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After taking Sunday off, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers resumed training camp practice at One Buccaneer Place on Monday morning under partly cloudy skies and temperatures around 90 degrees. A slight, steady breeze made Monday’s practice one of the cooler sessions thus far.
The players were dressed in shells (helmet, shoulder pads and shorts) with the exception of tight end Kellen Winslow, who donned full pads because he prefers it that way.
Safety De’von Hall (undisclosed), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (rest) and rookie cornerback Myron Lewis (hamstring) all sat out practice. Rookie defensive tackle Brian Price was limited in practice due to his hamstring strain. Defensive end George Johnson returned from his hamstring pull to get in a full practice. Cornerback Aqib Talib was held out of practice later on Monday as he slightly pulled his groin.
During the individual period, the wide receivers and tight ends went through a gauntlet drill where they had to catch passes from two different directions while stepping over bags on the ground and weaving in between stand-up tackling dummies. After catching and dropping the first couple balls, the receivers and tight ends were told to hang on to the last one and run in between two coaches who would hit them with blocking shields to test ball security.
Most of the receivers and tight ends moved through this drill flawlessly, although backup tight end Jerramy Stevens did have a drop. Aside from wide receiver Sammie Stroughter and Winslow, who both had great practices, this would be the last shining moment for the receivers and tight ends in Monday’s morning session.
The tight ends and fullbacks underwhelmed in blitz pick up drills when matched against the linebackers, who easily and decisively won the series. Rookie linebacker Dekoda Watson beat fullback Chris Pressley with a smooth spin move to get to the tackling dummy that represented the QB. Linebacker Geno Hayes engaged fullback Earnest Graham and then quickly disengaged from him to run around wide and get the sack.
Despite giving up close to 50 pounds to fullback Rendrick Taylor, rookie linebacker Rico McCoy beat him with a bull rush because he got under Taylor’s shoulder pads, stood him up and drove him back into the dummy with proper leverage.
Winslow squared off against linebacker Jon Alston and that rep was probably a draw as Winslow beat Alston early before he gave too much ground late in the rush.
On Watson’s second rep, he beat Stevens like a drum to the outside.
John Gilmore, the best of the blocking tight ends, finally scored a win for the offense when he knocked down linebacker Quincy Black during his pass rush with a solid jolt to Black’s chest.
Linebacker Lee Robinson was clearly held by tight end Ryan Purvis during their rep.
The holding continued as Winslow got plenty of middle linebacker Adam Hayward’s jersey.
Rookie tight end Jeron Mastrud managed to score another win for the offense as he staved off McCoy’s second rush.
Black beat Stevens for the sack with a perfectly executed spin move before Hayes overwhelmed running back Kareem Huggins with a bull rush and rip move.
Backup linebacker Niko Koutouvides beat Purvis prior to Alston beating Taylor with a great swim move.
Pressley stopped the bleeding on offense with a draw against Robinson, who eventually got to the blocking dummy, but probably after the pass would have been thrown.
The drubbing by the defense resumed as Hayward beat Graham and Hayes beat Stevens. Even Gilmore, who recorded the first win for the offense, got beat by Black on his second rep as the linebacker sunk his hips down and drove the tight end backwards into the dummy.
McCoy and Robinson capped off the session with wins for the defense against Purvis and Mastrud, respectively. Mastrud was guilty of holding Robinson pretty badly during the last rep. This drill would set the tone for the practice as the defense looked sharp and the offense was inconsistent at best and lousy at worst.
Winslow would step up in the first 11-on-11 session and catch a pass against strong safety Sabby Piscitelli on a nice pass from Josh Freeman, who rolled to his right to create an open passing lane.
Cadillac Williams had several nice, hard chain-moving runs during practice, but didn’t have too many opportunities to break off any big ones. On one play, Williams was stuffed for a loss when Black shot through the line of scrimmage behind pulling tackle Derek Hardeman to make a nice play in the backfield.
On one of the best plays in practice, Stroughter hauled in a short pass from Josh Johnson and turned up the right sidelines and sprinted past Robinson and Piscitelli for a long touchdown. Stroughter showed surprising speed in turning on the jets and ate up the angles that Robinson and Piscitelli had on him for a big play.
Stroughter also had a nice, intermediate gain on an end around before Hayward and cornerback Elbert Mack could stop him. Running back Derrick Ward had a nice block on Mack to spring Stroughter, but Mack hustled and made the stop downfield. Xavier Fulton and Marc Dile also did a nice job of getting downfield and blocking the way for Stroughter.
