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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their second padded practice of training camp on Tuesday. After getting the rust off on Monday, the Bucs looked sharper this morning. The temperature was in the 90's with the heat index over 100.
The Bucs captains led the team in stretching after the warm-up period at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.. After that, the players broke off into their different position groups and started by working on fundamentals.
The wide receivers worked on blocking , with one receiver holding a blocking pad shield and the other receiver working on their technique. Wide receivers Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall stood out in terms of putting their power on display.
"Drive 'em on contact," yelled receivers coach Richard Mann.
The receivers then worked on different routes with head coach Jon Gruden helping to simulate defensive backs. Clayton made a beautiful one-handed, over-the-shoulder catch. During the offensive install session, Clayton made a fingertip catch while dragging his feet to make the catch count.
"Nice hands, way to be Mike," shouted Mann.
Wide receiver Antonio Bryant dropped two passes, and Micheal Spurlock dropped one. Receivers Ike Hilliard, Brian Clark, and Chad Lucas all made good receptions.
"Good job, B.C.," shouted Mann to Clark.
"Nice, Chad," screamed Gruden, "Very nice, Ike."
During the offensive installation session, the Buccaneers worked out of a number of their formations, including the "Patriot" and "U." The two tight ends that got the first-team reps in the U-formation were Alex Smith and John Gilmore. Typically, Smith would run a route and Gilmore would stay in to block.
Tampa Bay defensive backs coach Raheem Morris is impressive in the way he stays on top of the details with his players. That's not to say that other coaches don't do that, but the players can't help but listen to what Morris has to say. He is energetic and engaging.
During team warm-ups, Morris had Bucs rookie cornerback Aqib Talib start over on a drop back/break-on-the-ball drill because Talib started just before Morris had told him to go.
The Bucs defensive backs spent a few minutes working on hitting the blocking sled, which was a little different for the DBs, but showed that Morris is emphasizing the importance of being physical.
Morris' players worked on the blocking sled while Tampa Bay's defensive linemen ran through dummy drills. Bucs defensive tackle Jovan Haye and defensive end Gaines Adams were extremely quick running around the dummy bags in this drill.
Once the DBs ran back out into the middle of the practice field, Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin followed Morris and his players over to observe.
Both Morris and Kiffin praised CB Phillip Buchanon on a few occasions for using the proper technique through drills.
The Bucs defensive backs focused a lot on breaking on the football this morning. Some players fared better than others. Safety Donte Nicholson and Russian import Sergey Ivanov dropped passes from Morris during this drill.
Piscitelli, who led the Bucs in interceptions during training camp (not preseason), excels in this particular aspect of the game. Still, Morris continues to push the second-year player.
"Kick some ass out of that break, Sabby," Morris said.
That work and instruction paid off for Piscitelli during an 11-on-11, red zone session later in practice. That's when Bucs quarterback Luke McCown took the snap from center and bootlegged to his left. He threw a pass down the left seam, but Piscitelli came out of nowhere by breaking on the ball and hauling in the pick that would have been returned for a touchdown had it been in a game.
Bucs tight end Ben Troupe struggled a bit in the 1-on-1 blocking drills vs. his fellow defensive linemen, but during the team's 3-on-2 (two offensive lineman and a tight end vs. two defensive linemen), Troupe showed that he is capable of blocking by engaging Adams and driving him back away from the ball. The block was impressive and Adams was clearly frustrated after the play.
Adams later rebounded during an 11-on-11 red zone drill by coming across from right defensive end position to the left side of the line to stuff RB Warrick Dunn for a 1-yard gain. Adams had good pursuit on the play.
If you've been reading these Pewter Insider reports, you've probably noticed that little has been written about Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks. That definitely has changed after Tuesday morning's practice.
Brooks put on a clinic this morning, particularly during a 7-on-7 drill on the far field at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. Brooks' ability to take the proper angles and wrap up the ball carriers was impressive to say the last. In fact, Brooks stuffed Bucs running back Earnest Graham on consecutive run plays during the 7-on-7 session.
During an 11-on-11 session later in practice, Brooks popped Graham again on a counter play. Not only did he play extremely well vs. the run this morning, Brooks also was solid in pass coverage.
