The cloud cover early in Tuesday’s practice provided a cooler atmosphere for the Tampa Bay players, coaches, and media at One Buccaneer Place. But as the clouds thinned out as the OTAs (organized team activities) progressed, the heat came out in full force, making it feel like a training camp practice. The effort and intensity was as high as ever, and the units went through familiar drills from previous OTA and training camp practices.
Tuesday’s practice, in terms of tempo, was the best of the three days the media has been allowed to view. One could tell the huge difference in this year’s OTAs versus what was seen last year. Players immediately knew where to go, what to do – and most importantly how to do it under Greg Schiano's watch.
As has been the case in the media-allowed viewing days, specials teams were up first and in full view for the first part of practice. Special teams coach Dave Wannstedt is really a taller, mustachioed version of Schiano. Both are intense, can get loud, and complete “Type A” personalities when it comes to attention to detail. They will coach up a player whose technique is just literally a few inches off of what they want.
After the team stretch period, it was back to some more special teams work. This time Wannstedt had the defense working on punt block and taking proper angles. At first the punt return team worked just on technique in a half-speed pace. The players came off the line and a coach, acting as a punter softly punted the ball. The players would block the punt and was then expected to scoop and score. But the players weren't just being instructed to pick the ball up in some random fashion, but instead very specifically with their hand placement to help decrease the chance of a bobble.
Schiano himself was in the drill and carefully watched how the balls were picked up. Players who just haphazardly reached for the ball were pulled to the side by Schiano, including veteran running back Brian Leonard, who Schiano told with a smile, “Brian, come over here for some remedial training. Knuckles on the ground, get under the ball!”
Wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams were working with their position coach, John Garrett, while the rest of the receivers and tight ends were working on special teams work, along with most of the other team. Jackson and Williams were doing simple, short routes and nothing really stood out, aside from a Williams drop.
Williams and Jackson then joined quarterbacks Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon, Dan Orlovsky and Adam Weber for some work within the 10-yard line, trying to score a touchdown. All four quarterbacks had no trouble finding their receivers, who were unopposed.
The rest of the receivers then joined Williams and Jackson and worked with the quarterbacks running short and intermediate routes. The receivers struggled with this drill, including drops from veterans Jackson and Williams, along with David Douglas and newly signed receiver Carlton Mitchell.
The defensive backs were then introduced to the equation. They were very solid in coverage, but Freeman did a great job of threading the needle to his receivers. Glennon did okay, but overthrew two open receivers.
The team went on to 11-on-11 drills and the defense was clearly in control here. Freeman had no one to throw to, but he also made a mistake on a throw behind an open Williams on a crossing route. Glennon continued to struggle with mobility. He took too long to throw and couldn’t escape the pocket, leading to a simulated sack. Orlovsky continued the offensive struggles when he threw a dart to wide receiver Jheranie Boyd, who was unable to hold onto the ball, leading to a deflected pass right into the arms of rookie cornerback Brandon Smith out of Georgia.
The offensive line broke off and worked with the defensive line on pass protection. It’s worth noting that Cody Wallace was playing right guard in place of Davin Joseph (knee), and Ted Larson was playing left guard in place of Carl Nicks (toe) in the starting lineup.
The quarterbacks, receivers, and tight ends began a seven-on-seven drill with the defensive backs. The defense continued to thrive against the Tampa Bay offense. Freeman’s first pass was nearly picked by linebacker Lavonte David, followed by a pass defensed by safety Mark Barron. Glennon struggled just as much against the second- and third-teamers. He had two near interceptions from both linebacker Jonathan Casillas and cornerback Myron Lewis.
Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood continued his impressive OTAs with another solid performance today. In the seven-on-seven drills, where the rest of the offense struggled, he was able to snag two touchdown passes, one from Freeman and the other from Glennon. No other receiver made much of an impression in this drill.
In a later seven-on-seven drill that took place after some formation work, the offense stepped up their game a bit. TE Tom Crabtree showed his work ethic and dedication on an attempted diving catch from a ball overthrown by Freeman. Crabtree didn’t catch the ball, but he showed great effort, which is something that could help him leapfrog Stocker as the starting tight end.
But the best offensive play of the day came when Glennon hooked up with wide receiver Chris Owusu on a deep pass for a touchdown. Owusu simply outran rookie cornerback Jonathan Banks on the sideline and had him beat by at least two yards for the easy score.
The team then went into a simulated game scenario drill, where the offense had less than two minutes to try and tie or win the game. Freeman was up first, but his opportunity was cut short as he threw a pick to defensive back Keith Tandy on the first play. Glennon was up next, but he did no better than Freeman. With only a minute and a half left in the game, Glennon held onto the ball way too long, resulting in a sack from Tandy, who really shined during this drill. The next three plays consisted of incomplete passes, including a poor decision on fourth down. The game relied on getting a first down, but Glennon instead threw the ball 10 yards out of bounds, ending the simulation.
The Bucs will wrap up OTAs on Wednesday and then report back next week for a three-day mandatory mini-camp. After that the team will be off until training camp, which will begin in late July.– Mark Cook and Haley Cornish contributed to the report
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