Under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 80s, the Buccaneers hit the practice fields at One Buc Place on Tuesday for an organized team activity. Tampa Bay is in the second of three weeks of voluntary OTAs before the team opens up mandatory mini-camp in June.
Not all of the Buccaneers were able to practice, including wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, who were both held out of practice on Tuesday with hamstring injuries. Jackson did some running and movement drills, so the veteran shouldn’t be held off the field much longer. Offensive guard Carl Nicks was absent on Tuesday, and head coach Lovie Smith said that there is no update on his return. Rookie running back Brendan Bigelow was also held out of practice with an unspecified injury.
As usual, the practice began with stretching before shifting into an individual period, where the players split up into their position groups for work with their position coaches. Following that session, the receivers, tight ends and running backs took on the defensive backs and linebackers in a series of one-on-ones.
Rookie receiver Robert Herron torched second-year cornerback Rashaan Melvin for a touchdown catch, using a well-executed double move to leave Melvin in the dust. The 6-foot-2 cornerback had another bad rep, where he was spun around by Louis Murphy who was running a slant-out route. Melvin was frustrated with himself on both plays.
Cornerback Johnthan Banks was not fooled by a sluggo route and was attached to the hip of the receiver for the duration of the route. Banks broke up the pass, which would have resulted in a touchdown, but defensive backs coach Gil Byrd thought that the Mississippi State product could have intercepted the pass.
“Go get it,” screamed Byrd to the 6-foot-2, 185 pound cornerback.
A few receivers dropped catchable balls during the one-on-one session, including rookies Quintin Payton, Solomon Patton, and second-year receiver Tommy Streeter.
While one-on-ones were taking place, the defensive linemen, under the watchful eyes of coach Joe Cullen and assistant Mike Phair, spent the better part of 45 minutes working on read and react scenarios. The coaches would take two linemen and put the across from a makeshift offensive line made up from the defensive linemen not in the drill. The coaches, who were standing behind the defensive players, would instruct the simulated offensive line where they wanted each of them to go and what type of block they were to perform. It was then up to the defensive players to read their keys and get to the spot depending on the movement of the offensive linemen.
Adrian Clayborn, along with Michael Johnson, appeared to make the fewest mistakes and and the two drew the most compliments from Cullen. Da’Quan Bowers showed great effort on Tuesday yet struggled with some of the drills. In one in particular Cullen had a blocking dummy split wide of the defensive end and instructed the defensive linemen to take a very long step to get to the outside to set the edge then burst up field. Bowers got the long reach step down but failed to accelerate up the field and Cullen had Bowers repeat the drill three times, loudly telling Bowers to “finish, finish, all the way through!”
Earlier in the practice, Cullen had the defensive ends working through a gauntlet of standup tackling backs. The defenders were to maneuver through the bags violently slapping and ripping each one as they weaved themselves through the maze before closing in on the final one that had a football attached. Three times in a row Bowers got his feet tangled up and Cullen had him repeat the drill. Finally Bowers got through the drill and Gerald McCoy was there to offer congratulations and encouragement. As we have written in nearly every practice report, McCoy is almost like another coach on the field, taking guys to the side during water breaks and offering tips and praise.
Two players who really stood out during the bag drills were defensive tackles Clinton McDonald and rookie undrafted free agent Euclid Cummings. Both showed terrific agility for their size and also violent explosions when making contact with the pads. The loud slaps were intensified by the loud grunts each made when trying to rip the stuffing from inside the bags.
The air horn blew and the next period began with Tampa Bay’s skill players matched up against the team’s back seven on defense for a 7-on-7 session, which asked the offense to convert third downs from different distances.
The quarterbacks did a tremendous job of completing the passes and moving the chains on Tuesday. Josh McCown continues to impress with his poise and ability to get the ball out of his hand quickly. The veteran signal caller completed 9 of his 11 attempted passes on Tuesday, and one of those incompletions was the result of a dropped pass by wide receiver Chris Owusu.
Outside of that dropped pass, Owusu had a very good practice. The former Stanford receiver was open all day and did a great job of find the open spots in zone coverage. Working mostly from the slot, Owusu is battling Robert Herron, Solomon Patton, Lavelle Hawkins, Russell Shepard, Eric Page and Skye Dawson to be the team’s third receiver. Lovie Smith had good things to say about Owusu after Tuesday's practice.
"Chris Owusu, though, he’s been pretty good from day one, a guy who’s been around here," said Smith. "All of the players have been around, but he’s one that has caught my attention from the first minicamp all the way through."
McCown’s other incompletion during the session was nearly an interception by stud linebacker Lavonte David, who made a quick reaction to the pass heading towards the middle of the field.
Second-year quarterback Mike Glennon also looked sharp in the 7-on-7 session, completing 9 of his 11 attempted passes. He made an excellent throw to rookie Robert Herron deep down the middle of the field. Herron ran a post route and found the weak spot between the safeties, which gave Glennon just a big enough window to squeeze a pass into. The play drew a big wow from the coaching staff and the rest of the players.
“Yes sir,” Josh McCown yelled to Glennon after the throw. “Good job Mike.”
Following 7-on-7s, the team then shifted into a special teams session focusing heavily kickoff coverage and field goals.
Kickers Connor Barth and Patrick Murray both took part in a session where the rest of the team simulated crowd noise and pressure as they kicked field goals from different yardages. Murray made three of his four field goal attempts and Barth put all five of his kicks through the uprights.
After the special team’s installations and kicking session, the Buccaneers began 11-on-11s with quarterback Josh McCown once again leading the first-team offense.
McCown and Glennon continued to shine, both making smart throws and fitting the ball into small windows. Glennon completed all six of his attempted passes during 11-on-11s and McCown threw just one incompletion out of his 9 attempted throws.
Chris Owusu hauled in a few laser-like passes from McCown and earned praise from receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker after making a strong catch over the middle.
Robert Herron made two back-to-back catches where he was forced to contort his body to haul in the passes. The Wyoming rookie had a strong practice and looks to be in the thick of the competition for the role as the Buccaneers’ slot receiver.
Right tackle Emmett Cleary lined up with Tampa Bay’s second-team offense on Tuesday. The physically imposing, 6-foot-7, 324 pound lineman has a sturdy, wide base and looked strong when asked to punch dummy bags during the individual session. It will be interesting to see how he fares when contact drills are allowed.
Later on in the session, rookie center Josh Allen, who snapped the ball for the third-team offense on Tuesday, botched a snap to quarterback Mike Kafka.
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.