Fullback Byron Storer likely will make Tampa Bay's 53-man roster, but it's not just because of his special teams ability. Storer has really turned the corner as a pass-catcher and leader blocker. He put his lead-blocking skills on display this morning and was quite effective. Storer made a catch during warm-ups that really fired up Bucs running backs coach/special teams coordinator Richard Bisaccia.
But Storer isn't going to beat out Bucs FB B.J. Askew, who continues to play well as both a blocker and receiver. However, Askew had his bell rung during a 7-on-7 drill when he attempted to lead block for one of the running backs, but was lit up by Bucs defensive lineman Marques Douglas. That hit got the defensive players fired up, including Douglas.
"You better get your mouthpiece in, man," Douglas said to Askew.
But neither that hit nor a slight ankle sprain stopped Askew from opening up some holes via the ground game. During an 11-on-11 red zone session, Askew was the lead blocker on Graham's 4-yard touchdown run.
Tampa Bay worked on some last-second field goal drills on offense, where the scoreboard read eight seconds with the Bucs on the 50-yard line and needing three points.
Hilliard proved to be a popular target during this drill, catching two passes near the sidelines to move the chains and get out of bounds with time remaining on the clock.
From there, Tampa Bay worked on some field goal formations, but not necessarily field goal kicking. Bucs K Matt Bryant worked on some pooch punting, including one attempt where he pinned a punt on the 2-yard line after the team had lined up for a field goal attempt.
The Bucs also ran a few fake field goals. While we cannot reveal the details of such a play, per NFL credential rules, what we can tell you is that Buchanon sniffed one of the fakes out rushing off of the edge.
Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia looked sharper after getting the rust off in his first two practices on Monday. The Bucs held 11-on-11 in the red zone, 7-on-7, and 11-on-11 at midfield. Garcia was more accurate and hit receivers in stride more consistently.
Garcia started off by connecting with Hilliard for a 4-yard gain, but Hilliard was covered closely safety Tanard Jackson. Garcia put the ball on the money and that was what was commanded due to Jackson's tight coverage. Garcia then sold the defense on a run, and turned a bootleg into a big gain on the ground for the quarterback.
On the next play, the defense had a hard time getting lined up correctly, which prompted Kiffin to call a timeout. He then chewed out the defense.
"You can't be running here, running there. Get lined up," yelled Kiffin.
Garcia completed a pass to Gilmore deep down the field. Brooks had fallen down and Gilmore was wide open for a long gain. Garcia made a perfect throw to Clayton, who had just a half step on cornerback Ronde Barber. The pass was just in front of Clayton and he snatched it in.
Garcia threw a pass down the seam to tight end Jerramy Stevens, who pulled the ball in for a nice gain, but Nicholson punched the ball out of his hands and June picked up the ball and returned it downfield.
The Garcia-to-Clayton connection hooked up again down the far sideline. Clayton had beaten cornerback Eugene Wilson and Piscitelli, and made an athletic catch and kept running for a score. As Clayton was about to run into the end zone, Piscitelli, who had hauled in the interception earlier in practice, came from behind and slapped the ball out of his hands and it fell out of bounds at the one-yard line.
Garcia did have a couple of rough moments. On one play, the Bucs sent a blitz and as he avoided pressure from defensive end Greg White, Brooks sacked him.
"Damn it!" yelled Garcia.
Garcia came close to interceptions on a couple of passes. Both on deep throws. One of them was a deep pass to Lucas that was a bit of a duck. Cornerback Darrell Hunter and Lucas both attempted to catch the ball, but it fell incomplete.
Garcia threw another ball up, this time into double coverage despite Gilmore being wide open underneath the defense. The receiver had no chance of catching the ball. In fact, Talib had the ball in hand and was pulling it in for the interception when safety Will Allen ran into Talib and knocked the ball on to the ground.
Quarterback Brian Griese followed Garcia as the second quarterback. Griese started out with a play that was blanketed by the defense. As Griese rolled out he looked downfield and all of his receivers were covered. Jackson, cornerback Phillip Buchanon, and safety Jermaine Phillips had great coverage downfield in three different levels of the defense. White pursued Griese, and he threw the ball away before getting sacked.
