This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.â€¨â€¨
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field in shells (helmets, jerseys and shorts) on Sunday morning under blazing hot and humid conditions at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.
Center Jeff Faine returned to practice, but the usual suspects – wide receiver Joey Galloway (groin), quarterback Jeff Garcia (calf), under tackle Jovan Haye (groin) and fullback B.J. Askew (ankle) – were once again held out due to their injuries. Bucs wide receiver Antonio Bryant was also held out due to some swelling in his left knee. He had a neoprene sleeve over his knee during practice and was seen catching passes from the JUGGS machine for about 10 minutes after practice.
Second-year wide receiver Micheal Spurlock made an amazing, one-handed catch by the sidelines during the individual receivers period. Spurlock stood out to Pewter Report during the first two days of camp with his speed and clutch hands. His play hasn’t dipped since opening day and he has been a model of consistency throughout the first week of camp.
The receivers were working on crossing routes today during the individual period with head coach Jon Gruden barking out the play calls.
“I got 6-foot-5 over here and 6-foot-3 over there,” Gruden said to Maurice Stovall and Michael Clayton, respectively. “Let’s see some explosion.
“On crossing routes, you have to express yourself on the burst.”
Both Stovall and Clayton continued to shine in practice as the receivers fared better catching the ball on Sunday than they did on Saturday when there were drops aplenty. Receiver Brian Clark had a good day, but Cortez Hankton struggled to catch balls with consistency.
“Let’s see some hand signals,” the scratchy-sounding Gruden said to his quarterbacks during the offensive install period. “We have to communicate without words. Some of us are losing our voices.”
That prompted the quarterbacks to work on using non-verbal signals, such as clapping and other hand gestures to indicate audibles.
With Askew out, rookie Carl Stewart received a lot of playing time on Sunday backing up Byron Storer. Stewart had a false start in the offensive group install period, which really set Gruden off.
“Dummy, dummy, dummy,” Gruden said as he got in Stewart’s face and pointed to his head.
Quarterbacks Luke McCown and Brian Griese received about the same amount of reps on Sunday, but McCown was more often the starting quarterback in the 11-on-11, 7-on-7 and 9-on-7 sessions. Chris Simms received the third-string reps and even rookie Josh Johnson was able to get some work with in all three team periods.
During the group install, which featured the majority play calls out of Tiger (two tight ends, two receivers and one back) and Zebra formations (three receivers, one tight end and one back), Gruden was adamant about the receivers and tight ends breaking the huddle quickly and getting to the line of scrimmage.
“Hurry, hurry,” Gruden said. “The quarterback needs time – you don’t.”
The coaching point Gruden is trying to drive home is the fact that the quarterbacks need the time at the line of scrimmage to survey the defense, shift the formation, put receivers in motion and call audibles if necessary. If you are out at practice and you ever hear Gruden yell, “Fifteen seconds!” that’s him wanting the huddle to break with at least 15 seconds left on the play clock to give the QB enough time to make the necessary adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
During 9-on-7 drills, defensive tackles Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims were having a field day penetrating the interior of Tampa Bay’s offensive line. The second-team offensive line seemed to fare better against the backup defensive line than the starting offensive line against the first-team D-line. Second-year guard Chris Denman stood out in both pass protection and run blocking ability.
Tampa Bay was running through several plays where tight ends were lining up in the backfield as fullbacks. John Gilmore was in on such a play, but he motioned from the fullback spot to his natural tight end position. Yet when Ben Troupe was lined up in the backfield opposite Storer in an inverted Wishbone formation, Troupe stayed in the formation spot and served as one of the lead blockers for Warrick Dunn.
There were a lot of penalties on Sunday and too many blown assignments in Gruden’s opinion. One of those came on the last play of 9-on-7 when Johnson went the wrong way to hand off to running back Kenneth Darby. At the end of practice, Gruden made the entire team run several gassers the entire length of the field (53.5 yards) as a penalty for the sloppy play.
During the 9-on-7 period, the Bucs also worked on their end zone offense in the shadow of their own goal line. Once again, Sims stood out, getting an easy sack on McCown after beating left guard Arron Sears with a swim move.
Only days after cornerback Phillip Buchanon broke up two passes on fake field goal plays, strong safety Jermaine Phillips broke up one as holder Josh Bidwell rolled out to throw. The Bucs defense has completely shut down all of the fake field goals in practice during training camp.
During part of the special teams portion of practice, kicker Matt Bryant practiced his pooch kick in a direct snap from Andrew Economos. Bryant’s kick fell dead around the 10-yard line.
