Buccaneers begin rookie camp

Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round pick Aqib Talib has his number, and it's a familiar one — 25. The Bucs wasted no time giving Brian Kelly's replacement that number. What else did we see during rookie camp on Friday from players like Josh Johnson and Tommy Blake? Find out before anyone else in this exclusive report from practice.

First-round pick Aqib Talib is seen as Brian Kelly's replacement at cornerback. So it's probably little surprise that Talib wore Kelly's No. 25 — at least at practice on Friday.

There's no telling if that will be Talib's professional number, but he and more than 50 other rookies were on the field on Friday for the first day of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rookie camp, which continues through Sunday.

Talib looked good during the 40 minutes of the workout Bucsblitz.com was able to observe. Though most of the drills were basics on the Bucs' defense, Talib did handle a multiple cut drill well. Talib had to change direction three times before catching the football, and he did a great job of keeping his feet under him and making sharp cuts. As you would expect from a first-round pick, Talib was the most polished corner during drills.

Bucs quarterbacks coach Greg Olson hovered near QB Josh Johnson all day, but took a back seat when head coach Jon Gruden started working with the quarterbacks 20 minutes into the workout. But there's no doubt Olson will be Johnson's best friend here in Tampa. Olson chatted with Johnson throughout the stretching drills.

Johnson threw the ball much better than I remember from the combine. His delivery was smooth and, as you might expect given his college numbers, he threw accurately. He wasn't asked to throw a pass of more than 10 yards, but they were on target. He also threw well on the run, as he threw a couple of rollout passes.

He's a project, but the skills he showed early in practice are proof why the Bucs like him. He appears to have a solid foundation.

Second-round pick Dexter Jackson looks every bit the 5-foot-9 that he's listed on the roster. He looked pretty lean for 182 pounds and he wore the gold cleats he wore at Appalachian State. He didn't get many opportunities to catch the football or show off his speed early in the workout. But the rest of the receivers in the camp towered over him and it's obvious that Jackson will have to be the elusive player the Bucs believe him to be in order to be successful his rookie season.

The Bucs started third-round pick Jeremy Zuttah early on at the center position, having him make shotgun snaps to free-agent quarterback Sam Keller before stretching. Zuttah is expected to cross-train at all three line positions in an effort to bolster the Bucs' overall offensive line depth. It wouldn't surprise me to see Zuttah as Jeff Faine's primary backup at center on opening day, as the position is bare behind Faine.

Free-agent defensive end Tommy Blake of TCU was in camp and he definitely looked stockier than I remember him from his college days. Again, the defensive linemen didn't do much aside from position drills during the 40-minutes opening for the media, so it was difficult to gauge Blake's progress this offseason.

There were three lonely guys on Friday. Long snapper Garrison Sanborn from Florida State worked with a strength and conditioning coach during the early portion of practice, as he had little to do. But at least he got some one-on-one attention. Placekickers Art Carmody from Louisville and Chris Gould from Virginia were left to their own devices on an adjacent field.

USF had three players at the camp — WR Amarri Jackson, OL Walter Walker and T Jared Carnes. None stood out during the first 40 minutes of the workout, and Jackson didn't make sharp cuts during his routes.

Along with Tampa Bay's seven draft picks, five players are listed as undrafted free agents — Southern Miss T Chris Clark, Tennessee DB Jonathan Hefney, Troy CB Elbert Mack, Auburn FB Carl Stewart and Arizona State TE Tyrice Thompson. The rest of the players, with the exception of seventh-round pick Marcus Hamilton from a year ago, were in the camp on tryouts.


Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.

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