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In hot and humid conditions, the Buccaneers held a spirited practice on Monday morning in shells (jersey, shoulder pads and helmet). After warming up in their position groups, the Bucs were led through stretching by captains: linebacker Derrick Brooks, guard Davin Joseph, defensive tackle Chris Hovan, and cornerback Ronde Barber. Returning to practice was wide receiver Antonio Bryant, who missed Sunday with some swelling in his knee. Quarterback Jeff Garcia, wide receiver Joey Galloway, under tackle Jovan Haye, and fullback B.J. Askew were all held out of Monday’s practice.
After stretching the position groups split off and worked on some fundamentals. The defensive line hit a sled and practiced disengaging from the contact and cutting away in pursuit.
During the individual period, the tight ends were working with coach Bob Casullo in pass protection drills. The one area that the tight ends are really working on this training camp is their blocking in both pass and run situations. John Gilmore is a very good blocker and Alex Smith has his moments, but Ben Troupe, Jerramy Stevens and Daniel Fells are known more as pass catchers and definitely need work in technique and fundamentals.
Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris was going over the Buzz technique today under the watchful eye of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The Buzz technique is what the Bucs defensive backs use to move laterally in zone coverage to undercut underneath routes. This drill would come in handy later in practice as rookie cornerback Aqib Talib stepped in front of Bryant and picked off a pass that would become a defensive touchdown a few seconds later.
“Undercut them at the sticks and make the damn play,” Morris said. “We don’t want them to pick up the first down.”
The coaching point Morris was talking about was his defensive backs making a play on the ball at the first down marker on third-and-5 situations.
The wide receivers had practices on Saturday and Sunday where they had some dropped balls. In order to help their hands they ran a gauntlet drill with some tall tackling dummies and some short pads between the dummies that the players had to step over.
As the players criss-crossed through the dummies, the Bucs' four quarterbacks would throw passes to them. The final pass came at the end of the dummies and the players would then turn and run where two assistants would hit them with padded blocking shields. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden solicited the crowd for help in pointing out the players who were dropping balls.
“I want you to boo every time one of these guys drops a ball. That’ll help us know who is dropping passes,” Gruden said.
The crowd obliged. In the first set, the players who got booed included wide receiver Paris Warren, wide receiver Cortez Hankton, fullback Byron Storer, and running back Kenneth Darby. The second set had dropped passes from Darby, wide receiver Brian Clark, fullback Carl Stewart, and wide receiver Maurice Stovall fumbled a ball when hit with the pad shields.
The third set saw drops from running back Earnest Graham, Stewart, Storer, and a questionable ball to Michael Clayton that looked like it was thrown too early by quarterback Brian Griese.
In 1-on-1 drills between defensive backs and wide receivers, Stovall made a nice catch on an out route in front of Marcus Hamilton, but saw Phillip Buchanon step in front of him for a pass breakup on a similar play a bit later on.
The defense was able to rise up on a few occasions with Talib leaping in front of Chad Lucas to grab an interception on an underthrown pass from Griese.
Clark and Clayton used head fakes to create separation from Eugene Wilson and Darrell Hunter, respectively. Clark’s head fake was so good that Wilson thought Clark was running a skinny post while he was in fact running an out route. Wilson was 20 yards away from Clark in the middle of the field by the time Clark caught the ball by the sidelines.
Wilson also overran Dexter Jackson who made a sliding catch of a pass from Chris Simms. Then he made the mistake of not touching Jackson down. Jackson made the rookie mistake of not getting up and running, either, which ticked off receivers coach Richard Mann.
“Get up!” Mann said. “Come on now. Get up and go!”
Veteran wide receiver Ike Hilliard made a great catch right in front of cornerback Sammy Davis, who had very tight coverage. That seems to be Davis’ problem. He’s right there in position to make plays, but doesn’t seal the deal and get the job done. The same thing happened later in the 1-on-1’s against Hilliard. Davis was closing in on Hilliard, but got his feet crossed up at the last minute and that allowed Hilliard to make the catch.
In the 9-on-7 session the defense and offense had a balanced amount of success for each side. Graham had a few nice runs and Stewart made a big lead block on a play to spring running back Clifton Smith. The Bucs also had consecutive false starts from the left side of their offensive line. Guard Arron Sears jumped first and tackle Donald Penn did on the next play. A few plays later, the line tried to redeem the penalties by springing running back Michael Bennett for a big run behind guard Davin Joseph and tackle Jeremy Trueblood.
The linebackers had a good overall session. They flowed to the ball and also stuffed a number of runs. Barrett Ruud showed his speed by stuffing a sweep at the line of scrimmage just as Bennett was about to turn up field. Matt McCoy and Ryan Nece combined to make a nice stuff of a run by Darby. Cato June also had some good plays.
The Buccaneers practiced onsides kick recovery during the special teams portion of practice. Tampa Bay’s “hands team” consists of Stovall, safety Will Allen and linebackers Quincy Black and Ryan Nece on one side of kicker Matt Bryant, while tight end John Gilmore, safety Donte Nicholson, linebacker Adam Hayward, safety Sabby Piscitelli and Buchanon were lined up on the side that is charged with the duty of going after the ball. Bryant’s onside kick went too far and was recovered by McCoy for the return team.
During the special teams portion of practice, the Bucs worked on some fake field goals and some pooch kicks. Dexter Jackson and Micheal Spurlock fielded some punts in the session as well.
