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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held a training camp practice at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Wednesday morning.
The Bucs sported full pads for the workout, and had Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon in attendance as a special guest. Selmon gave the defensive players a pep talk before the practice started.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Joey Galloway (groin) was missing in action again, as was tight end Ben Troupe, who suffered a mild concussion in practice on Tuesday. Bucs running back Cadillac Williams (knee) and left tackle Luke Petitgout (knee) remain on the physically unable to perform list.
Bucs rookie linebacker Geno Hayes changed jersey numbers from 45 to 54, and fullback Carl Stewart was added to the roster, taking cornerback Torrie Cox's spot on the training camp roster.
The Bucs practice was held under sunny skies and in hot and humid conditions, with the temperature near 90 degrees and the heat index over 100.
After the stretching period ended, the players broke off into different parts of the two fields to work on individual drills.
Tampa Bay's wide receivers worked on focusing on catching the football while moving laterally. Despite being nearly one week into practice, the receivers still appear to have fresh legs. This drill required concentration, and although Antonio Bryant dropped a pass, it paid off throughout this morning's workout.
Bucs wide receivers Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall turned in solid outings (more on them throughout this report). During warm-ups, Clayton had a pass thrown to him before he even turned around for it, but he turned around just in time to grab the ball for an impressive catch.
Rookie WR Dexter Jackson showed good effort during warm-ups when he stretched out near the sideline for a low pass thrown by McCown. It appeared as though Jackson made the miraculous catch near the sideline, but the referee ruled the play out of bounds.
Bucs WR Cortez Hankton made an incredible one-handed grab near the sideline after running a drag route and having McCown lead him just a little too far up field.
Quarterback Luke McCown, who took the No. 2 reps this morning, continues to display a strong an accurate arm in training camp. He's been the most impressive and consistent performer amongst Tampa Bay's quarterbacks thus far.
During a 9-on-9 session, McCown bootlegged to his right and found tight end Alex Smith open for a short gain. Smith had beaten safety Sabby Piscitelli by one step on the play.
McCown wasn't perfect on the day. He threw a low pass to WR Ike Hilliard, who had to fall to his knees in the middle of the field to make the grab for a first down. A few plays later, McCown threw a pass behind Stovall on a crossing route, which led to the big target losing his balance and falling to the turf. While the pass fell incomplete.
One of the nicest plays from his morning's practice came during a 7-on-7 drill when McCown hit Hankton near the right sideline. McCown's pass was caught by Hankton, who managed to keep his feet in bounds to move the chains.
Still, McCown was sharp, completing a pass to TE Daniel Fells for a 12-yard gain vs. zone coverage during a 7-on-7 drill.
During an 11-on-11 session towards the end of practice, McCown hit Bryant on a screen play. Bryant turned up field and gained 5 yards before linebacker Matt McCoy knocked the ball out of his hands, which allowed defensive tackle Chris Bradwell to recover the loose ball.
Bucs QB Jeff Garcia took the starting reps this morning and his arm was fairly accurate, but off the mark at times. During warm-ups, Garcia threw a deep ball down the left side of the field and hit Clayton in stride.
During a 7-on-7 drills, Garcia struggled to get air under the ball, throwing low passes to receivers that resulted in incompletions.
Another one of Garcia's low passes was actually caught by Stovall during an 11-on-11 drill. Stovall ran a crossing route and slid to make the grab for a first down vs. cornerback Phillip Buchanon.
A few plays later, Garcia's pass to TE Jeremy Stevens on a crossing route was tipped by linebacker Barrett Ruud, but Stevens still managed to haul in the ball.
Garcia's pass for TE Alex Smith down the left seam was just a hair too far for his outstretched arms and hands during a full team drill.
But Garcia rebounded fro those errant throws by hitting Clayton in stride on a pass across the middle and Hilliard for a 10-yard gain in zone coverage during the 7-on-7 session.
The craziest play of practice involved Garcia and several players during an 11-on-11 drill. Garcia attempted to throw the ball down the right seam, but it hit Brooks in the helmet. The deflected ball bounced off of safety Donte Nicholson's hands and then the hands of S Sergey Ivanov. With the ball still in the air and bouncing off of those three defenders, Hilliard showed great awareness and effort by snagging the ball out of the air for the circus catch near the sideline.