Griese went to Stovall, who ran a nice 5-yard dig route where he gave a big target to catch the pass in front of Wilson and linebacker Adam Hayward. During the red zone drill, Griese threw behind Stovall in the end zone for an incompletion as the big wideout had worked himself open.
While they failed to connect there, Stovall made the catch of the practice, and perhaps the best catch of all of training camp on a pass from Griese. Stovall had gotten himself open deep along the sideline. Griese got the ball there, but it was too far in front. Stovall dove and got his left arm out and pulled the ball in with his left hand just before he landed on the ground.
The catch from Stovall was incredible, but the play would have never happened as the offense had been flagged for a false start, and it appeared that Adams could have had Griese sacked if the defense was hitting the quarterback.
That was one of few offensive penalties; an illegal motion by the offensive line negated a big run off tackle for running back Michael Bennett. Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood was also flagged for a false start during an 11-on-11 session.
Griese connected with Hilliard on a shallow cross that had linebackers Antoine Cash and Quincy Black trailing during one session. Hilliard caught the ball in stride, but the linebackers showed their speed and caught up to him before he could break away.
Griese did a fair amount of checking down, but the defense was ready for that. Linebacker Barrett Ruud was there to snuff out a number of those plays as were fellow LBs Brooks and June.
The Bucs tight ends have been solid, and Griese completed a pass to Stevens for a 20-yard gain as he had gotten open down the seam. Nicholson came up to make the stop. Stevens' catch occurred a play after he had a false start penalty.
On a third down play, Kiffin yelled at Nicholson prior to the snap, "Get down, Donte. It is third down." The safety moved closer to the line of scrimmage and the play proved Kiffin's intelligence.
Griese dropped back to pass and threw to Hilliard, who was 10 yards downfield along the sideline. The pass was a terrible throw as Nicholson was underneath it and picked the ball off. He raced down the field for what probably would've been a touchdown. Nicholson made a nice catch snaring the ball that was over his head, but Griese did not see the field well or just made a bad decision.
One of Griese's best completions came during a 7-on-7 session when he fired a pass towards the sideline for WR Paris Warren, who did a nice job of securing the perfectly thrown ball and keeping both his feet in bounds for a decent gain.
McCown came in after Griese. He started with some check-downs. One went to running back Kenneth Darby, who went nowhere due to Cash being right there. Cash had a strong practice, and was flying around the field. Then McCown hooked up with receiver Cortez Hankton, who got open in the flat against cornerback Sammy Davis.
McCown also nailed a deep pass downfield to Bryant, who had gotten open against Barber and linebacker Geno Hayes. The pass went for 20 yards.
McCown appeared to rebound from the interception he threw to Piscitelli earlier in the practice by having a good 7-on-7 session. He completed a nice pass to Hankton for a 12-yard gain, and his pass to Hankton, who had ran a comeback route, was perfectly timed and thrown hard.
On another play, McCown was impressive in terms of using his eyes, arm and shoulder to move the defensive players to one side of the field, and then coming back to the left side to throw a strike to Clayton for a 20-yard gain up the left sideline before cornerback Ronde Barber and safety Jermaine Phillips could run No. 80 out of bounds.
Hayes had trouble in coverage again. McCown completed an easy pass to Stovall, who ran short drag route, but was completely uncovered and had tons of open field in front of him. That pass also was a 20-yard gain. The coverage on that play was blown by a miscommunication between Hayes and linebacker Matt McCoy.
During the special teams part of practice, the Bucs continued to work on punts, this time punting out of the end zone.
Running back Clifton Smith, wide receiver Dexter Jackson, and receiver Micheal Spurlock were fielding punts. None of them dropped a ball, but Smith sprinted up on a short punt and laid out to make a diving catch.
While it was a nice catch, Smith probably would have been safer to let the ball bounce rather than risk the ball bouncing free on a diving catch after he made contact with the ball.
Tampa Bay is scheduled to hold a short special teams practice on Tuesday afternoon. PewterReport.com will not be filing a Pewter Insider report for the special teams practice due to the brief nature of the practice.
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