The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the second season of the Greg Schiano era on Thursday with the first day of the 2013 training camp. Camp Schiano started promptly at 8:45 a.m. with a blast of a whistle and an air horn, giving the players and fans notice that it was time for football.
Everyone in attendance caught a bit of a break with the weather, as early morning showers and cloud cover helped keep temperatures manageable. Unfortunately the weather also kept the crowds lighter than expected with several pockets of empty seats throughout the canopied-cover aluminum bleachers.
Despite the blaring sun hiding behind the large cumulus clouds the humidity still took a toll, as a handful of players were affected by the heat and unable to finish practice.
After stretching, the team started off practice by installing offensive, defensive, and special teams plays.
Despite scaling back the “toes on the line” intensity of last season’s camp, one thing that Schiano won’t compromise or change is the amount of time spent working on basic fundamentals, tackling in particular. The entire defense went through a period of tackling drill, with a circuit set up to practice taking pursuit angles, head up tackling and even working the tackling dummies. Players were encouraged by their coaches to wrap up, drive and twist down would be tacklers.
During the field goal sessions, newly acquired cornerback Darrelle Revis got some action in as an edge rusher on the kick block unit. He nearly blocked a kick on the third rep, which drew quite a roar from the fans in attendance.
Newly signed kicker Lawrence Tynes made his first field goal, but missed his next two from beyond 35 yards. However, Tynes’ misses were on the skinny goal post, which is half the width of a normal goal post.
Tampa Bay’s first-team field goal protection unit consists of – from left to right – fullback Eric Lorig, tight end Nate Byham, lineman Ted Larsen, lineman Carl Nicks, long snapper Andrew Economos, lineman Donald Penn, lineman Davin Joseph, lineman Demar Dotson, tight end Tom Crabtree, along with holder Michael Koenen and Tynes.
Special teams coordinator Dave Wannstedt was teaching the offensive linemen about proper stances and techniques.
“We want a nice, level back,” Wannstedt said. “Get an inside push as fast as you can.”
The Bucs’ first-team field goal rush unit consists of – from left to right – cornerback Leonard Johnson, safety Mark Barron, linebacker Dekoda Watson, defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, defensive tackle Gary Gibson, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, linebacker Lavonte David, safety Dashon Goldson and Revis.
Wide receivers Mike Williams, Eric Page and David Douglas were all fielding punts during the special teams portion of practice, as well as cornerback Braden Smith.
The receiver group moved on to the “box” drill. The drill calls for four cones to be laid out, forming a square. The receivers are then asked to make multiple cuts around the cones and explode out of their cuts.
Vincent Jackson was easily the best performer in this drill. For such a large receiver, he does a tremendous job of exploding out of his cuts.
Douglas did a nice job during this drill period. The former Arizona Wildcat showed nice quickness and good concentration. He was praised after each catch by wide receivers coach John Garrett.
Another solid performer in this drill was Page. He is without a doubt the smallest receiver on the team’s roster at 5-foot-10, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed. The former Toledo Rocket glides across the field and covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time. He performed very well on Thursday.
The starting defense consisted of Bowers at left end, McCoy at defensive tackle, Gibson at nose tackle, Clayborn at right end, Watson at strongside linebacker, Foster at middle linebacker, David at weakside linebacker, Goldson at free safety, Barron at strong safety and Johnson and Danny Gorrer at cornerback.
The Bucs’ second-string defense consisted of Aaron Morgan at left end, Derek Landri at defensive tackle, Akeem Spence at nose tackle, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim at right end, Jonathan Casillas at strongside linebacker, Najee Goode at middle linebacker, Adam Hayward at weakside linebacker, Keith Tandy at strong safety, Ahmad Black at free safety and Johnthan Banks and Michael Adams at cornerback.
The Buccaneers first team offense was led by Josh Freeman at quarterback, Erik Lorig at fullback, Doug Martin at running back and Mike Williams, Vincent Jackson and Kevin Ogletree at receiver. Blockers upfront consisted of Donald Penn at left tackle, Ted Larsen at left guard, Jeremy Zuttah at center flanked by Cody Wallace at right guard and Demar Dotson manning the right edge.
When the second team offense tool the field it was an influx of interchangeable receivers like Tiquan Underwood, David Douglas and Chris Owusu. Rookie Mike Glennon was under center with Brian Leonard in the backfield and the line consisted of Ted Larsen at center, Mike Remmers at left tackle along side left guard Jace Daniels. On the other side of Larsen at center was right guard Adam Smith and newly acquired Gabe Carimi at right tackle.
Gibson went down with an apparent right knee injury early on in practice. On the first play of the drill, Gibson was pancaked by an offensive lineman, which caused the injury. It looked to be severe, as he was rolling around on the ground in pain, but Gibson returned to practice later on.