On a similar end around, Arrelious Benn was held to a minimal gain as rookie defensive end Erik Lorig got penetration in the backfield and forced the play to go wider than it intended. Piscitelli came in and stuffed Benn after only a few yards gained.
During the seven-on-seven drills, the defense smothered the tight ends and receivers, forcing Freeman, Johnson and Rudy Carpenter to mostly hit check down routes. But even those were met with some interference as Hayward swatted away a pass intended for Graham in the underneath middle of the field. Black also had two nice reps of tight coverage on Purvis and Stevens.
Johnson was erratic throwing the ball on Monday morning, throwing the ball too high for double-covered wide receiver Mario Urrutia, who stands 6-foot-6. Johnson was also too far out in front on a pass to wide receiver Chris Brooks, who had a step on his defender. Johnson also misfired on an intermediate out route to Stroughter, who laid out for the pass as it sailed past his fingertips.
The best throw during the seven-on-seven session was made by third-stringer Rudy Carpenter who rifled a deep ball to Micheal Spurlock, who beat cornerback Aqib Talib for a big touchdown. Carpenter is making the most of his opportunities and could be the backup quarterback to Freeman when it is all said and done if Johnson continues to struggle.
After the seven-on-seven period, the offense and defense squared off in an 11-on-11 drill that saw the offense backed up on its own 1-yard line and featured piped in crowd noise to simulate a road game environment as the first preseason game takes place on Saturday in Miami. The first- and second-string offensive lines combined for three false starts in seven minutes worth of reps, which didn’t please the offensive coaches.
The notable thing on defense was the use of rookie defensive tackle Gerald McCoy at left end with Ryan Sims and Roy Miller at defensive tackle and Kyle Moore at right end. Koutouvides almost had a short pick-six as he broke up Johnson’s pass to Graham in the left flat. Outside of that throw, the quarterbacks were generally on target with their short passes and the running backs did a credible job of not getting stuffed for no gain or losing yards while running from their own end zone.
Backup kicker Hunter Lawrence missed only one field goal on a handful of attempts during the special teams period.
The Bucs had two series of 11-on-11 periods following special teams with a few notable plays in each. The Bucs tried a trick play with Cadillac Williams taking a handoff from Johnson and then throwing the ball back to Johnson, who threw a duck to wide-open receiver Maurice Stovall downfield.
Defensive end Michael Bennett, who has flashed more in practice than fellow reserve Tim Crowder, beat Hardeman for a sack of Johnson.
Johnson’s back luck continued as he hit Mastrud with a good, catchable pass near the sidelines 20 yards downfield only to see the rookie tight end drop it. Johnson was able to rebound with with a nice screen pass to Winslow.
Carpenter was sacked by Hayward on a blitz up the middle to end the first 11-on-11 session.
In the second session, which focused on third down passing, Freeman was getting sacked by a blitzing Ronde Barber just as he let the ball go deep to Stevens, who made a nice catch over his shoulder after getting a step on Piscitelli. Freeman also rifled a nice deep out to wide receiver Mike Williams, who caught the ball and turned up field on the right sidelines and scored a 40-yard touchdown. Free safety Tanard Jackson went for the interception, but was half a step late.
Freeman also had a nice throw to Spurlock, who beat cornerback Darrell Pasco in coverage for a nice gain. After struggling in seven-on-seven and earlier in the 11-on-11’s, Freeman ended on a high note with a great deep pass to Stroughter, who ran a vertical route and had a step on Jackson in coverage.
Freeman and Stroughter tried to replicate that play on the next snap as the receiver ran a skinny post against Hayes, but even though Stroughter laid out for the ball it was slightly overthrown.
Freeman and Carpenter had a couple of great scrambles that covered more than 10 yards to pick up first downs in 11-on-11s near the end of practice.
Bennett and George Johnson, who was playing some outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense on Monday. George Johnson got sacks as a linebacker on Josh Johnson rushing from both the left and right sides. McCoy and cornerback Derrick Roberson also combined for a sack of Johnson while blitzing from the left and right side.
Johnson had a pass to Urrutia bounce off the wide receiver’s hands. Urrutia has not looked good in camp and may be the first receiver to be released this year when roster cuts come.
The Bucs worked on last-second, Hail Mary plays, but the defensive backs were not instructed to make any plays on the ball for fear of pulling up lame or twisting an ankle.
“If you jump up for this ball, you are fired!” Morris instructed his secondary.
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