The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held their second mini-camp practice at One Buccaneer Place under sunny skies and hot conditions with the temperature approaching 90. The only two players that were no-shows were defensive tackles Brian Price (personal leave) and Amobi Okoye (knee scope), and both of them were excused absences.
Eric Wright participated in the second day of the Buccaneers mini-camp on Wednesday and took some reps with the first team as the team’s nickel cornerback in the slot. E.J. Biggers remained the starter at right cornerback in base 4-3 defense and stays in that position in nickel and dime defense. Wright has been dealing with a non-football health concern during the offseason, but is responding to medication and is on the mend.
Tampa Bay’s second-team defense featured Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and George Johnson at defensive end, Wallace Gilberry and Gary Gibson at defensive tackle, Jacob Cutrera (weakside), Najee Goode (middle) and Dekoda Watson (strongside) at linebacker, Ahmad Black and Larry Asante at safety with Anthony Gaitor and Myron Lewis at cornerback.
During the individual unit period, wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck continues to put on a show at practice with his loud enthusiasm for the game of football and his players. Fleck was working with his receivers on getting a quick release from the line of scrimmage with a lateral juke and then bursting straight up field.
“Get your release and get vertical!” Fleck shouted.
While Vincent Jackson led the group and did a fine job, Ed Gant and Mike Williams struggled the most in this drill.
“You are rushing it, Mike,” Fleck said. “Use your power step and then go.”
Preston Parker did a great job during this drill on two occasions, prompting Fleck to say, “Nice job, Preston Parker! I love it! I’ve got a man-crush on you!”
Secondary coach Ron Cooper continued to work with the cornerbacks while Jeff Hafley stayed with the safeties during the individual period. It appears as if Devin Holland, a special teams demon last year as a rookie, has made the permanent switch to cornerback, while rookie Keith Tandy, who was a cornerback at West Virginia, is now playing safety.
During the initial part of practice in a team scrimmage session, Freeman hit a wide-open Dallas Clark for a big touchdown after the tight end had slipped past linebacker Quincy Black. But Freeman was picked off by rookie strong safety Mark Barron, who played pretty aggressively on Wednesday.
Fullback Erik Lorig had a productive day in the passing game and looks lighter and faster than he did a year ago. Lorig caught a couple of outlet passes from Freeman and was quickly able to move downfield and pick up some positive yards. Lorig also spent time on special teams working as a personal protector on the punt team.
The Buccaneers continued to crank up their zone running game with every back having a chance to shine, including Mossis Madu and Robert Hughes, who are deep on the depth chart. Both running backs broke off big runs during practice, and the one thing that is evident this year is that all of the ballcarriers have speed. This is definitely a faster backfield than it was a year ago, especially with the addition of rookies Doug Martin and Michael Smith.
On Tuesday, candidates for the third tight end role stepped up and made some big catches, including Zack Pianalto and Collin Franklin. On Wednesday it was Chase Coffman’s turn to impress. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Coffman is a big target and caught a deep pass from Dan Orlovsky for a big gain in the first part of practice.
During the first 11-on-11 scrimmage, Wright was running with the first team in nickel defense, replacing Anthony Gaitor. One of the stars on Wednesday was Tiquan Underwood, who shined at various points throughout the day.
In a seven-on-seven scrimmage featuring the first-team offense and defense in the red zone, Parker got deep on Wright and scored a touchdown on a pass from Freeman. The Bucs defense primarily plays zone coverage and Sammie Stroughter nearly exploited it, but dropped a catchable touchdown pass.
Freeman hit Jackson with an easy touchdown over the middle overtop Quincy Black, who failed to get the necessary depth near the goal line to prevent the completion.
Orlovsky also threw a touchdown pass shortly thereafter, hitting Underwood in front of rookie cornerback Leonard Johnson on a quick slant.
In an 11-on-11 red zone session, Biggers had a nice pass breakup on a pass intended for Williams, who struggled to get much separation on Wednesday, especially when guarded by Aqib Talib.
During a special teams period, the Bucs practiced its defense staying on the field on fourth down to defend against possible fake punts. Although this rarely happens, credit head coach Greg Schiano and his staff for leaving no stone unturned in their preparation approach.
Due to an attention to details approach, there have been very few dropped passes in practice this offseason compared to a year ago. However, backup tight end Luke Stocker was wide open and dropped a catchable pass.
Freeman hasn’t always put the ball where it needs to be, though. He has missed more deep throws than he has connected on, including overthrowing a wide-open Underwood, who beat Talib and Barron.
The Buccaneers ended practice with some situational drills. The first one was a scenario where there was 1:21 left on the clock with one timeout at the offense’s own 29-yard line. A field goal would tie the game and a touchdown would win it as the second team offense and defense squared off.
Holland, who was slot cornerback in dime defense, blitzed off the edge and sacked Orlovsky for a huge loss on first down. That disrupted the down and distance for the offense, which failed to convert a first down.
The final situation featured the first-team offense and the first team defense with the ball on the defense’s 9-yard line with seven seconds left. A touchdown was needed to tie the game and there were no timeouts left. The offense
On the first play, Freeman’s slant pass to Benn was just in front of the wide receiver, who dove for the ball, but couldn’t bring it in. The play took just three seconds and there was four seconds left on the clock.
On the final snap, Freeman threw a pass to Jackson across the middle on a similar toss that the two players connected on earlier in practice for a touchdown, but Gaitor was there and broke up the pass at the last minute to win the period for the defense.
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.