Tampa Bay QB Brian Griese displayed a more accurate arm this morning. During a 7-on-7 drill, Griese hit TE Alex Smith down the left seam for a big gain. Smith managed to beat Hayward on the play.
Griese received help from his receivers on a few passes that were not quite on the mark. During a 7-on-7 drill, Clayton made a sliding, driving catch for a 15-yard pass from Griese.
Several plays later, Stovall made an amazing one-handed grab on the right sideline as he started to fall out of bounds. While the catch was indeed impressive, Stovall was ruled out of bounds.
One Griese's more accurate passes came in the same drill when he hit RB Warrick Dunn in stride across the middle of the field. Dunn showed some impressive acceleration by beating linebacker Ryan Nece up the field.
A few plays later, Griese hit Stevens on a crossing route. Stevens beat safety Will Allen and linebacker Quincy Black and turned up field in a hurry for a big gain on the play.
The Bucs defense has dominated the offense over the past few days, and it appeared as though that would be the case this morning when defensive tackle Jovan Haye wrapped up Dunn at the line of scrimmage for no gain on a running play.
Following that play, Bucs starting right guard Davin Joseph was flagged for a false start penalty.
A few plays later, Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks blew up RB Michael Bennett on a run off of right tackle. Bennett was stuffed for a loss.
Following that play was yet another penalty, this time a holding call on the offense.
But Joseph and Tampa Bay's offensive line changed the momentum during the 9-on-9 running drill by opening up running lanes for running backs Kenneth Darby and Clifton Smith on consecutive plays.
Bucs guard Arron Sears, center Jeff Faine and tight end John Gilmore opened up a huge hole for Darby for a big gain off the left side.
One play later, Smith broke loose off the right side behind right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, Faine and Joseph.
On the next play, Darby went untouched for several yards after a big running lane opened up in the middle. One play later, Darby cut a run back to the middle for a another big gain, putting an explanation point on what proved to be a strong running period for Tampa Bay's offense.
Speaking of the offensive line, the Bucs are now working second-year offensive lineman Chris Denman at center during pre-practice warm-ups along with Faine, Dan Buenning, Jeremy Zuttah and Sears since the team has five quarterbacks on its roster.
The Bucs dedicated a significant amount of this morning's practice to working on substitutions for games. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and the offense lined up on one sideline while defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and his players lined up on another. The coaches would call out different personnel groupings and the players were required to substitute accordingly.
During the individual defensive backs period, rookie cornerback Aqib Talib is getting indoctrinated into the ways of Tampa Bay's secondary. After dropping an interception during the initial drills, Talib dropped to the ground and did 10 pushups on his knuckles. That is a defensive backs policy that started way back in the John Lynch days.
Fellow rookie cornerback Elbert Mack was a little sluggish at the outset of the initial drills and that Morris' attention.
"Wake your ass up, E!" Morris yelled.
Morris' theme of the day was going over coaching points related to defending bunch formations and crossing routes.
One of the traits that makes Morris a phenomenal coach is the fact that the coaches everyone like starters – even foreign player Sergey Ivanov, who Morris has been working into the rotation in 1-on-1's, 7-on-7's and 11-on-11's more often than expected. Every time Morris communicates with Russian safety Ivanov, he calls him "Drago" as in Ivan Drago, the Russian boxing villain in the Rocky IV movie from the 1980s.
The running backs and fullbacks went through the gauntlet drills with a metal chute that had padded flex bars that would deliver contact as the ballcarriers ran through it under the supervision of running backs coach Rich Bisaccia.
The receivers came over to battle the defensive backs in 1-on-1 situations and were exclusively running crossing routes against the secondary. The stars of the morning were the same three receivers since the first day of camp – Clayton, Stovall and Bryant. Clayton caught a touchdown pass on a post pattern against Darrell Hunter and came up to Pewter Report and said, "Wasn't that beautiful?" after the catch.
The defensive backs that stood out best in defending the ball included cornerback Sammy Davis and safety Jermaine Phillips.
The Bucs offensive and defensive linemen squared off for two spirited 1-on-1 sessions during Wednesday's practices. Pewter Report took great interest in watching Moore's pass rush, but he went against unheralded guard Brian Johnson five times and was the clear winner in four of those situations. Of the four victories, Moore won with an inside move, two bull rushes and a bull rush combined with a spin move. One of those bull rushes, Moore knocked Johnson to the ground.
