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The Buccaneers’ afternoon on-field practice was one of the shortest of training camp. After taking the field at 2:45 p.m. for a pre-practice special teams session that seemed to focus on onside kick execution and recovery among other things, Paul Kelly, who is Jon Gruden’s assistant, blew the air horn at 3:30 p.m. to signal the team head indoors to the air-conditioned practice tent. The sunny skies and scorching hot conditions likely had a lot to do with that decision.
“Boy, we’ve got a hot one today,” Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin told Pewter Report as he was walking onto the practice field around 2:30 p.m.
Typically, the Buccaneers, who were donned in helmets, jerseys and shorts on Sunday afternoon, will head into the tent around the 4:00 p.m. for an hour, but the fact that the team elected to go indoors half an hour early was an indication that the 105-degree heat (with a heat index likely in excess of 115 degrees) was too much to take without some players needing I.V.’s to stem the affects of dehydration and cramping.
Several Bucs veterans missed the afternoon session due to one-a-day practice scheduling or injuries. Center Faine, quarterback Jeff Garcia, running back Warrick Dunn, fullback B.J. Askew, wide receivers Joey Galloway, Antonio Bryant and Ike Hilliard, tight end Jerramy Stevens, linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June, defensive end Kevin Carter, defensive tackle Jovan Haye and cornerback Ronde Barber were held out of the afternoon session on the field, but did join the team as the Bucs headed into the tent.
The Bucs did get a few things accomplished on the field in their 45-minute workout that was open to the media and the public. During the individual practice period, the receivers worked on their footwork and cutting in and out of breaks, while the quarterbacks and running backs were practicing handoffs. With all of the QBs working with the backs, Doug Williams’ son, who is high school age, was rifling passes towards the receiver.
The offensive line was working on the 7-man blocking sled at the start of practice with two linemen punching the sled at a time. Offensive line coach Bill Muir had his linemen doing a pass protection drill where they would squat with a good base and shuffle their feet from side to side over the span of three impact points on the sled, punching each impact point as they passed it. Second-year offensive lineman Chris Denman has a very strong punch and was rocking one of the impact points of the sled backwards.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who actually grew his hair out this year despite a massively receding hairline, was sporting a faux-hawk hairstyle prior to Sunday. Now, with the temperatures getting hotter by the day at training camp, Trueblood has shaved most of his head and has gone from having a faux-hawk to a full-fledged Mohawk-style cut.
After the individual period, the team came together for two sets of 11-on-11’s. Trueblood told Pewter Report that he has lost weight and is down to 300 pounds from 318, yet he has never been stronger. He looks very quick off the ball, not only in pass protection setup, but also in the running game. The Buccaneers were running a lot of stretch plays on Sunday afternoon and Trueblood was firing off the ball extremely quickly and getting to his target in an instant.
The theme of this 11-on-11 session was play-action and quarterback Luke McCown took the first reps of the day as the offense was featuring a lot of plays with U personnel (two tight ends, two backs and one receiver). With his starting linebackers shelved for the afternoon, except for middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, linebackers coach Gus Bradley got an extended look at Matt McCoy in the middle and Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes on the outside. Quincy Black also got some playing time, but hasn’t made as many splash plays in camp as Hayward has made from Pewter Report’s perspective.
Once again, Ryan Sims, who was starting in place of Haye at under tackle, had a great practice. He penetrated the backfield on both run and pass plays and did a nice job of pursuing the ballcarrier to the whistle for a 320-pounder. Sims has been giving second-year left guard Arron Sears fits lately.
With head coach Jon Gruden being upset over too many penalties in the morning practice, right tackle Anthony Davis didn’t make Gruden happy when he was flagged for a false start. Neither did nose tackle Chris Hovan, who was penalized for offsides.
Tampa Bay’s running backs did a really good job of finding running lanes as the Bucs worked on their counter plays and stretch plays. Earnest Graham has tremendous vision and found a nice hole off left guard out of a single-back set. Rookie Clifton Smith had a nice jaunt off left tackle, showing quick feet and choppy steps as he darted past defenders. Michael Bennett had a nice counter off left tackle after he took the handoff from Brian Griese out of the shotgun formation. Kenneth Darby had a nice run off right guard as Davin Joseph did a nice job of sealing off Sims and allowing Darby to get to the second level of the defense.
The fact that the Bucs were able to get their running game going made the offense’s use of play-action pass effective. Rookie quarterback Josh Johnson rolled to his right off play action and found Micheal Spurlock with a bullet. Johnson also showed great poise on another pass play by working his progressions and finding tight end Alex Smith for a nice gain down the right sidelines. It appeared as if Smith was Johnson’s third read on the play.
McCown led off the second series of 11-on-11’s, which was designed to test the team’s performance with 1:38 left in the half. The offense’s object was to drive the ball into field goal territory, although the team would not be kicking field goals in the afternoon practice. McCown was first up and led the second-string offense down the field against the first-string defense. In hurry-up mode, McCown found Smith with a middle screen pass for a nice gain and also hit Spurlock for a nice completion. Defensive end Gaines Adams blew by Smith on one play, and easily beat tight end Ben Troupe – who was resigned to grab Adams’ jersey – on another. Still, McCown was able to get rid of the ball and move the team into field goal range with eight seconds left.
Griese didn’t fare as well with the number one offense against Tampa Bay’s number two defense. He was quick to check off to outlet receivers due to good coverage downfield and didn’t manage the clock exceptionally well. The first-string offense could only get to the 42-yard line with three seconds left. That would have set up a 59-yard field goal attempt, which is not a high-probability kick.
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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@example.com