During the 11-on-11 session, which saw McCown get the starting reps, Hovan got great penetration on the first play and forced the ball out early. McCown’s pass hit Gilmore in the hands, but Phillips was there to swat it away. That set Gruden off.
“Catch the [damn] ball!” Gruden yelled.
McCown was under heavy pressure from the Bucs’ blitzing defense, but was able to escape the pocket on the next play, rolled to his left and threw a 50-yard bomb across his body to Clark who had gotten behind cornerback Ronde Barber on the left sideline. Phillips was closing fast and it appeared as if McCown had made a dumb mistake throwing into double coverage – until the pass zipped between Phillips and Barber and hit Clark right in the hands for a big completion.
Warren had the next pass knocked out of his hands by linebacker Adam Hayward, who has been pretty active on defense the last couple of practices.
Spurlock came through with another phenomenal catch for Griese on the sidelines right in front of cornerback Eugene Wilson.
On the next play, Wilson was shaken up a bit as he collided with safety Donte Nicholson, who was covering receiver Chad Lucas. Nicholson would have had a pick, but the crown of Wilson’s helmet jarred the ball loose to prevent the interception from taking place on Simms’ throw.
During the main special teams portion of practice, linebacker Ryan Nece served as the personal protector with Stovall and safety Sabby Piscitelli lining up as fliers to cover the punts. Fielding punts on Sunday – in order – were Spurlock, rookie running back Clifton Smith and rookie receiver Dexter Jackson.
Bidwell was working on punting the ball inside the 20-yard line on Sunday. When doing so, Bidwell changes his technique by actually dropping the ball nose down (instead of laces up) when he punts the ball. This technique causes the football to fly end over end without a spiral and makes it both difficult to field and also gives the ball a chance to get a good bounce if it lands around the 10-yard line. Bidwell did most of the punting from his own 45-yard line.
On the first play of the 7-on-7 session, Griese’s pass intended for Troupe was overthrown and should have been intercepted. Buchanon dropped an easy pick, which ticked off defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
“Come on! We’ve got to have that!” Kiffin shouted.
On the next play, Griese missed Storer on an easy throw into the flat, followed by a missed pass to Clark across the middle. After three straight bad throws, Griese redeemed himself with a beautiful skinny post to Stovall across the middle.
Piscitelli had a nice pass breakup on a McCown pass intended for Troupe. Buchanon successfully defended a pass meant for Stovall on a crossing route. McCown was able to hit Spurlock on a great out route in front of cornerback Sammy Davis, followed by a great throw to Warren who was running a crossing route in front of linebacker Matt McCoy.
But Kiffin’s defense rose up once again as Nece almost picked off McCown on a pass intended for Stovall on the left sidelines. The defense was relentless in coverage except for a beautiful play by Stovall near the sidelines as he out-wrestled the ball away from Barber on an out route.
When Buchanon deflected another pass – this time from Johnson – that prompted defensive backs coach Raheem Morris to praise his secondary and taunt Gruden.
“Keep throwing the ball, Coach Gruden,” Morris yelled. “We’re calling you out.”
Johnson was able to make Gruden’s offense look good as he came back on the next play and hit Stovall on a flag route in between cornerback Darrell Hunter and safety Will Allen as the head coach smiled to end the 9-on-7 session.
On the first play of the final 11-on-11 period, Sims beat Sears again to not only sack McCown, but force a fumble. Keep in mind that Pewter Report uses the term “sack” in these detailed Camp Insider articles, no quarterback actually hits the ground. Instead, the defender simply runs right by the quarterback, sometimes grazing the passer. The play is allowed to continue, even if the quarterback would have been dead to rights in a real game. But on Sims’ sack, he grazed McCown, which caused a fumble.
Sims has really been standing out in practice and appears to be making the most of his extended playing time due to Haye’s absence from a groin pull. Sims had a dominant practice today and will push for some serious playing time during the regular season.
During the final minutes of the 11-on-11 period, the Bucs blared the crowd noise from the sidelines as the quarterbacks ran the hurry-up offense. The best play of this session came from Spurlock, who made a great catch on a skinny post pattern.
Want the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2008 training camp? Want to find out who is starring in training camp and who is underperforming, and who the Bucs are targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft next year? Find out by subscribing to PewterReport.com's Pewter Insider by clicking here.
LISTEN to Pewter Report's Jim Flynn each Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. during football season on the Pewter Pulse with Dan Sileo on WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal, and catch Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds each Wednesday afternoon during football season at 5:00 p.m. on the PewterReport.com Buccaneer Blitz with Steve Duemig on WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]