Head coach Lovie Smith’s Buccaneers wrapped up the final day of a three-day voluntary mini-camp on Thursday with a 2.5-hour workout under very warm temperatures and little cloud cover. The blazing sun should help some of the players who aren’t from the south get a little taste of what July and training camp will consist of, although you can count on extra humidity and another 10-15 degrees.
Smith talked about what the team was able to do in these three days.
“We started the minicamp with a few goals in mind," Smith said. " One of the goals of course was for us as a staff to get to see our team and work with them, I said it the other day you see them on video, but to see how the guys work, how they respond, it’s 80-plus temperatures around here right now, so it’s good to see how the guys work. Another one of the reasons you have the camp is for the players too. To see how we coach the drills and the tempo of practice, it’s a time for the players. There are only so many positions we have available, they know that, they don’t know how many numbers, how many guys we’re going to keep at every position. It’s a chance for them to see their competition and we’re open, we want people to show us what they can do and we had guys that made plays throughout.
"There was definitely improvement from day one until today. Our players are showing up every day, they have a little break now and we’ll get back and we’ll start the second phase where the coaches can go out on the football field with the players next week except for you can’t go against each other offense [versus] defense. Like I said, a good start for us, we have a long ways to go, believe me we’re not ready for Carolina yet, but we have a little bit more time, but we’re closer to getting ready.”
Throughout the mini-camp the depth chart didn’t change much if at all on either side of the ball. The first-team offense consisted of quarterback Josh McCown, left tackle Anthony Collins, left guard Jamon Meredith, center Evan Dietrich-Smith, right guard Oniel Cousins, right tackle Demar Dotson, tight ends Brandon Myers and Tim Wright, running back Doug Martin and wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy.
The second-team consisted of Meredith at left tackle, Cousins at left guard, center Jace Daniels, right guard Patrick Omameh and right tackle Emmett Cleary, quarterback Mike Glennon, Luke Stocker and Steve Manieri at tight end, running back Bobby Rainey, and Chris Owusu at wide receiver along with a rotation of Eric Page, Tommy Streeter and Skye Dawson. The Bucs rotated Lonnie Pryor, Josh Baker and Jorvorskie Lane with regularity at fullback.
The starters on defense were left defensive end Adrian Clayborn, right defensive end Michael Johnson, three-technique tackle Gerald McCoy, nose tackle Clinton McDonald, weakside linebacker Lavonte David, middle linebacker Mason Foster, strongside linebacker Jonathan Casillas, cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner, nickel cornerback Leonard Johnson, strong safety Major Wright and free safety Keith Tandy. Starters Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson sat out the entire mini-camp with minor injuries.
The second-string defense featured left defensive end Will Gholston, right defensive end Steven Means, three-technique defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo, nose tackle David Hunter, strongside linebacker Danny Lansanah, middle linebacker Dane Fletcher, weakside linebacker Damaso Munoz, cornerbacks Danny Gorrer and Mike Jenkins, nickel cornerback D.J. Moore, with Bradley McDougald, Kelcie McCray and Marc Anthony rotating.
After team stretch, the units broke of into an individual period spread across the expansive practice area behind One Buccaneer Place.
The receivers did the same basic drills that they did on Wednesday, working on getting off the line of scrimmage quick and clean. Once again the practiced ripping through a dummy bag, using proper arm technique to attack the bag.
Thursday PewterReport.com spent a little more time observing the tight ends that included both Tom Crabtree and Luke Stocker working out with the team after missing most of the last two days. We have hammered Stocker over the last few years, and most would say rightfully so, but if Stocker decides he wants to be the player potentially he can be, then he has a shot of making this roster and serving as the team’s primary blocking tight end.
Stocker was extremely impressive in the blocking drills, especially against the sled. He was head and shoulders above everyone when it came to explosion, power and strength. It is obvious, that while on the mend from the numerous injuries that have plagued his career, he certainly hasn’t neglected the weight room. Can that transition to production on the field? That is a question only Stocker can answer, but it was a very good start for the fourth-year tight end from Tennessee. Another good sign for Bucs fans and the organization was Stocker stepping up and being first for the tight end drills.
If the last three days are any indication tight ends coach John Embree and offensive coordinator will count heavily on their tight ends to be proficient blockers. During individual period the tight ends worked almost exclusively on blocking technique. When adding in the receiving ability from observing the full offense going against the defense, free agent acquisition Brandon Myers appears to have upper hand on the starting job, and is the most well rounded of the tight ends on the roster. Steve Maneri also showed some ability as a receiver and at 6-7, 280 pounds, looks basically like another offensive tackle in the run game.
