetrate in school ,the place he notched 12 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.

Bucs OLB Elijah Ponder

Bucs OLB Elijah Ponder – Photograph by: Cliff Welch/PR

Tampa Bay additionally appreciated his physicality. Ponder is a tough hitter and performs with a imply streak. He’s taken on the problem of studying a distinctly new place fairly effectively and was working with the second workforce protection with Anthony Nelson out in the course of the OTAs with a minor damage. Ponder and Cam Gill bought loads of reps in the course of the offseason behind Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.

Ponder spent many of the 2021 season on the Bucs observe squad. That made him eligible to take part on this yr’s rookie mini-camp as a result of he didn’t accrue an NFL season final yr. That further weekend additionally aided Ponder’s growth. Due to his defensive sort out background, Ponder taking over a brand new place as an edge rusher is kind of outstanding.

With Barrett, Tryon-Shoyinka and Nelson locks to make the workforce, the battle is on for a fourth and maybe fifth exterior linebacker. Gill made the workforce final yr as a fifth exterior linebacker partially because of particular groups. That’s an space Ponder should grasp this summer time. Not solely will Ponder be battling Gill for a reserve edge rusher position, however he’ll additionally must tackle seventh-round choose Andre Anthony and undrafted free brokers JoJo Ozougwu and Jordan Younger.

CB Rashard Robinson – Will His Velocity On Particular Groups Be Sufficient?

The Bucs love LSU gamers and have six on their present roster, together with three on protection. Robinson may be the least recognized. The six-year veteran performed for Todd Bowles in New York from 2016-17. He’s recorded 87 tackles, 15 move breakups, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a compelled fumble in his six years within the NFL.

Bucs CB Rashard Robinson

Bucs CB Rashard Robinson – Photograph by: Cliff Welch/PR

He joined the Bucs’ observe squad on Sept. 20, 2021 and was promoted to the lively roster a month later. Robinson recorded two tackles on protection and two stops on particular groups. A damaged hand stored him out of the OTAs and mini-camp. That definitely didn’t assist his trigger, particularly with reserve cornerback Dee Delaney having an awesome offseason on protection.

The Bucs cornerbacks that will probably be on the roster embrace Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting and rookie Zyon McCollum. Battling for the fifth spot – and maybe sixth spot, relying on particular groups – will probably be Delaney, Ross Cockrell and undrafted free brokers Kyler McMichael and Don Gardner.

McCollum figures to be one gunner. Robinson excelled as a gunner late final yr. At 6-foot-1, 177 kilos, Robinson has the best peak that the Bucs are searching for. He may additionally be the quickest Buccaneer, in line with fellow Tampa Bay speedster Cyril Grayson Jr. That’s excessive reward coming from the previous LSU monitor star.

DL Mike Greene – Can The Greene Machine Roll On To The Roster?

Greene is among the latest additions to Tampa Bay. He signed with the Bucs as an undrafted free agent after a tryout in the course of the workforce’s rookie mini-camp. Hailing from James Madison, which is identical faculty as Aaron Stinnie, Greene was a two-time All-American.

Bucs DT Mike Greene

Bucs DT Mike Greene – Photograph by: Cliff Welch/PR

He logged 177 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, two compelled fumbles and a fumble restoration in his Dukes profession. Greene was a four-year starter and his finest season by way of sack manufacturing got here in 2019 when he notched 7.5 sacks. The 6-foot-3, 293-pounder had 5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss final yr along with a career-best 56 tackles.

Greene has already crushed one Bucs defensive sort out already. Tampa Bay reduce Kobe Smith, who had been on the observe squad for 2 years, as a way to make room for Greene on the roster after the draft. Greene performs like he belongs within the NFL. He seemed fast and robust in the course of the workforce’s OTAs and the obligatory mini-camp.