Several times during practice, defensive ends Bowers and Clayborn switched sides with Clayborn playing left end and Bowers playing right end, which was an interesting wrinkle.
Later on in the goal line drill, Watson made a nice diagnosis on a running play and stuffed running back Brian Leonard for a loss.
Tight end Nate Byham saw a lot of reps at Thursday’s practice, as Luke Stocker was unavailable to practice due to injury. Early on in the one-on-one session, Byham got defensive back Keith Tandy to bite on a post-corner route and blew by him for a 30-yard reception.
During a rep in the one-on-one drills, Jackson ran a great route but failed to haul in the pass. He ran a crisp in route and gained a significant amount of separation from the defensive back, but the ball clanked off his hands for an incompletion.
Cornerback Anthony Gaitor was flagged for a pass interference call on a stop route intended for Douglas.
Starting quarterback Josh Freeman attempted some very courageous passes on Thursday. On one play, Jackson ran an “in” route over the middle of the field. Linebacker Lavonte David made a great read, and was just inches away from swatting down the pass. Jackson made an excellent catch in traffic and recorded a nice gain.
One of the highlight plays on the first day of Bucs training camp was a Freeman bomb to Williams, who made a diving, one-handed catch while running a deep post pattern. Williams beat Gorrer on the play.
Tight end Zach Miller dropped a pass that was well defended by Foster. The throw from Mike Glennon was right on the money, but Miller failed to record the reception.
Receiver Chris Owusu made a nice catch over the middle on an in route, where he fully extended to haul in the pass. Glennon perfectly placed the ball in between two defenders, allowing Owusu to make the grab.
Tight end Tom Crabtree ran with the second team during the 11-on-11 drills behind Byham, which was a bit of a surprise. Byham was the third tight end on the depth chart last year, but does have a year’s worth of experience in Mike Sulivan’s offense.
Clayborn would have recorded a sack in a game situation from the right defensive end position. The former Iowa standout used an effective swim move to work his way around Penn. Clayborn exploded off the ball nicely and looks to be at full speed.
Glennon did a lot of little things well at Thursday’s practice. The Bucs’ third-round picked made a point of selling his play-action fakes throughout practice, something that will surely be appreciated by the coaching staff.
Glennon later made a terrible decision to throw a pass on a broken screen play. Sullivan was quick to get in Glennon’s ear and talk over the play with the young quarterback.
Barron made a great play to stop an outside stretch run play by Leonard. If it were a game situation, Barron would have laid a huge hit on the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage.
After a water break, the team returned to the gridiron to work on their fumble recovery technique. All of the members of the team, from the quarterbacks to the lineman, were learning and performing drills where they needed to show proper fumble recovery technique. Players were told to fall on the ball on their side and curl up into a fetal position in order to protect the football.
In the second 7-on-7 session, Gorrer made a tremendous play to swat a ball away from Vincent Jackson. Freeman threw a rocket to Jackson on an “in” route, but Gorrer made a great read and exploded to the football. The play drew a loud roar from the crowd.
Later on in the 7-on-7 session, Gorrer picked off a pass thrown by Freeman. The pass was thrown too high for Douglas to haul in. The ball bounced off of Douglas’ hands and into the hands of Gorrer.
Adams teamed up with Banks on the second team defense during this session. On the field, Adams didn’t look an inch over his 5-foot-8 listing, and is clearly one of the smallest defensive backs on the Tampa Bay roster.
Casillas swatted down a Glennon pass intended for Byham. The former New Orleans Saints linebacker trailed Byham on an out pattern and made a nice play to get in front of the receiver and knock the pass away.
Interior offensive lineman Cody Wallace got some reps with the first-team offense. With Joseph and Nicks still recovering from injuries, Larsen and Wallace have been the primary backups to those two guards, while Jamon Meredith has been getting reps as a backup tackle.
David would have crushed Freeman for a huge sack near the end of practice. David blitzed from his weakside linebacker position and shot into the backfield unblocked. The former Nebraska Cornhusker had to duck out of the way, otherwise he would have laid a big hit on team’s quarterback.
Perhaps the most exciting play of the day came from Martin near the end of practice. The 2012 first round pick stampeded through a hole on the right side of the line on a middle screen pass. Martin was met by Foster at the second level, but the running back performed an ankle-snapping juke move and left Foster in the dust. The crowd at One Buccaneer Place erupted following the exceptional play.
Practice concluded with undrafted free agent cornerback Rashaan Melvin breaking up a pass intended for backup tight end Tim Wright. Melvin was flagged for pass interference, but it was a poor call by the official
Wide receivers Derek Hagan and Carlton Mitchell put in some extra work after practice with an assistant coach. – Eric Dellaratta, Scott Reynolds and Mark Cook contributed to this report
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