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July 29, 2012 @ 7:41 pm
Current rating: 4.57 Stars/7 Votes

PR Analysis: In Pads, Running, Blocking Were Sunday's Focus

Written by Dory
Dory LeBlanc


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The third day of Buccaneers training camp marked the first practice in full pads. Tampa Bay's offensive focus was on running and blocking, with two Buccaneers players continuing to stand out.
After two days of practicing in shells, the third practice marked the first in full pads for the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There was a heavy focus at One Buccaneer Place on the running game and the blocking.

Running Backs
LeGarrette Blount was with the first team in the first period of seven-on-seven drills, but as the day progressed, Blount had fewer reps until by the end of the practice session he was out of the drills completely and was on a side field pushing the sleds.

It did not appear Blount was injured or even in a cramping situation as his practice time grew less as the day went on, not as a sudden result from a play or situation.

Rookie Doug Martin continues to impress in the third straight day of training camp. After practice, Martin gave a self-assessment to the media.

“I thought I did well, I thought I stayed consistent throughout practice." Martin said. "Some little wrinkles I need to figure out, and get that ironed out throughout practice.”

Martin dazzled fans and coaches the first two days, and there was some concern that his shiftiness and speed would be affected by the pads. Luckily for the Bucs that was not the case as Martin shimmied, cut, and blasted down field just as he had done Friday and Saturday.

A new element, pass protection, was added to Martin’s repertoire along with running and receiving, and Martin showed slight inconsistencies, allowing Ronde Barber in on a safety blitz and on another, got the best of draft classmate Mark Barron, tossing him aside. Overall, missing Barber on the blitz pick up is not cause for concern just yet, as Martin is a rookie going against a veteran defensive back entering his 16th season with 27 career sacks as is aware of the differences between college and the NFL.

“I felt like I did good,” Martin said. “I feel like I was able to pick up the blitz and be able to compete with the linebackers and safeties and corners."

“In college, it’s more simple scheme,” Martin said. “The safeties come down faster, it’s much more complicated. You've got to read a lot more in the NFL.”

It’s too early to make the determination who will be starting on opening day against Carolina, but it is not too early to determine Blount is on the hot seat and Martin is turning up the heat.

“I feel like I’m a complete back,” Martin said. “That’s why they drafted me; they believed I was a complete back. I’m trying to show them out here and hopefully it translates to the games.

The third running back slot is being split between Mossis Madu and seventh-round draft pick Michael Smith. If the Bucs choose to carry four running backs on the roster this season, they will be three and four, but it’s too soon to tell in what order. However, when Blount stopped participating in the seven-on-seven drills, Madu took reps with the second team.

Smith may have an edge on Madu for overall value as Smith is a speedster who could play special teams as a return specialist or in coverage.

Wide Receivers
In three days Vincent Jackson has shown Tampa Bay why he was the premier wide receiver of free agency. There’s nothing Jackson does not do well. From route running to catching to blocking – Jackson is heads and shoulders above the rest of the receiving corps.

Jackson is always involved when he is on the field; when the second- and third-team offenses are getting their reps, Jackson can be found with the younger wide outs or with the coaches. His work ethic is just as impressive as his playing ability.

Jackson missed one catch early on in Sunday’s practice, a very rare occurrence over his last few days as those are few and far between, which is a good explanation of why it stood out.

In blocking drills, Jackson was impeccable; lowering his upper body into the block, hands placed perfectly at the would-be numbers. He makes and sheds block effortlessly, and has easily gained separation from cornerback Aqib Talib frequently in seven-on-seven drills.

Mike Williams has been inconsistent over the last few days and struggled during the blocking drills. He shed blocks adequately from the left side, but failed to shed from the right. Wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck worked one-on-one with him briefly before the period ended and Williams translated what Fleck had shown him immediately. In the next period, Fleck and the assistants were covering the receivers, throwing blocks during out routes and slants, and Williams was inconsistent once again. In five attempts, Williams made two catches, dropped one ball, let another go through his fingers, and overran the final route.

In one of the 7-on-7's, Williams ran the incorrect route, nearly colliding with tight end Dallas Clark, and Fleck was vocal about his displeasure. 

The emphasis was the run, so Williams didn’t have a lot of opportunities to redeem himself, but has looked solid since the opening of camp.

With Arrelious Benn suffering an MCL knee injury Friday and projected to miss at least two weeks, the rest of the wide receiving corps needs to step up and seize the opportunity to make an impression.

Newcomer Tiquan Underwood has been a pleasant surprise since Friday; running clean, crisp routes and showing fluidity in his hips. He has gone in and out of his breaks smoothly, been able to separate from cornerback Anthony Gaitor, and has great hands. One of the more impressive traits Underwood showed off Sunday was his blocking. He had great hand placement in the blocking drill, but like Williams, struggled shedding the block from the right side.

In the practice period, Fleck was blocking the wideouts on the outs and slants, Underwood dropped a pass from Josh Freeman, but reeled in a bad throw from backup Dan Orvlosky.