The Bucs will doubtless preserve six – possibly seven – defensive linemen on the roster. Vita Vea, William Gholston, Akiem Hicks, Logan Corridor and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are locks. So, there’s room for one or two extra. Particular groups ace Patrick O’Connor is the front-runner for what could possibly be the ultimate spot. Greene must beat out veteran newcomer Deadrin Senat and a pair of practice-squaders in Willington Previlon and Benning Potoa’e to stay. His finest guess may be to make the observe squad – until he turns into a giant issue on particular groups.

FAB 3. Extra Than Meets Eye With This Bucs Transformer

One have a look at Bucs exterior linebacker Elijah Ponder and it’s laborious to suppose he performed defensive sort out on the College of Cincinnati. He was a two-time All-American Athletic Convention choice, tallying 64 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and two compelled fumbles for the Bearcats.

When Ponder signed with the Bucs as an undrafted free agent final yr, he was too mild to play defensive sort out within the workforce’s 3-4 protection. At 6-foot-3, 272 kilos, Ponder didn’t have the body so as to add far more weight.

Bucs OLB Elijah Ponder

Bucs OLB Elijah Ponder – Photograph by: Cliff Welch/PR

However the Bucs appreciated his tape and made the unconventional choice to have him play exterior linebacker. However with Todd Bowles prioritizing pace over measurement for his edge rushers, Ponder needed to lose some weight as a way to get faster and quicker.

So, Ponder started working with power coach Anthony Piroli to quickly remake his physique.

“I weighed within the 270s and now I’m 240,” Ponder stated. “It’s undoubtedly been a metamorphosis. Lots of people inform me they hardly acknowledge me. It’s loopy. However typically it’s important to do what’s uncomfortable to get the place you’re making an attempt to go. That’s the mindset I’ve. I’m simply making an attempt to work laborious.

“Once I arrived I used to be 272 and dealing with Coach AP, by the point camp rolled round, I used to be within the 250s. I modified my weight loss plan and the way I ate and I began slicing down a bit extra. As soon as I bought to 240, I’ve stayed at that and tried to be as stable as doable.”

The laborious work has paid off. Ponder appears to be like nothing like he did at Cincinnati and even in camp final yr when he weighed 15 kilos greater than he does now.

“Properly, you may see the work in his physique transformation,” Bowles stated. “He places in loads of work right here. Clearly, it means rather a lot to him. He’s right here day by day – he’s making an attempt to do all the fitting issues. Come coaching camp, we’re wanting for lots to see from him in preseason. We’re enthusiastic about him.”

Ponder has gotten so quick that when the Bucs have been down a couple of gamers in the course of the voluntary OTAs, he moved to inside linebacker for the primary time to assist the workforce out.

“I really feel quicker, I’m not going to lie. I’ll be watching movie and it’s surprising,” Ponder stated. “That weight reduction and transition actually helped me with my pace and my get-off.”

But when Ponder goes to make the workforce this yr after spending final season on the observe squad, will probably be as an outdoor linebacker. Ponder has actually been engaged on his move rush this offseason.

“I undoubtedly really feel like I’m method quicker. Throughout the offseason, I labored with Chuck Smith and Dez Walker engaged on my move rush strikes. Popping out from a two-point stance, along with a four-point stance. I’m simply making an attempt to sharpen my instruments.

Bucs OLB Elijah Ponder

Bucs OLB Elijah Ponder – Photograph by: Cliff Welch/PR

“I really feel like my move rush has improved. I’ve actually elevated my sport there to turn into a move rusher. I nonetheless need to work on my protection abilities, so I nonetheless need to sharpen these. Coming from a 3-tech, dropping into protection is form of new. It’s very totally different, standing up as effectively. And it’s totally different not having your hand down. It’s one thing I’ve needed to get snug with – the area, the timing. All the pieces is totally different.”

Ponder stated he’s leaned on the veterans within the room to assist his transition to edge rusher, primarily the Bucs’ two-time Professional Bowler.

“Shaq Barrett, I respect him rather a lot and his story. He’s helped me,” Ponder stated. “The issues he’s gone by way of as an undrafted free agent to the place he’s proper now – I really feel like it may be related for me. He’s position mannequin for me.”