The Bucs then worked on the last three plays of the game with the offense needing a touchdown to win and needing to cover 60 yards to do it. Simms led the backup offense against a defense full of reserves, simulating what might happen on Saturday night at Miami in the fourth quarter of the preseason opener.
On the first play, Simms forced a pass to Clark who was triple covered. The pass was broken up by Hunter and intercepted by Allen, who returned the pick down the left sidelines and almost scored a touchdown. On the second play, Simms would have been sacked twice before he heaved the ball out of bounds, which left about eight seconds left on the clock. On the final play of the game with the Bucs having to go about 60 yards to score, Simms held on to the ball way too long and would have been sacked by Charles Bennett, Marques Douglas or Greg Peterson – or all three. Simms should have at least thrown the ball up for grabs and given his receivers a chance to make a play. Instead, he hesitated and came off looking like a rookie, quite frankly.
In most of the scrimmage sessions, Luke McCown took the first reps at quarterback and was followed by Griese. Simms got the third set of reps. All of the quarterbacks had at best a mixed outing. Some had more highlight plays then the others, but all three threw interceptions.
During 7-on-7 drills, starting at the 25-yard line, McCown started off well with a perfect touch pass across the field that he lofted in over Ruud’s reach and into tight end Alex Smith’s hands. The next pass looked like a mistake when McCown first threw it. Warren looked to be double covered as he was running into the end zone but McCown threw a strike between the defenders for a touchdown. Warren had gotten a step on Buchanon.
McCown’s next pass was one he would like to have back. With all his receivers covered down field. McCown looked at his check-down option of Storer for too long before throwing him the ball. This allowed cornerback Elbert Mack to jump the pass and make an easy interception. McCown also had a couple of fumbled snaps in the session, one of them was with Jeremy Zuttah at center, and Bennett quickly dove on the ball to keep possession for the offense.
McCown bounced back with a TD pass on his next rep. McCown threw from about the 30-yard line and threw a pass high in the back of the end zone where tight end Jerramy Stevens made a great catch reaching up above his head. McCown pump faked, and Stevens had a step on cornerback Darrell Hunter and Nicholson. Later on, Stevens dropped a pass from McCown on a short drag route.
From the 10-yard line, McCown moved some in the pocket and threw to the end zone where Hilliard had gotten open in zone coverage. McCown's pass was a little high and to Hilliard’s left. Hilliard couldn’t reel in the throw, and while it was not an easy catch, it was probably one that the veteran receiver would say he should have caught.
McCown threw another touchdown pass, this time to Stovall. The wide receiver got open in the back of end zone against Buchanon. McCown and his receivers also did a good job of finding soft spots in zone coverage. He was able to do that with Stovall and Smith, specifically.
Stovall ran short out and McCown put the ball on his hands but cornerback Ronde Barber slapped the ball out. McCown had a scramble and rush for no gain as he was pressured and pursued by defensive end Gaines Adams.
In 11-on-11's, McCown threw a second interception, this time to Talib. Bryant ran a 10-yard out pattern but the pass was thrown late and behind Bryant where Talib made the easy pick and returned it for a touchdown.
Griese had some interception issues himself. In the 7-on-7 session, Griese threw to the end zone from the 25-yard line, but his pass was underthrown and Mack recorded his second interception of the day.
Griese almost threw an interception on the next pass but Hamilton dropped the ball. After the one interception and second pass dropped by the defense, Griese was more conservative and was passing mostly to his check down options.
The veteran quarterback was not helped as tight end Ben Troupe dropped a pass in the end zone during the red zone 7-on-7 drill. Darby also dropped a check down pass from Griese.
On of Griese’s check downs went for a touchdown. The line of scrimmage was at the 5-yard line, and Griese saw that his receivers were covered. He pump-faked to the middle of the field and threw to the front corner of the end zone where Graham caught the ball for the score. Griese threw to the back of the end zone for Gilmore, but Hayward broke up the pass on the next play.
The pump fake wasn’t the only fake that Griese pulled off effectively. He sold the run very well on a play-action pass that had Clark open downfield. Griese completed the pass to Clark for a gain of around 20 yards.
Griese did throw a nice pass to Lucas, who was running a post pattern, but Wilson was able to get a hand in and break it up.
By the goal line, Smith was open while running an out route, but Griese looked away from Smith and threw a pass into double coverage into the back of the end zone for an incompletion.
Simms got far less reps than Griese or McCown, and the lefty quarterback did not have one of his better practices. Simms threw a check down to Stewart but was met immediately with a big hit from Adams who had dropped into coverage on the play.
Simms completed a pass to Stevens who had gotten open against rookie linebacker Geno Hayes. The best throw of the day for Simms came on a pass down the left sideline to Spurlock who got between Nece and safety Sergey Ivanov. Spurlock had a nice gain before being forced out of bounds.
Defensive lineman Charles Bennett had to leave practice due to dehydration and Hayward was feeling the effects of the heat at the end of practice, too. Hayward drank a bunch of water and then immediately vomited on the sidelines.
After practice was over, rookie defensive lineman Dre Moore and strength and conditioning coach Mike Morris were seen doing some sprints on the far field to work on Moore’s conditioning.
Nece and safety Sabby Piscitelli also spent about half an hour after practice working on hitting the 7-man blocking sled.
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