The running backs and fullbacks spent more time on Thursday working on pass protection, which is always a key component of any offense. All the backs did a solid job in protection during the individual period, ofcourse they were practicing against each other as opposed to blitzing linebackers or all-pro defensive ends.
Once again on Thursday, the defensive line was divided by tackles and ends for the first part of the individual period. Joe Cullen took the interior linemen and worked with them on a number of technique and recognition drills. Assistant line coach Mike Phair worked on similar drills with the ends, spending a good part of the period setting up simulated offensive lines and having the defensive ends diagnose the play based on the movement of the offensive players. New starting right end Michael Johnson, got a lot of reps. Part of what the ends were being taught was fighting through double teams and setting the edge against the run. Phair and Cullen would use spare linemen as offensive linemen and with the backs of the defensive players turned, would give hand signals to the offensive linemen on what look they wanted. There were plenty of errors but the staff didn’t reprimand the players too hard, instead gave them pointers, making sure they fully understood their responsibilities
After the individual period the team spent a good portion of the period working on blocking punts. The coaches had tether balls tied to the goal posts and a coach would bring the ball back while an edge rusher would come full speed on a punt block. The players would have to take the proper angle and work on getting their hands in place to meet the ball that was, by then swinging forward, simulating a punt just leaving the foot of the kicker. While it appeared easy from the sideline, a number of players got their too late or took a bad angle and if it had been a live game, most likely would have been called for a roughing the kicker.
As practice continued the receivers and defensive backs participated in some one-on-one drills. We have raved about the passing game over the last two days, and while McCown and his receivers were still sharp, the defensive backs won a few more battles today. Johnthan Banks had one of the better performances of the day from the secondary, making a handful of solid pass breakups using his rangy length and position to work receivers to the boundary narrowing the window for the receiver to come down in bounds even if they came up with the catch.
Verner was also solid on Thursday staying in the hip pocket of most of the receivers he went against and using good technique to stay in position, rarely getting burned. Once again safety Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson were bystanders on the sideline, but that allowed Kelcie McCray, Keith Tandy, Major Wright, Marc Anthony and Bradley McDougald to get some valuable reps, although they struggled at times.
Bucs safeties coach Mikal Smith was yelling words of encouragement to his unit on Wednesday as receivers were finding holes in the zone coverage with regularity and catching the ball for big gains.
“Safeties – we’ve got to pick it up,” Smith said. “We need more intensity back here.”
After saying that, McCray made a nice pass breakup on a throw intended for Myers across the middle. Myers and Wright have both been impressive for the Bucs at tight end, catching everything thrown their way and using their speed and quickness to find holes in zone coverage and get open.
On the first play of the 7-on-7 period, Foster got beat by receiver Lavelle Hawkins down the deep middle running a post pattern against Cover 2. On the next play, Tedford attacked Foster again, who got a deep drop in Cover 2, but this time with McCown throwing a short pass to Martin, who ran an underneath route into the zone that Foster vacated with his deep pass drop.
Some other quick Thursday observations:
• David, who led the Bucs with five interceptions last year, dropped a sure-fire pick on Wednesday as he stepped in front of a receiver.
• Daniels and Glennon had a couple of fumbled exchanges when Glennon was under center on Wednesday.
• Louis Murphy looked to be the first camp casualty midway through Thursday practice, when after catching a pass, cornerback Leonard Johnson who was covering him on the play tried to strip the ball, but instead slapped Murphy’s hand. A loud audible pop was heard and Murphy immediately yelled in pain. Johnson went over to Murphy to check on him and a couple players on the sideline yelled for a trainer to come over. After getting checked out by the medical staff, Murphy spent some time on the sidelines before rejoining his offensive teammates a short time later. Murphy told PewterReport.com later in open locker room that he was fine.
• Wide receiver Vincent Jackson seems to be rejuvenated with the new staff and offensive scheme and looks to be in tremendous shape. As usual Jackson is the first to participate in drills and seems to even have a little extra burst.
• Head coach Lovie Smith rarely raises his voice and allows his assistants to coach. In fact if you didn’t see him on the field you would sometimes forget he is even there. The players seem to respect Smith allowing them to be professionals, but they also know he isn’t afraid to lay the law down when needed.– SCOTT REYNOLDS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT
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