Ponder racked up a couple of “sacks” in the course of the OTAs and mini-camp, however is anxious to take a quarterback down for actual within the preseason.

“It actually will get bodily when the pads come on in camp. You are able to do a couple of issues out right here, however you may solely achieve this a lot,” Ponder stated. “It’s undoubtedly extra bodily when the pads come on. I can’t look ahead to that point to come back. My physicality separates me from others. I’ve bought to be assured and proceed to be in keeping with what I do.

“And I have to get to the quarterback when the preseason comes. If I get to the quarterback, I’ll be good. I had a fumble restoration final preseason and I bought near the quarterback a couple of instances. This yr, it’s going to be coming. I’m making an attempt to guide the room in sacks in the course of the preseason.”

FAB 4. Darden Enjoying Sooner With A Higher Grasp Of Bucs Playbook

Bucs receiver Jaelon Darden flashed throughout final yr’s OTAs, mini-camp and even the beginning of coaching camp. The 5-foot-8, 174-pound receiver was the workforce’s fourth-round choose and he was routinely getting by Tampa Bay’s defensive backs.

Till the pads got here on.

Then, Darden began to decelerate when the hits began to come back. The rationale was that the North Texas receiver was uncertain of what he was doing.

Bucs WR-PR Jaelon Darden

Bucs WR-PR Jaelon Darden – Photograph by: USA In the present day

It’s one factor working mistaken routes in observe while you received’t get hit. It’s totally different not being exact when defensive backs need to take your head off on any play.

The thrill round Darden fizzled within the preseason when he posted simply seven catches for 72 yards – a pedestrian 10-yard common. He underwhelmed as a rookie receiver within the common season, catching simply six passes for 43 yards (7.0 avg.).

It seems it was a giant leap from North Texas, the place Darden caught 74 passes for 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior.

“We’re a distinct offense than what he did at North Texas,” Bucs receivers coach Kevin Garver stated. “All the pieces was on the line, and all the pieces was no-huddle. We ask our guys to grasp a bit bit extra and put a bit bit extra on their plate. That was a transition for him, having to be taught to try this.”

Darden agreed. He wanted to place extra work into studying the playbook and understanding the performs within the huddle.

“Positively must work on that. Coming from North Texas, there was a giant emphasis on studying learn how to be within the huddle,” Darden stated. “I’ve to remain in there longer now and take heed to key ideas and key phrases. I’ve to know the entire play. That’s what I’ve been engaged on essentially the most. I’ve been realizing the place to line up, the place to get to and learn how to run my routes.

“I’ve been working laborious. The playbook has been the emphasis for me. Getting within the playbook and studying the ideas and studying the place TB (Tom Brady) desires me. Figuring out my alignment and my project.”

The Bucs run choice routes – additionally referred to as alternative routes – during which the receiver and the quarterback must learn the defensive protection the identical method actually a second or two into the play. Whether or not it’s man protection or zone protection permits the receiver to change his route. And that tripped up Darden throughout his rookie yr.

“Precisely, it’s studying the defenses,” Darden stated. “In the direction of my senior yr, I used to be studying some coverages, however earlier than that I wasn’t seeing that. It was usually Cowl 2, Cowl 3 or press. However within the NFL, they do loads of disguising. So, it’s important to take note of the highest of the home, which is the protection. That’s one other factor I needed to hone in on in the course of the offseason.”

As soon as once more, Darden flashed within the OTAs and within the preseason. However Darden appears to be like like he’s taking part in quicker than a yr in the past and working his routes extra confidently this yr as a result of he is aware of what he’s doing.

Bucs WR-KR Jaelon Darden

Bucs WR-KR Jaelon Darden – Photograph by: Cliff Welch/PR

“I feel getting the expertise, on-field expertise – all people learns otherwise,” Garver stated. “Some guys can sit within the room, watch the movie after which go on the sphere and execute it. And a few guys can have a look at the image and say, ‘Okay, that is what the route is. I can go do it.’ Some guys want to really get these bodily reps, and I feel Jaelon most likely suits in additional to that class.”

