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Today’s Camp Insider article is limited in nature due to the fact that the Pewter Report staff was conducting radio interviews in addition to having multiple conversations with Bucs and NFL sources regarding Brett Favre trade talks. Those interviews and conversations limited the amount of time we could spend watching and analyzing Wednesday’s morning practice.
Wednesday’s practice took place at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. under sunny skies and very warm conditions. The players were practicing in shells (helmets, shoulder pads and shorts) and wide receiver Antonio Bryant returned to practice today after sitting out with swelling in his knee. Tight end Ben Troupe was the only new player who was held out of practice. No one from the injured ranks – QB Jeff Garcia (calf), FB B.J. Askew (ankle), WR Joey Galloway (groin), DT Jovan Haye (groin), etc. – returned to practice.
After calisthenics, the players broke up into individual unit drills. Bill Muir barked out orders to his offensive linemen.
“It’s the morning,” Muir said. “We get moving fast in the morning. Let’s go. Lock and load.”
As the linemen shuffled their feet around bags in agility drills, it is clear that center Jeff Faine has the quickest set of feet and may be the best athlete among the entire offensive line.
Right guard Davin Joseph has always been a big man, but he looks just massive this year. He has huge arms, shoulders that look like mountain ranges and a double-barreled chest. Joseph may be the most powerful blocker in Tampa Bay in terms of initial punch and drive blocking.
The quarterbacks and wide receivers were working on ball security drills as they had to run around cones and coaches would try to strip the ball from their hands as they cornered the cones. Other coaches would whack the players with padded blocking shields in order to get them to cover up the ball as they headed into traffic.
Bryant looked great in the red zone drills the quarterbacks and receivers running and kicked off a great practice session. Bryant made a leaping touchdown catch and managed to toe-tap both feet in bounds to make sure the reception was valid.
Tampa Bay emphasized the red zone offense and defense on Wednesday. Red zone woes plagued the passing defense down the stretch in 2007 in losses to Houston, San Francisco, Carolina and the New York Giants in which the Bucs gave up eight red zone passing touchdowns, with two more scoring strikes coming from 21 and 23 yards out.
During the 11-on-11 period, Bryant continued to look sharp, making a great catch on a skinny post route from Luke McCown. McCown was throwing the ball with authority on Wednesday and looked sharp. He was very decisive in his throws, although he did put a little too much mustard on a bullet to Bryant on another skinny post, which went through his hands due to the velocity of the pass.
All four quarterbacks took reps on Wednesday as Tampa Bay plans to play McCown, Brian Griese, Chris Simms and rookie Josh Johnson against Miami in the season opener. Johnson had a nice scramble for 20 yards in an 11-on-11 scrimmage and showed his 4.4 speed.
On another play, Johnson also showed his inexperience by not finding any open receivers and either not throwing the ball away or not escaping the pocket. Johnson took a needless sack.
Rookie Dexter Jackson showed great speed on an end around and center Jeremy Zuttah was able to get way down field and block safety Sabby Piscitelli along the sidelines about 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. That resulted in a big gain for Jackson.
Linebacker Antoine Cash did a great job sniffing out a screen pass and got there as the ball arrived in the arms of running back Clifton Smith. Cash dodged the offensive linemen to stuff Smith as soon as he caught the ball.
Veteran linebacker Ryan Nece had a very good practice in pass coverage, drawing the praise of linebackers coach Gus Bradley. Nece was right in the hip pocket of several backs and tight ends and did not allow any yards after the catch in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 periods.
While McCown was sharp in practice on Wednesday, Griese was not, missing wide receiver Brian Clark in the flat on one play and Earnest Graham in the flat on another play. Griese’s mechanics seemed to be off as he was low and late on both throws.
The play of the day also came at Griese’s expense as rookie cornerback Aqib Talib, who used his 6-foot-1 size and long arms to leap up and pick off a pass intended for Michael Clayton at its highest point in the back right corner of the end zone. Talib skied for the ball, which was underthrown and out-jumped Clayton. Once the interception was secure, Talib’s 4.4 speed kicked in and he returned the pick 105 yards for a touchdown and received a leaping hip bump from defensive backs coach Raheem Morris after the score.
The fans in attendance went crazy after Talib’s interception and roared with their applause. Talib now has four interceptions in training camp to lead all Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay held an afternoon practice inside their tent this afternoon. The media was not permitted to watch it, so there will be no Pewter Insider Camp Report this afternoon.
A few comments on the possibility of Favre coming to Tampa Bay:
• I don’t think learning the playbook will be an issue for Brett Favre. He’s a smart guy, a proven winner and is well-versed in the West Coast offense. The real issue will be developing on-field chemistry with his new teammates if Favre does indeed become a Buccaneer. The fact is that he doesn’t have any timing with wide receiver Joey Galloway. He’s never taken a snap with center Jeff Faine. He doesn’t know where Michael Clayton likes to catch the ball on certain routes. Favre doesn’t know where Ike Hilliard likes to break off routes on hot reads. He’s never handed off to Earnest Graham. In my opinion, the real challenge in getting Favre ready to play in Tampa Bay is not the playbook. It’s learning the nuances of all of the eligible receivers as they run their routes and developing a pocket chemistry with the Bucs’ young and talented offensive line.
• What the Buccaneers need is more than 13 touchdowns in one season from their starting quarterback to advance in the postseason. Brett Favre would deliver another 10-12 touchdowns that Jeff Garcia might not because of his superior arm strength and gunslinger mentality. Gruden would love his starting quarterback to be capable of throwing between 25-30 touchdown passes per season. But as we all know, with touchdowns come interceptions. If Favre would deliver 10-12 touchdowns, he very well could throw seven-eight more interceptions than the Bucs would have under Garcia, who does a great job of managing the game and avoiding turnovers. The thinking in Tampa Bay is that with a top 5 defense, the Buccaneers would be able to erase some of those turnovers with stellar defensive play.
• The best three West Coast offense quarterbacks in the history of the NFL are Joe Montana, Steve Young and Brett Favre. Out of those three, the best QB in the red zone is probably Favre. Remember all those touchdown passes to tight ends Mark Chmura and Bubba Franks that made those two dynamic fantasy football players, not to mention the short-yardage touchdown throws to fullbacks Dorsey Levens and Edgar Bennett over the years? Favre has the arm and the vision to turn third-and-goal situations from the 5-yard line into touchdowns rather than field goal opportunities. In 2007, Matt Bryant had a career year kicking 28-of-33 field goals (84.8 percent). Those 33 field goals were 11 more than he attempted in 2006 and about 12 more than head coach Jon Gruden would like to have in a given season.
• In 17 NFL seasons, Brett Favre has thrown 442 touchdown passes. In 32 years of existence, the Buccaneers have recorded 543 touchdown passes as a franchise. Favre has thrown 288 interceptions during his NFL career. Tampa Bay quarterbacks have combined to throw for 650 interceptions since 1976. Favre has had 13 seasons with a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio and only four seasons in which he has had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. Favre has also had one season in which he threw an equal amount of touchdowns and picks. The Buccaneers have only had 14 seasons in which their quarterbacks have produced a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio. That means the team has 18 years of quarterbacks throwing more picks than touchdowns in Tampa Bay.
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