Bucs Training Camp Sleepers For 2022

Bucs WR Deven Thompkins – Picture by Cliff Welch/PR

SR’s Fab 5 is a group 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. Take pleasure in!

FAB 1. Bucs Sleepers On Offense Heading Into Coaching Camp

With a Tremendous Bowl-ready roster, it is going to 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 may defy the percentages and shock with a terrific coaching camp. Will anybody from this trio of Bucs do sufficient to win a roster spot or a spot on the follow squad? Or will the quantity of expertise that common supervisor Jason Licht and head coach Todd Bowles have assembled be too nice to beat?

WR Deven Thompkins – Small Spark Plug Might 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 a great factor. It’s a terrific factor. Bucs head coach Todd Bowles talked about Thompkins when requested that query proper earlier than summer season 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 velocity and sticky arms in follow after follow and has develop into an actual sleeper to presumably make the staff.

Thompkins was one among 4 undrafted free agent receivers the Bucs signed in Could. He was the second-leading receiver in faculty 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 the whole 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 be 5-foot-7, weighs 183 kilos, which is 16 kilos heavier. However what separates Thompkins is his return capability. 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 vast receivers on the roster and can doubtless preserve six or seven. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage are locks. There’s a likelihood 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 follow squad candidate with a terrific camp and preseason.

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

The chances are stacked towards McElroy making the 2022 Bucs roster. Starter Rob Gronkowski is anticipated 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 – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

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

The identical will be stated of McElroy, who turns 30 in December. He performed baseball and basketball in faculty earlier than strolling on to the soccer staff at Southeastern Oklahoma State throughout his closing yr. McElroy has had plenty of catching as much as do by way of studying 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. Constantly 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 go safety wanted plenty 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 together with his energy and brute power. 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 – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

His rehab brought about him to overlook the OTAs and mini-camp, which put Hutcherson behind in his growth. The 6-foot-3, 321-pounder can be cleared for camp, however he’ll have plenty of catching as much as do. Guard is likely one of the most stacked positions on Tampa Bay’s 2022 roster. There are 10 inside offensive linemen on the staff vying for 5 – 6 spots.

Professional Bowl middle Ryan Jensen and proper guard Shaq Mason are locks to make the staff. Veteran Aaron Stinnie may also 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, offers 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 follow squad. Hutcherson should get wholesome, keep wholesome, quickly enhance in go 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 terms of expertise. Listed here are three younger Bucs at three completely different positions which have an opportunity to face out – and presumably stick on the 53-man roster – with a terrific camp.

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

Ponder performed 3-technique defensive sort out at Cincinnati in faculty, 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 enjoying exterior linebacker, having misplaced 35 kilos during the last two offseasons. The Bucs preferred his quickness and talent to penetrate in faculty ,the place he notched 12 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.

Bucs OLB Elijah Ponder

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

Tampa Bay additionally preferred 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 staff protection with Anthony Nelson out in the course of the OTAs with a minor damage. Ponder and Cam Gill bought plenty 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 follow 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 sort of exceptional.

With Barrett, Tryon-Shoyinka and Nelson locks to make the staff, the battle is on for a fourth and maybe fifth exterior linebacker. Gill made the staff final yr as a fifth exterior linebacker partially attributable to particular groups. That’s an space Ponder should grasp this summer season. 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 Pace On Particular Groups Be Sufficient?

The Bucs love LSU gamers and have six on their present roster, together with three on protection. Robinson is perhaps the least recognized. The six-year veteran performed for Todd Bowles in New York from 2016-17. He’s recorded 87 tackles, 15 go 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 – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

He joined the Bucs’ follow squad on Sept. 20, 2021 and was promoted to the energetic 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 a terrific offseason on protection.

The Bucs cornerbacks that can 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 – can 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 perfect top that the Bucs are searching for. He may also be the quickest Buccaneer, in keeping with fellow Tampa Bay speedster Cyril Grayson Jr. That’s excessive reward coming from the previous LSU observe star.

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

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

Bucs DT Mike Greene

Bucs DT Mike Greene – Picture 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 greatest 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 minimize Kobe Smith, who had been on the follow squad for 2 years, so as to make room for Greene on the roster after the draft. Greene performs like he belongs within the NFL. He regarded fast and powerful in the course of the staff’s OTAs and the obligatory mini-camp.

The Bucs will doubtless preserve six – perhaps seven – defensive linemen on the roster. Vita Vea, William Gholston, Akiem Hicks, Logan Corridor and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are locks. So, there may be room for one or two extra. Particular groups ace Patrick O’Connor is the front-runner for what might be the ultimate spot. Greene should beat out veteran newcomer Deadrin Senat and a pair of practice-squaders in Willington Previlon and Benning Potoa’e to stay. His greatest wager is perhaps to make the follow squad – until he turns into an enormous 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 exhausting to assume 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 gentle to play defensive sort out within the staff’s 3-4 protection. At 6-foot-3, 272 kilos, Ponder didn’t have the body so as to add way more weight.