Not having Chris Godwin and Russell Gage on the sphere elevated Darden’s reps this offseason. When Scotty Miller and rookie Jerreth Sterns bought harm and missed some OTAs and the mini-camp, Darden bought much more reps in observe.

“It’s good on good right here, so that you higher be at your finest while you are available in right here each rep,” Darden stated. “I needed to be sharper with my routes and I needed to be smarter. Needed to preserve my head up as a result of coverages might shift. There’s rather a lot happening.”

Darden didn’t get too many alternatives on offense final yr, however when he did, he didn’t take advantage of them. At Washington, Darden had a fast move bounce proper off his arms. That play become a pricey first-quarter interception.

“Round that point, I used to be overthinking stuff. The vast majority of the time, it’s nearly being snug,” Darden stated. “Whenever you’re not snug, you’re a little hesitant about attending to a sure spot. You might be hesitant to have the ball come to you. However now I perceive the offense and I do know I can get to someplace full pace, sit down and have the ball approaching me scorching as a result of TB is placing it proper on my chest. Now it’s simply turning round and doing what I do after that. So, it’s loads of me slowing the method down first.”

The Bucs will take 13 receivers to coaching camp and solely Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage are locks to make the workforce. Darden will probably be combating with 10 different receivers for a reserve spot, and he’ll be making an attempt to maintain his return specialist position. Armed with a a lot stronger grasp of the playbook, Darden wants to hold his momentum from the offseason into coaching camp – and never decelerate.

“Whenever you’re uncertain, you play sluggish. However when you already know, you play quick. It’s a giant distinction,” Darden stated. “It’s method totally different. I can say that was me final yr. I used to be uncertain with sure issues and the place they wished me and what they wished me to do. Now I do know the place I’ve to be and what I’ve to do. So, it’s full pace for me proper now. There’s no wanting again.”

FAB 5. SR’s Buc Photographs

• BUCS RULE THE NFC SOUTH: Not solely do the Buccaneers have essentially the most Tremendous Bowl wins (two) within the NFC South, Tampa Bay additionally has extra franchise playoff wins with 11. As former Pewter Reporter Taylor “Grizz” Jenkins factors out, the Saints solely have 10 playoff wins regardless of having Drew Brees at quarterback for 15 years.

• BRADY BLOWS BREES AWAY IN THE PLAYOFFS: Since Saints QB Drew Brees received a Tremendous Bowl in 2009, he’s solely received 5 playoff video games. Tom Brady has solely been with the Bucs for 2 seasons (since 2020), but he already has 5 playoff wins with Tampa Bay. A type of got here at Brees’ expense within the 2020 NFC Divisional Playoffs in a 30-20 win at New Orleans.

• BRADY’S BETTER THAN RODGERS: Tom Brady Facts, a preferred Twitter account that chronicles the statistical milestones of the legendary Patriots and Bucs QB, stacks Brady’s file vs. Aaron Rodgers.


• BUCS MINI-CAMP WRAP-UP ON THE PEWTER REPORT PODCAST: The Pewter Report Podcast is energized by CELSIUS and broadcasts 4 stay episodes every week. Pewter Report Podcasts usually air on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 4:00 pm EST within the offseason.

Matt Matera and Scott Reynolds wrap up Bucs mini-camp with some closing ideas on Monday’s present.

Matera and Reynolds talk about Pewter Report’s selections for the legendary Bucs Mount Rushmore on Tuesday.

Wednesday’s present analyzed the place the Bucs’ ability place gamers ranked, in line with Matera.

On Thursday, Matera and Bailey Adams talked in regards to the 10 craziest Bucs moments of 2022… up to now.


• GET TO KNOW THOMPKINS: Former Utah State receiver Deven Thompkins generated some buzz this offseason in the course of the Bucs OTAs and mini-camp. Listed here are a few of his highlights from his senior season.

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