Under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 80’s, the Buccaneers hit the practice fields at One Buc Place on Sunday morning. The players were dressed in full pads for Sunday’s practice, which was over an hour shorter than usual practices.
The Bucs opened practice with their usual stretching and warm-ups and shortly after transitioned to special teams installation and drills. Special teams coordinator Dave Wannstedt gave some extra coaching to newcomer Mason Robinson, who was signed yesterday by the Buccaneers. Robinson is an undrafted rookie who played his college ball at Rutgers.
After special teams concluded, the team then split up into their position groups to work individually. As the receivers warmed up, a couple of players dropped passes at the beginning of practice, including free agent acquisition Kevin Ogletree who dropped a pass near the sideline and former South Florida receiver Carlton Mitchell who let a pass hit the ground. The receivers then transitioned into a drill where a slot receiver and an outside receiver were asked to run crossing routes. Former Stanford receiver Chris Owusu dropped a pass that was perfectly thrown by quarterback Mike Glennon. Eric Page looked good out of his slot receiver position, running crisp routes and showing great short area quickness.
The next drill on the Sunday practice agenda was 11-on-11’s. This session was plagued by miscommunications and mistakes from quarterbacks, as both Josh Freeman and rookie Mike Glennon botched snaps. Freeman’s mistake came in a shotgun formation where the ball came from the center too early, and Glennon’s mistake came when he was under center.
Rookie running back Mike James took some second-team reps at running back, but also saw some time as an H-back that moved across formations. The Buccaneers have a stable of versatile running backs, including Brian Leonard, Peyton Hillis, Michael Smith, and James, who are being cross-trained and moved all over the offense.
Next up was 1-on-1 sessions with the wide receivers, tight ends, linebackers, and cornerbacks. Linebacker Lavonte David continued to show why he is one of the best players on the team during this session. Coming off an excellent night practice on Saturday where he batted down four passes, David knocked down two or three more on Sunday. The former Nebraska cornhusker deflected away a pass headed for tight end Nate Byham on an out route, and later blanketed conversion tight end Tim Wright on a short route. David looks like he is picking up right where he left off from last season.
The Buccaneers next session was a 7-on-7 drill that worked on the defense’s nickel formation. The first-team nickel defense during this session consisted of Leonard Johnson, Rashaan Melvin, Keith Tandy, Dashon Goldson, Lavonte David, Mason Foster, and Johnthan Banks.
Keith Tandy made as splash play during this session, as he picked off a pass on the left side of the formation and returned it about 20 yards.
Now that the team is in full pads, one of the most exciting parts of training camp will take place most likely on a daily basis – offensive and defensive line one-on-one battles. On Sunday, with it being a closed practice, the one-on-one drills were right next to where the media was and you could hear every, grunt, groan, curse word and pad crunch between the two units.
Easily the standout performer of the battles was right tackle Demar Dotson. The basketball-turned football player had as dominant of a performance Sunday as PewterReport.com has seen in the last few camps. At times it looked like Dotson was going against high school kids, but it wasn’t a sophomore from Plant City High, instead Bucs starters like Da’Quan Bowers who was visibly frustrated after being stonewalled on two reps against Dotson. Of course it could all change tomorrow and Bowers could be the one making Dotson look silly, but you can see that Dotson is 100 percent more comfortable in his technique and is playing with a ton of confidence.
Backup tackle Mike Remmers was up and down in his reps. Remmers is very solid against a straight bull rush, but like most young NFL offensive linemen struggles against linemen who have an arsenal of counter moves. Remmers feet were stuck in sand a few times when linemen countered his initial punch. But you could see glimpses of why the organization has high hopes Remmers can develop into a solid NFL tackle.
Gabe Carimi was another lineman who stood out on Sunday. The former Bob Bostad pupil seems comfortable back with his college mentor and won both his matchups with defensive end Daniel T’eo-Nesheim. When Carimi gets his hands inside on a defensive lineman, he usually wins the battle. Very strong, with good footwork and bend, Carimi could be end up as another feather in Dominik’s freewheeling dealing cap. Carimi’s Bears tape was not good at all, but with performances like Sunday the former Badger will soon make the naysayers forget about his time in the Windy City.
Defensive end Aaron Morgan looked solid in the pass rush drill but at one point one of the defensive coaches yelled to Morgan, “Let’s see something besides a speed rush!” There is no question Morgan is one of the fastest defensive linemen, but had to develop better counter moves in order to not become a one-trick pony.
Defensive captain Gerald McCoy completely destroyed Jamon Meredith with a quick inside move, frustrating the rusty Meredith who missed a few practice attending to a family matter. McCoy’s quickness isn’t always clear when there is a scrum of nine or 10 linemen battling in the trenches, but seeing him in one-on-one battles, No.93 is lightning quick.
Center/guard Ted Larsen, while not the most physically imposing lineman on the roster may be as improved as anyone in camp over the last couple seasons. On Sunday Larsen shut down Andre Neblett twice with a strong base and good punch, giving little ground in pass protection.
After performing some 11-on-11 walkthroughs, the Buccaneers then transitioned into an 11-on-11 session that focused on third down situations. A standout performer in this drill was undrafted cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who made a couple of great plays to prevent the offense from gaining first downs.
The 6-foot-2, 190 pound cornerback from Northern Illinois made a sensational play on a pass thrown by quarterback Josh Freeman intended for star receiver Vincent Jackson. Melvin dropped back into his man coverage assignment and when Jackson cut back to the quarterback, the big cornerback broke on the football and knocked the ball away.
The final drill in Saturday’s shortened practice was a simulated two-minute drill with added crowd noise from a set of speakers on a golf cart.
2012 draft selection Keith Tandy made a nice play from his safety position on tight end Tom Crabtree, where he read Josh Freeman’s eyes and made a burst to the football, knocking the ball away from the former Green Bay tight end.
Cornerback Rashaan Melvin swatted a Josh Freeman pass out of the air that was intended for veteran receiver Vincent Jackson on a slant route. Melvin was initially beat on the play but the rookie showed great burst and recovery skills and put himself in a great position to make a play on the football.
Shortly after the pass deflection, Melvin made a mistake in zone coverage that allowed Vincent Jackson to snatch a pass for a first down. Head coach Greg Schiano confronted Melvin after the blown play and made sure that the young cornerback understood what his assignment was on the play.
Only a few plays removed from his blunder, Melvin came back and made a great pass deflection on an attempted back shoulder throw to Mike Williams from Josh Freeman. This was great to see because it speaks volumes about Melvin’s ability to put poor plays behind him, as a short memory is key for an NFL cornerback.
With less than ten seconds left on the clock in the two-minute drill period, Josh Freeman launched a Hail Mary pass to receiver Mike Williams in the endzone, who made the catch but was just out of bounds. It was a tremendous leaping catch by the recently paid receiver, but he had too much momentum to keep both of his feet in bounds.
On a running play to Brian Leonard, reserve offensive guard Cody Wallace flattened defensive end Aaron Morgan, which drew the attention of those on the sidelines. Wallace has had at least one pancake block in each of the team’s first four practices.
The last notable play of the team’s two-minute drill session came when former Arizona Cardinals cornerback Mike Adams jumped offsides during a crucial time in the drill. Adams was lined up against the slot receiver and jumped to early in an attempt to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage. –Mark Cook and Eric Dellaratta contributed to this report
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