The break the Buccaneers got from the weather the first few days of camp appears to be over, as the team took the field under clear blue scorching skies Wednesday morning. The practice was well attended by fans that made a lot of noise throughout the nearly three-hour practice.
The exercise bikes were working overtime with the injured crew consisting of fullback Erik Lorig (calf), cornerback Myron Lewis (hamstring), wide receiver Tiquan Underwood (hamstring), and tight end Luke Stocker (leg). Later in the practice defensive end Adrian Clayborn joined the walking wounded after pulling his groin half way through practice.
New running back Peyton Hillis is getting used to the Buccaneer way of life. He was carrying the ball in the high and tight formation with the pigskin tucked tight to the breastplate of his shoulder pads on Wednesday, which is the way running backs coach Earnest Byner teaches his pupils to tote the rock. However, Hillis had to be instructed to run off the field by Byner during the team’s water break.
Schiano has been known to blow the whistle and call everyone back on to the field and then have them all run off the field whenever someone doesn’t run off for a water break. When Hillis was walking off the field, Byner ran up to Hillis and scurried him off the field before Schiano saw him.
In the third-down run period where the offense was trying to move the ball out of the shadow of its own goal line, both tight end Nate Byham and right tackle Demar Dotson were guilty of false starts, which aggravated the Bucs offensive coaches. While Dotson seems firmly entrenched as the starting right tackle, Byham has fallen from the starting tight end (while Luke Stocker is out with an injury) to the backup behind Tom Crabtree, and can’t afford to make mistakes.
With guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph still sitting out team drills as they continue to be worked slowly back from their respective injuries, Cody Wallace and Ted Larsen filled in at left and right guard, respectively.
Center Jeremy Zuttah suffered a minor left leg injury during the run period going up against rookie Akeem Spence, who has been dominant in rush defense. Zuttah limped off the field, but later returned for one-on-ones and more team drills later in practice.
Once again, Spence was starting at nose tackle for the Bucs next to Gerald McCoy.
Safety Keith Tandy broke up a pass intended for Crabtree and cornerback Michael Adams had nice coverage and a pass breakup on receiver Eric Page on a crossing route. Leonard Johnson had a nice pass breakup on a pass intended for Carlton Mitchell, who was running a slant.
Two nice catches during the one-on-one session were made by wide receiver Chris Owusu and rookie tight end Tim Wright. Both players ran nice routes to get open and made over the shoulder catches.
During the 11-on-11 period, the Bucs’ base defense featured Da’Quan Bowers and Aaron Morgan at defensive end with Spence and McCoy inside at defensive tackle. Dekoda Watson started at strongside linebacker with Mason Foster at middle linebacker and Lavonte David at weakside linebacker.
In the secondary in base defense, Johnson and rookie Johnthan Banks started at cornerback while cornerback Darrelle Revis continued to sit out team drills. Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron were Tampa Bay’s starting safeties.
It’s interesting to note that Morgan, who was featured as a potential training camp sleeper in a previous edition of SR’s Fab 5 (http://www.pewterreport.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=8968:&Itemid=15), has been getting the starting nod in place of Clayborn over Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who started 12 games last season at defensive end.
The Bucs’ second-team base defense on Wednesday consisted of Te’o-Nesheim and rookie Steven Means at end with Derek Landri and Matthew Masifilo at defensive tackle. Adam Hayward was the weakside linebacker, Jonathan Casillas was the strongside linebacker and Najee Goode was the middle linebacker on the No. 2 defense. In the secondary, Adams and undrafted rookie free agent Rashaan Melvin were the starting cornerbacks and Ahmad Black and Tandy were the safeties.
When Tampa Bay’s defense shifted into dime defense for walk-thrus, Morgan and Means were the ends with the starters with McCoy and Bowers playing defensive tackle and David as the lone linebacker. Barron played the slot opposite Johnson with Banks and Revis playing outside cornerback. Black and Goldson were the safeties.