Preston Parker lined up primarily in the slot on Sunday and was able to get through the defensive line cleanly into the middle of the field. Parker has also looked good over the past few days, and today was one of his best performances. Parker missed just one block (he aimed too high and Fleck was able to evade it) from the left side in all of the blocking drills, shed blocks from both sides, and dropped one pass in the out and slant route drills. On the play Parker dropped the catch he had a nice comeback in his route running, but couldn’t haul in the ball.

Ed Gant has wowed the crowds the past two days as a receiver, but his momentum did not carry through Sunday, and two weaknesses were exposed. In all of the blocking drills, Gant was able to shed a block from the right, but had incorrect hand placement and didn’t appear to have the upper body strength to properly throw a block. Gant dropped only one pass in the blocking-route drills, but tripped himself up and stumbled after catching a slant. Gant needs to develop into being a crisper route runner, as he rounds off his slant and doesn’t come in and out of his breaks fluidly. His route running and blocking needs work, but his hands were reliable once again.

Sammie Stroughter wasn’t flashy at anything Sunday, but he wasn’t poor in any of the drills either. He did return punts in the special team period which was to be expected. Stroughter did not throw a clean block but was able to shed the arm pads Fleck was using during the drill from the left side. Stroughter caught four of five passes in the out and slant route drill, but was not impressive overall.

Wallace Wright caught all five passes in the drills, but struggled in the 1-on-1 blocking. Wright’s best chance to make the roster is as a special teams player, so he needs to be more physical when the spotlight is on.

Armahd Lewis and Greg Ellingson are two more players whose chances may rely on his special teams. Lewis caught all four passes thrown at him and shed blocks from the left and right sides. Lewis was unable to throw a clean block, and it appeared as if it was due to lack of ideal strength, not technique. However, Ellingson’s woes are a result of technique. His hand placement was repeatedly too high throwing blocks, but he had the strength to swat away the block cleanly. Ellingson was thrown two passes, one on each route drill, and caught both.

Newly signed Landon Cox is expectantly behind the other receivers as far as development in this offense. He needs to work specifically on blocking and route running as he also rounds his routes and doesn’t have sharp breaks. Cox is a try-hard guy who is understandably behind the learning curve, but made two difficult catches Sunday. The first came on the out route one-on-ones with Fleck when Brett Ratliff grossly overthrew him, but he was able to drag both toes and stretch to make the one-handed catch. The other when Ratliff threw the ball too inside and Cox once again made the adjustment to catch the pass.

Benn’s injury opens up the competition for every receiver not named Vincent Jackson to either make the roster or move up the depth chart. For some of the receivers, they are attempting both.

Last modified on Monday, 30 July 2012 07:33

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  • avatar

    Quedogg: Just to clarify. I didn't call Martin a "wasted pick"; I was quoting another poster who thought he was. Horse, don't you think the draft was focused on defense enough? From another perspective, playing keep away by running the ball keeps that defense off the field. It all works together.
  • avatar

    I smell a Blount trade in the offing....
  • avatar

    Doug Martin is far from a "wasted draft pick" and will probally save Dominot's job. Can we please stop calling Shiano a "great" coach after 2 pratices with pads. Hell, some of you are giving him a yellow jacket already. Please, pump your brakes!
  • avatar

    Good article. The situation with carries is not that big of a deal.Martin will have days where he will get more carries and vice versa. Plus they have plenty of tape of what LeGarrette can do with the pads on its time to see what they new toy can offer!
  • avatar

    Horse: The only fumble I saw was when Clayborn blew up Lorig but it was Madu. I don't put much meaning on the number of Blount carries or anyone's number of opportunities or which unit the player is lining up with on day three. Heck, there isn't even a meaningful Depth Chart yet. But I would say, at least early on, it appears that our "wasted draft pick" is inching toward being our feature back. Blount had plenty of first team repetitions in day one and two. Now if he continues to be limited in his repetitions as training camp goes on it will probably mean that Martin is excelling more than Blount not showing well himself.
  • avatar

    Scubog, it's wasted not because he wasn't a good player, but wasted because defense defense defense is our big issue. You can't run the ball if you are down more than 14 points.
  • avatar

    Is it weird I don't worry as much about our players as I do the coaches. I think Schiano will be great, but most of his staff is his 2nd or 3rd choice and I worry about how well theyre gonna teach them the right ways.
  • avatar

    Whenever I read about V-Jax I am equal parts salivating at the thought of a TRUE number one receiver in pewter and distraught at the idea of him being injured. Now I know what it is like to be a football mother. :)
  • avatar

    Very insightful article that was both thorough and not overly technical for the layman.
  • avatar

    Dory, magnificent article. This is the kind of X's and O's analysis we need. Having been in my share of film review sessions, this is exactly what the coaches would bring up to the players and it is therefore exactly what the fans should know and be able to converse about.
  • avatar

    Good Article Dorcy. I am baffled about Blount? I hope PR can get the answer as to why he tailed off as the time went by. It may be as simple as Martin, Madu, Smith need more time to see where they are. Okay who is in the dog house with Coach Schiano with the fumble? I didn't see it actually happen from my spot. Go Bucs! Make it better!
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