Bucs OLB Elijah Ponder

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

However the Bucs preferred his tape and made the novel determination to have him play exterior linebacker. However with Todd Bowles prioritizing velocity over measurement for his edge rushers, Ponder needed to lose some weight so as to get faster and quicker.

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

“I weighed within the 270s and now I’m 240,” Ponder stated. “It’s positively been a metamorphosis. Lots of people inform me they hardly acknowledge me. It’s loopy. However generally you need 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 exhausting.

“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 eating regimen and the way I ate and I began chopping down just a little extra. As soon as I bought to 240, I’ve stayed at that and tried to be as stable as potential.”

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

“Effectively, you’ll be able to see the work in his physique transformation,” Bowles stated. “He places in plenty of work right here. Clearly, it means loads to him. He’s right here day by day – he’s making an attempt to do all the correct 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 staff out.

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

But when Ponder goes to make the staff this yr after spending final season on the follow squad, it is going to be as an out of doors linebacker. Ponder has actually been engaged on his go rush this offseason.

“I positively really feel like I’m means quicker. Throughout the offseason, I labored with Chuck Smith and Dez Walker engaged on my go 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 – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

“I really feel like my go rush has improved. I’ve actually elevated my sport there to develop into a go rusher. I nonetheless wish to work on my protection abilities, so I nonetheless wish to sharpen these. Coming from a 3-tech, dropping into protection is type of new. It’s very completely different, standing up as effectively. And it’s completely different not having your hand down. It’s one thing I’ve needed to get snug with – the house, the timing. All the pieces is completely 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 loads and his story. He’s helped me,” Ponder stated. “The issues he’s gone via as an undrafted free agent to the place he’s proper now – I really feel like it may be related for me. He’s a great 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’ll be able to solely accomplish that a lot,” Ponder stated. “It’s positively extra bodily when the pads come on. I can’t await that point to return. My physicality separates me from others. I’ve bought to be assured and proceed to be according to 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 occasions. 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 Taking part in Quicker 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 staff’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 return. The explanation was that the North Texas receiver was not sure of what he was doing.

Bucs WR-PR Jaelon Darden

Bucs WR-PR Jaelon Darden – Picture by: USA Immediately

It’s one factor working unsuitable routes in follow if you gained’t get hit. It’s completely different not being exact when defensive backs wish 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 an enormous 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 things was no-huddle. We ask our guys to know just a little bit extra and put just a little bit extra on their plate. That was a transition for him, having to study to try this.”

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

“Undoubtedly must work on that. Coming from North Texas, there was an enormous emphasis on studying 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 probably the most. I’ve been understanding the place to line up, the place to get to and run my routes.

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

The Bucs run choice routes – additionally referred to as selection routes – during which the receiver and the quarterback must learn the defensive protection the identical means actually a second or two into the play. Whether or not it’s man protection or zone protection permits the receiver to switch 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 plenty of disguising. So, you need 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 seems like he’s enjoying 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 – Picture by: Cliff Welch/PR

“I feel getting the expertise, on-field expertise – all people learns in a different way,” Garver stated. “Some guys can sit within the room, watch the movie after which go on the sector 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 truly get these bodily reps, and I feel Jaelon in all probability suits in additional to that class.”

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

“It’s good on good right here, so that you higher be at your greatest if 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 loads 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 go bounce proper off his arms. That play became a expensive first-quarter interception.

“Round that point, I used to be overthinking stuff. Nearly all of the time, it’s nearly being snug,” Darden stated. “Once 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 velocity, sit down and have the ball approaching me sizzling 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 plenty 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 staff. Darden can be preventing 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.

“Once you’re not sure, you play sluggish. However when , you play quick. It’s an enormous distinction,” Darden stated. “It’s means completely different. I can say that was me final yr. I used to be not sure with sure issues and the place they needed me and what they needed me to do. Now I do know the place I’ve to be and what I’ve to do. So, it’s full velocity 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 probably 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 gained a Tremendous Bowl in 2009, he’s solely gained 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 kind 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 Details, a well-liked Twitter account that chronicles the statistical milestones of the legendary Patriots and Bucs QB, stacks Brady’s document 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 focus on Pewter Report’s decisions for the legendary Bucs Mount Rushmore on Tuesday.

Wednesday’s present analyzed the place the Bucs’ talent place gamers ranked, in keeping with Matera.

On Thursday, Matera and Bailey Adams talked concerning 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.