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A first impression, and forecast, of the Bucs’ drafted rookies

How are Kyle Trask and Co. faring so far in camp? We break it down here.
Bucs outside linebacker Joe Tryon (9), the team's first-round draft pick in April, warms up at the start of the team's first practice of training camp Sunday.
Bucs outside linebacker Joe Tryon (9), the team's first-round draft pick in April, warms up at the start of the team's first practice of training camp Sunday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jul. 29

TAMPA — The two fields utilized by the Bucs during the first three practices of the 2021 training camp represented a roster hierarchy of sorts.

During seven-on-seven or 11-on-11 work, starters and primary backups occupied Field One, with Field Two used mostly by those clawing for a roster or practice-squad spot. The benefits were at least twofold, providing adequate reps to the nearly 90 players suited up, and offering observers an idea of which rookies have made the most profound first impressions.

Based on those dual-field practices (and a fourth in which team work was confined mostly to one field), we now have a rough idea of where each member of the latest draft class may fit in the 2021 depth chart — or if they fit at all.

We break it down here, but bear in mind: The Bucs don’t practice in full pads until Saturday, when performances and perspectives can change.

(Also note that cornerback Chris Wilcox, a seventh-round pick, has a hamstring issue and remains on the active/physically unable to perform list.)

Outside linebacker Joe Tryon (first round)

Outside linebacker Joe Tryon (9) has been working with the first- and second-teamers during the outset of training camp.
Outside linebacker Joe Tryon (9) has been working with the first- and second-teamers during the outset of training camp. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

The former Washington edge rusher was a Field One fixture, impressing coaches and peers with his burst and aggressiveness. Following the inaugural practice, Coach Bruce Arians said Tryon “showed up and flashed” during team work.

While a likely backup for now, he projects as a part of the edge-rusher rotation and clearly is being groomed as the heir to surgically mended veteran Jason Pierre-Paul, who at 32 is in the final year of a two-year, $25 million deal.

“He looks like he can play,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “He’s got the ideal typical body type for a defensive end. He has explosion coming off the line, no doubt about that. He’s big, he’s lengthy, which is what you want. He’s strong, too, but we’ll really see what he has when we put the pads on.”

Quarterback Kyle Trask (second round)

Bucs quarterback Kyle Trask (2) throws on Day Three of training camp Tuesday at AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa.
Bucs quarterback Kyle Trask (2) throws on Day Three of training camp Tuesday at AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Any thoughts of Trask contending with veteran Blaine Gabbert for the No. 2 job essentially have been laid to rest for now. While Gabbert worked with Tom Brady on Field One, Trask shared snaps with Ryan Griffin on Field Two. So far, his reps during full-team work have been scarce.

A microcosm of his camp to date occurred Wednesday morning, when the record-setting former Gator found Josh Pearson on a nice corner route for a touchdown before being intercepted by veteran Ross Cockrell. Not that Trask is in danger of not making the team; to the contrary, he’s a lock as a second-round investment. Just don’t be shocked if he’s inactive for several Sundays this fall.

“He’s done a real good job on the other field,” Arians said Tuesday. “He’s still learning when it’s this fast. He’s not used to seeing it this fast, especially in that two-minute drill or that last period. But he’s growing. He’s in no hurry.”

Offensive lineman Robert Hainsey (third round)

Bucs third-round draft pick Robert Hainsey (70) works against guard John Molchon (75) in a blocking drill at training camp Wednesday.
Bucs third-round draft pick Robert Hainsey (70) works against guard John Molchon (75) in a blocking drill at training camp Wednesday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Though he started 34 games for Notre Dame at right tackle, Hainsey said Tuesday he has trained almost exclusively at center, where 30-year-old veteran Ryan Jensen will play the final year of his contract in 2021. Whether the Bucs attempt to re-sign Jensen, who has made nearly every offensive snap for the team since 2018, remains unclear.

Hainsey, in fact, worked with the first team (or a modified version of it) Wednesday while Jensen and other veterans were given the day off.

“Other than the first snap of the practice, I thought he had a really, really good practice,” Arians said. “He was solid and did a really fine job a couple of times pulling and getting up on people. Identifications were good. It was a really solid day for him. He’s getting better and better.”

Related: Bucs practice 'load management' with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, other vets

Wide receiver Jaelon Darden (fourth round)

Bucs wide receiver Jaelon Darden (1), the team's fourth-round draft pick in May, returns a punt at Tuesday's practice.
Bucs wide receiver Jaelon Darden (1), the team's fourth-round draft pick in May, returns a punt at Tuesday's practice. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Perhaps the most intriguing rookie of the group. Arians has given zero quarter to this North Texas record-setter, publicly calling him out for dropped passes and lighting into him on the field when he has lined up incorrectly.

But for Darden, who has worked on Field One with the front-liners, that’s a good thing. Arians wouldn’t be pushing his 5-foot-8 speedster with such drill-sergeant gusto if he didn’t have immediate plans for him (as a receiver and return specialist).

“Yeah, he’s going to keep flashing,” the coach said. “Just let him grow. That’s why he’s out there with Tom (Brady) and those guys. He’s learning you don’t just run — get the head around, because that ball is already in the air. He knows how to get open and it’s just letting him finish now.”

ILBs K.J. Britt (fifth round), Grant Stuard (seventh round)

Bucs linebacker K.J. Britt (52) dodges around a pop-up dummy during Day Four of training camp Wednesday.
Bucs linebacker K.J. Britt (52) dodges around a pop-up dummy during Day Four of training camp Wednesday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Both had solid moments while working primarily on Field Two in an effort to land on the final 53-man roster. Stuard intercepted a deflected Trask throw on Tuesday, and Britt broke up a Gabbert throw that was picked by Sean Murphy-Bunting the following day.

Still, the ultimate fate of these two hinges on their special-teams performances. The Bucs currently have nice depth on the inside, with veterans Kevin Minter and Joe Jones (signed in the offseason from Denver) also vying to back up Lavonte David and Devin White.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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