Tampa Bay BuccaneersTop takeaways from the podium on Day One of Buccaneers' Organized Team Activities. Brianna Dix
1) Cameron Brate discusses Tom Brady's detail-oriented approach.
Given the level of prestige that accompanies the name Tom Brady and the unprecedented legacy he has cemented in the NFL, most can infer the exceptional commitment Brady puts towards the game of football. He may set the standard of excellence for players to aspire to, but he also sets the tone on offense, commands the huddle and demands utter focus from those around him. If he senses hesitation or a lack of confidence from a teammate, Brady addresses the issue immediately.
"Tom doesn't let you slip up at all. He can tell when someone is low energy, kind of not feeling it that day," tight end Cameron Brate stated. "He will get on them right away. His attention to detail is unparalleled. Everyone is going to be on the same page with him. That is just who he is as a leader and who he is as a player. Tom gets us right for sure."
With seven Super Bowl rings, 15 Pro Bowl selections, five Super Bowl MVP Awards, three regular-season MVP Awards and two NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors, Brady knows the detail-oriented approach that the game commands in order to win on the grandest stage. With Brady, it is more than longevity but consistency. The intangibles have materialized success at every step along his career and have built his reputation as a leader, with players willingly following him into battle. Brady was not present during stage one of OTAs on Tuesday, but Brate alluded to the fact that No. 12 could be making a 'guest appearance' soon. Keep an eye out for 'The GOAT.'
2) Antoine Winfield Jr. praises Dee Delaney's 'ball hawk' skills.
As voluntary OTAs kickoff at the AdventHealth Training Facility under the Tampa heat, competition ensues and spirits are high on the grass as practice, or a simulation of it, returns. Players have the opportunity to vie for a spot on the 53-man roster. A span of productive outings on the practice field can make the difference between a solidified role on the team and a brief stint in a Buccaneers' jersey. Players have the opportunity to showcase their abilities and cornerback Dee Delaney drew eyes on Tuesday with his ball skills.
"Dee Delaney, he got an interception and got another interception for Mike [Edwards]," Antoine Winfield Jr. said after practice, smiling. "So, he stood out today. He had a great day, and he is a heck of a player. He always stands out every time I watch him play and every time he is out there."
Cheers erupted outside the facility as Delaney stole the show by snagging an interception off Kyle Trask and tipping a pass from Blaine Gabbert -- helping teammate Mike Edwards secure a pick of his own. Delaney was consistently around the ball and utilized his ball-tracking ability to make a defensive impact. Regarded as a career journeyman, Delaney spent time with several NFL teams prior to his time with the Washington Football Team in 2019, including the New York Jets (2019 preseason), Miami Dolphins (practice squad member in 2018), and the Jacksonville Jaguars (2018 rookie season). He appeared in a handful of games throughout his career but despite the odds stacked against him, Delaney made the Bucs' roster in 2020 after signing with the team in May. He led the team in interceptions in the preseaso nwith two after a third was called back due to a pass interference penalty, and he never looked back. In 2021, Delaney primarily served as an outside cornerback behind Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean.
Once again, Delaney is ready to take advantage when his number is called. He will be one to keep an eye on throughout the offseason.
3) Winfield Jr. provides insight on the addition of Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal.
Last season, the Buccaneers' secondary became decimated by injuries down the stretch, resulting in the acquisition of depth during the offseason to shore up the back end. The club signed two veterans during free agency, former Falcons' safety Keanu Neal and former Patriots' star Logan Ryan. Jordan Whitehead signed with the Jets and Mike Edwards is competing for the vacated role at strong safety. Third-year pro Antoine Winfield Jr. will be the incumbent starter at free safety. Head coach Todd Bowles wanted competition in the secondary to boost production and his wish was granted with the arrival of Neal and Ryan. On Tuesday, Antoine Winfield Jr. discussed what the duo adds to the secondary.
"Glad to have those guys on our team," he said. "It allows me to be more versatile and allows our secondary to be more versatile because they get to come in and fill those roles that we need immediately, as far as having them in the box or having them in the post. They are an extra addition to our team, so it is good to have those guys for versatility."
Neal will resume his natural position at safety after making the transition to linebacker last year with the Cowboys under Dan Quinn. Neal was part of the linebacker rotation in nickel packages last season and will join the Bucs' safety corps. Prior to his stint in Dallas, Neal served as the prototypical Cover 3 strong safety for the Atlanta Falcons. Touted for his coverage ability, carrying running backs and tight ends, Neal received a Pro Bowl nod in 2017 after posting a career-high 116 tackles, four tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. Injuries derailed his otherwise promising career (ACL tear- 2018, Achilles tear- 2019) and he will bolster the Bucs' secondary.
Ryan will reconnect with Tom Brady, after they won two Super Bowls together in New England. Last year with the New York Giants, Ryan registered a career-high 117 combined tackles, eight passes defensed and two forced fumbles. He shined in press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Ryan provides coveted flexibility, having played both as a slot corner and safety over the previous few seasons. His short-area quickness will boost the secondary.
4) Vita Vea's increased leadership role and assessment of the defensive rotation.
Each new league year brings change as the roster evolves with draft selections and free agency departures. Ndamukong Suh has yet to be re-signed and Vita Vea will have an increased leadership role in 2022. Playing all three downs, a rarity for a nose tackle in the league, Vea is the anchor in the interior with an effective bull rush to collapse the pocket. He dominates at the point of attack with efficacious burst out of his stance. Despite OTAs being voluntary, Vea took part in practice, including 11-on-11 drills on Tuesday. Rookie Logan Hall worked beside Vea during first-team reps. His reason for attending was simple: bonding.
"We got a really young group, and we got a couple of young guys that we got to get together on and off the field to get that camaraderie going ... step into that leader role and take control."
With a dominating presence on the field, Vea's snaps increased in 2021. In 2020, he played 256 defensive snaps, 48% in the seven games he played. A year later in 2021, he was on the field for 669 total snaps, including 55% of the total, second among Bucs' down linemen to Suh's 797 (63%). Todd Bowles routinely rotated players down the stretch of the season to keep players fresh for the postseason. Playing in the trenches takes a toll on the body and the coaching staff took precautionary measures by switching the lineup around with substitutions.
"We knew it was going to be a longer season, so I think we did a better job of rotating throughout the season," Vea said. "When you really want to turn it up is in the postseason. So, I think in order to keep us all fresh and going, we did a better job rotating."
Regardless of the snap count number, Vea will be the tone-setter in the middle of the defensive line. His relentless mindset paired with Logan Hall's prowess as an interior pass rusher could be a lethal combination for Tampa Bay.
5) Todd Bowles gives an update on Chris Godwin's rehab progression.
Buccaneers' wide receiver Chris Godwin suffered a torn ACL last season in the club's Week 15, 9-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints. This is the first significant injury Godwin has sustained during his NFL career (2019, hamstring 2020, hamstring and concussion) and there is no set timetable on his return. Godwin is taking the rehabilitation process one day at a time and remaining positive as the 2022 season fast approaches. When asked if Godwin would be available for training camp in July, Todd Bowles relayed, "He is coming along. Obviously, he is better than he was but not where he needs to be. He is coming along ... When he is ready to go, he is ready to go. We do not put a timetable on it."
As one of Brady's go-to target for his yards-after-catch ability, Godwin is a dynamic weapon in the Buccaneers' offense. The staff is hopeful for a return sooner rather than later for Godwin, but his health is of the utmost importance and returning too quickly would risk further injury.