Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris spent Sunday afternoon’s post-practice press conference responding to questions that ranged in topic from individual performances during last Friday’s preseason opener to status updates on injured players leading up to Thursday night’s home opener against New England.
One of the top storylines coming out of the Bucs’ 25-0 win at Kansas City two days ago was defensive end Kyle Moore’s presence in the Chiefs’ backfield. The third-year pro out of Southern California made the most of his time on the field, picking up a game-high two sacks.
Morris said he was impressed with the third teamer’s overall effort and attributed much of it to Moore’s health.
“The guy’s healthy, really, for the first time he’s been here,” Morris said. “He went out and executed the game plan that his coaches gave him, made some brilliant time moves, made some great outside moves, rushed inside, rushed outside; he was on it.”
“He played fast, he played smart, he played exactly how the coaches want him to.”
Moore, who has yet to record a regular-season sack in two injury-shorted season with the Bucs after being picked up in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, played and started seven games last year. He is currently buried on the depth chart behind left ends Michael Bennett and Da’Quan Bowers, respectively.
When asked what Moore needs to continue doing to climb up from third string, Morris said replicating Friday night’s approach would be a good start. “Exactly what he did the other night. We’ve got to put the best guys out there and right now this is an opportunity for him to grow against better competition and I love what he did.”
As a whole, Coach Morris graded the defensive line’s performance positively. The defense as a whole recorded six sacks, one resulting in a safety and hurried the quarterback eight times.
“The guys really rushed as a group, I was really pleased with that,” he said. “We had a couple times where the lanes broke down, people got out of their spots and got out of their lanes, but for the most part it was a great defensive line [effort]. They all played with great energy and great effort and really good poise as far as rushing the quarterback. They did a great job of keeping [Kansas City’s] quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket, bouncing around and jumping around.”
As for Tampa Bay’s duo of highly touted rookie defensive ends, Morris said Adrian Clayborn showed off his physical, high-energy style and Bowers’ limited practice time was noticeable.
“Clayborn, he really stood out,” Morris said. “He had the first play but he just forgot to run his assignment. He was so hyped up, but I think he made the play anyway. After that he kind of settled down and he played violent, he played physical, he shed a couple blocks and made a couple plays.”
Morris said the former All-American from the University of Iowa still has work to do perfecting his ability to get in the backfield on passing plays. “His pass rush he’s got to improve as far as his technique. He’s coming out of the gap a little quick on his pass rush a little bit, but that didn’t stop him from really hitting that quarterback in the end zone and helping on the safety. He didn’t get the credit for the sack but he certainly was part of the punishment. That was certainly nice to see.”
Bennett and linebacker Dekoda Watson were credited with that aforementioned sack and safety, but Clayborn was in the mix collapsing the Kansas City pocket around quarterback Tyler Palko.
Bowers, who is still not 100-percent recovered from January knee surgery, has not participated in all activities during training camp. “You can see the lack of time and lack of being out there as far as when he can go make his moves and when he can use his power,” Morris said. “But I look forward to him getting better, too. I was pretty happy with his performance and how strong he looks. But he was pretty disappointed he didn’t play better.”
Morris also spoke about defensive play-calling duties being handled Friday night by strongside linebacker Quincy Black rather than rookie middle linebacker Mason Foster. He said it wasn’t exactly about taking something off of Mason’s plate and that it operated smoothly. “It actually worked better for [Foster] not having to worry about getting the call from the sideline and just go out there and play fast and play physical.”
“[Black] did a great job,” Morris continued, saying there are no immediate plans to switch for the time being. “It was his first time out the box making the calls.”
The Bucs’ next game comes Thursday night when the team welcomes New England to Raymond James Stadium for their home opener. Morris hinted at the status of a number of injured Buccaneers and their availability for Game Two.
Rookie tight end Luke Stocker (hip) was back on the field for Sunday’s helmets-and-shorts practice and participated in drills. “Luke Stocker was out there running around,” Morris said about the fourth-round pick from this year’s draft out of Tennessee. “He’s still week-to-week, I don’t want to get too excited for it, but it was nice to see him out there running around.”
Joining Stocker on the highly-unlikely-to-play list is second-year wide receiver Arrelious Benn (knee), Morris said. The availability of cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hamstring) and Myron Lewis (hamstring) were both described as “iffy.”
Viewed more positively were defensive tackles Gerald McCoy (shoulder) and Brian Price (pelvic fracture). Morris said Sunday he expects both to be on the field to see action against the Patriots.
• The Buccaneers’ final training camp practice will be Tuesday afternoon at One Buccaneer Place from 2:30-4:35 and Morris said he has been enthused by the public turnout. “To go over there and see those guys and see the fans and sign autographs…I’m telling you right now, we lead the league in autographs, there’s no doubt in my mind. We make it a point to sign before and after practice, just to show the appreciation to our guy that come out every day. There are a lot of consistent faces over there, sometimes there are new faces, but it’s really been wonderful going out to practice every day and really have that kind of commitment from the fans.”
• Rookie seventh-round draft pick Anthony Gaitor’s high-energy, passionate attitude translated into an effective night in Kansas City on Friday. The 5-foot-10, 178-pound cornerback recorded one sack and broke up a pass. “He’s a ball to coach,” Morris said. He’s fun, he’s smart. He’s probably one of our only rookies running two positions. He’s running that Ronde [Barber] position and that outside corner.”