The only time Johnson appeared to win against Moore was when he negated Moore's bull rush after three straight rushes. Moore appeared to be fatigued on his third rush and Johnson took advantage.
Quite frankly, Johnson might be the worst offensive lineman the Bucs have in camp, so it is difficult to see gage how Moore is progressing. Perhaps the coaches want to match Moore up against Johnson to build Moore's confidence, but Pewter Report would like to see Moore go up against a more formidable opponent to gauge any progress.
Zuttah got four straight reps – two at left guard and two at center – and had mixed results at best. He was beaten by defensive tackle Marques Douglas with a crafty swim move on the first rep, but negated Douglas' bull rush on the second rep. While playing center, Zuttah was beaten by twice by Bradwell on a bull rush and a spin move. Zuttah is clearly a better guard than he is a center now, but has drawn rave reviews from scouts and coaches with his rapid progress at both positions. He's off to a great start in camp and is digesting the playbook with ease.
Defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson fared well against rookie left tackle Chris Clark beating him twice with inside moves.
Stevens saw a lot of action in 1-on-1 blocking, but is not a great blocker. He only prevailed in two out of five blocks. Against defensive end Charles Bennett, Stevens successfully defended an inside rush on one play, but lost on the same inside move on the next. In two reps against Douglas, Stevens was able to negate an inside rush, but was beaten by Douglas' outside rush on the next rep. Stevens also lost to second-year defensive end Greg Peterson on an outside rush. The 6-foot-7 Stevens has never been known for his blocking skills and was lunging too often at his opponents.
Thankfully, Gilmore, the team's designated blocking tight end, fared much better than Stevens did. In four straight reps, Gilmore showed that he is the Bucs' best blocking tight end and it isn't even close. The former Bears tight end handled Bennett with ease on two straight snaps and then lost two hard-fought battles against Peterson, who had his best day at defensive end during camp so far.
In combo drills, both Trueblood and Joseph handled defensive end Greg White and Carter. The offensive duo of Trueblood and Joseph also manhandled the power rush combo of defensive tackle Ryan Sims and Douglas, who was at defensive end.
Left tackle Donald Penn and Sears split the reps against the combo of Wilkerson and Adams, but Penn and Sears were very effective against Bennett and Hovan, winning both reps. During the last rep, Sears appeared to hurt his right hand, but it wasn't serious. It was probably just a dislocated or jammed finger.
During the goal line drills on Wednesday, linebacker Cato June and free safety Tanard Jackson stuffed running back Michael Bennett at the 2-yard line on the first play. But on the second play, Bennett was able to dodge June and score a touchdown.
Graham came in at running back for the third goal line play and ran behind Carter, who was lined up at tight end on the left side, and Joseph, who was pulling left from his right guard position for a touchdown. Graham scored again off right tackle on the fourth goal line play but took a wicked shot from Brooks, who dropped the halfback as soon as he reached the end zone.
Darby was stuffed by Phillips on his goal line run, but Smith was able to power the ball into the end zone off the right side on his lone carry.
About midway through the two-hour practice, the theme music to Monday Night Football began blaring from the speakers in the end zone and Gruden called for his players to form a circle near the 15-yard line for what is known as the Oklahoma drill.
This drill called for the quarterback to hand the ball off to a running back, and for the offensive lineman to attempt to hold off the defensive lineman in a narrow, confined space enclosed by the entire team.
Carter stole the show when he shed a block from Penn and slammed Darby to the ground for the tackle. That play got Carter's defensive teammates and the fans in attendance fired up. It also fired up Carter and Gilmore, who began pushing each other after the play.
Gruden later called Carter's play the "play of the day."
Gilmore later beat linebacker Adam Hayward.
Rookie guard Jeremy Zuttah beat rookie defensive tackle Dre' Moore.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens beat Haye in another matchup.
That was the end of the Oklahoma drill, which was easily the most entertaining training camp practice session to watch thus far.
Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant continued to display an accurate leg. He was 4-of-4 on field goal tries, including a 52-yarder.
During special teams punt drills, Bucs WRs Micheal Spurlock and Dexter Jackson, and RB Clifton Smith field punts cleanly.
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