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Bucs need to get a grip, Bruce Arians says

Too many players (with the exception of Mike Evans) dropped passes, plus more notes from training camp
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Justin Watson (17) makes this catch during training camp at the AdventHealth Training Center on July 28, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. But there were some drops on Thursday night. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published Aug. 2
Updated Aug. 2

TAMPA — Show of (bad) hands: who dropped at least one pass in Thursday night’s practice? Put yours down, Mike Evans.

The Bucs’ offensive execution in the passing game was lacking, in no small part because, after a day off, pass catchers had an off day.

It rained outside the indoor facility, but the big drops fell early as receivers, tight ends and running backs all took turns not securing the football. It was tough to watch and even tougher for the offense to execute. Quarterbacks Jameis Winston, Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin didn’t have their best performances, but it’s hard to judge when the ball keeps hitting the ground one way or the other.

“We dropped way too many passes," coach Bruce Arians said. " I thought our receivers, they weren’t even out there, other than Mike Evans."

There were a lot of offenders. Justin Watson hasn’t consistently made those “grimy catches,” as Arians calls them. Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman, and even Chris Godwin dropped at least one pass Thursday.

Arians found it hard to hold the quarterbacks responsible since none of them were able to establish a rhythm.

“No, you can’t when everyone drops the ball,” Arians said.

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Badgers safety shines

D’Cota Dixon, an undrafted free agent safety from Wisconsin who was signed following a tryout camp, has stood out in the first week of training camp. Dixon jumped a pass from Jameis Winston to Mike Evans, making the interception and returning it for a pick-six.

With safety Justin Evans still on the active physically unable to perform list, the Bucs may have a spot for an extra safety. Rookie Mike Edwards, a third-round pick from Kentucky, is starting at free safety. Kentrell Brice, Isaiah Johnson and Jordan Whitehead all are in the mix as well. It will be interesting to see if the Bucs add a safety from the waiver wire or sign a veteran free agent, but right now, Dixon is earning a job. He also would be an asset on specials teams.

“Smart. Tough," Arians said of Dixon. “He’s got a good chance to make this football team.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety D'Cota Dixon (38), an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin, is turning heads and could earn a roster spot. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)

Psst. He’s making the team

The Bucs running back position isn’t very highly regarded throughout the NFL. Peyton Barber was 19th in the league in a rushing a year ago with a 3.7 yards-per-carry average. His career average is 3.8. Ronald Jones is trying to bounce back from a forgettable rookie year. Former Cardinals RB Andre Ellington didn’t play last season.

But no matter how the RB position shakes out for the Bucs, save a spot for Dare Ogunbawale. He made some good inside runs Thursday and is key on special teams both in kick coverage and as a kickoff returner.

“He’s doing fantastic. (He’s) got really good vision (and) good blitz pickup. He’s really impressing us,” Arians said.

Bucs running back Dare Ogunbowale (44) stretches out for pass, but can't get under it. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)

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Big problem to tackle

The Bucs like starting tackles Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson. But there’s not much behind him. Caleb Benenoch, Michael Liedtke and Cole Boozer are in backup spots.

“Right now, we’re still building,” Arians said. “We’re still looking. Guys are having good days and bad days. We need some leveling off —good all the time.”

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