The second-team dime defense consists of Bowers and Te’o-Nesheim at end, Landri and Pep Levingston at tackle with Goode at linebacker. Tandy and Adams were in the slot, flanked by Melvin and Deveron Carr as outside cornerbacks. The backup safeties in dime were Cody Grimm and Sean Baker. Hayward rotated with Goode at linebacker with the second-team dime defense.
The Bucs have a variation of dime defense that features a three-man defensive line and two linebackers along with six defensive backs. When Tampa Bay gets in that formation Bowers and Te’o-Nesheim are the ends with Landri as the nose tackle, and the Bucs feature two linebackers, which are Goode and Casillas.
The second-team offensive line on Wednesday was Mike Remmers at left tackle, Jamon Meredith at left guard, Wallace at center, Adam Smith at right guard and Gabe Carimi at right tackle. The starting running back job clearly belongs to Doug Martin, but in the quest to find a backup, the Bucs used rookie Mike James and veteran Brian Leonard quite a bit with the starters and the second-string offense. Hillis and Michael Smith were relegated to third-team duties.
The first- and second-team defense likely won the day as the offense struggled from inconsistency on Wednesday. The defense made more plays, including a nice tackle for loss by a blitzing Casillas on Hillis in the 11-on-11 session. Black also sacked quarterback Josh Freeman on an attempted flea flicker pass that took too much time to develop.
Perhaps the best play of the day took place in 7-on-7 drills when David broke up a pass intended for James in the end zone. Freeman threw a laser to the rookie from Miami, who caught the ball for an apparent touchdown, but David was able to swat the ball away a millisecond after the catch to prevent the score.
Banks also had a nice pass breakup in the end zone on an attempted catch by Owusu on a pass from Freeman. Melvin also broke up a pass intended for Owusu in the end zone – this time from Glennon.
The offense did score a couple of touchdowns in red zone 7-on-7, including a nice catch by Ogletree on a pass from Freeman, and a short touchdown toss to Hillis in the flat from Glennon. Third-string quarterback Dan Orlovsky also got into the act, throwing a TD pass in the back left corner of the end zone to wide receiver Terrian Crump over Baker.
Starting wide receiver Vincent Jackson made his usual splash plays on offense, but did uncharacteristically struggle with three drops – two of which happened on crossing routes in team drills, while the other one happened in the individual period.
In the final 11-on-11 period, the coaches set up the starting offense with 2:14 left in the game, down 21-17 and needing a touchdown to win and having to travel 80 yards for that to happen. Freeman fumbled the snap on the first play and then threw an incompletion. A middle screen to Crabtree on the second play picked up 15 yards.
After an incompletion, Freeman hit Williams on a sideline route to the right side of the field. The star receiver eluded a tackle attempt by Melvin and picked up over 40 yards down the sideline. Two plays later, Freeman hit Ogletree with a touchdown pass as he snuck past Banks and Tandy into the end zone for the score.
Practice ended after the next series, which was shortened due to a miscommunication between rookie Mike Glennon and David Douglas. With 49 seconds left, the score tied 23-23 and the offense starting on its own 46-yard line, the wide receiver went to the left and Glennon’s pass sailed to the right – and right into the arms of Baker, who picked it off and got on the ground to end the two-minute session for the second-team offense and defense and the practice itself.
As soon as the final horn sounded the Buccaneers entertained several members of the Special Olympics on the field as a number of players led drills for the enthusiastic guests who caught passes, ran through pads with each one celebrating with spiking the football and doing their own version of the end zone dance. The Buccaneers host the group each year and the participants eyes lit up during the nearly hour-long festivity. Doug Martin, Michael Smith, Cody Grimm, Andrew Depaola, Troy Nolan, David Douglas joined general manager Mark Dominik as host for the event, with the members of the Buccaneers organization appearing to enjoy even more than the invited guests.
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