On a partly cloudy day with temperatures hovering in the mid-80s, the Buccaneers hit the practices fields at One Buc Place for their final practice of their offseason program on Thursday. The team will take six weeks off before returning for training camp, which is slated to kick off on July 25th.
Quite a few players were sidelined at Thursday’s practice, including guard Carl Nicks, tight end Tim Wright, cornerback Alterraun Verner, safety Dashon Goldson, linebacker Jonathan Casillas, cornerback D.J. Moore, fullback Lonnie Pryor, cornerback Deveron Carr, wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, and running back Brendan Bigelow.
Players that practiced on a limited basis include safety Mark Barron, cornerback Johnthan Banks, and wide receiver Mike Evans.
Tampa bay kicked off practice with the usual stretching and warm-ups before the air horn sounded, directing the team to split up into their position groups. The offensive linemen spent time working on their footwork and hand placement on east field, while the defensive lineman worked through bag drills on the middle field.
The receivers were introduced to a new drill that somewhat resembles the “gauntlet” drill that they implement at the NFL Scouting Combine. The difference between this drill and the one at the Combine is that the receivers are asked to make multiple short-area cuts while keeping their eyes to catch the ball.
Wide receiver Eric Page made a fantastic one-handed grab while running the drill. He stumbled as he made a cut around the garbage can but quickly recovered and snagged the pass with his right hand.
A surprise performer during the gauntlet drill was rookie wide receiver Quinitin Payton, who played his college football at North Carolina State. At 6-foot-4, Payton has very quick feet for his size and is quite fluid in the hips. He made all of the cuts with ease and earned praise from wide receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker on both of his reps during the drill.
After individual drills wrapped up, the offense and defense split up in to two groups for a session of installation and walkthroughs. Following that was a period of special teams installation and walkthroughs, where special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea directed his team during kickoff returns. Running back Bobby Rainey took all of the snaps as the team’s kick returner during the session with rookie receiver Robert Herron serving as his lead blocker.
Installations and walkthroughs came to end and the team joined forces on the east practice field for full-team drills, which featured a shuffle along the offensive line.
Unlike yesterday, where Patrick Omemah and Kadeem Edwards were the first-team offensive guards, Thursday’s first-team group featured Oneil Cousins at left guard and Jamon Meredith at right guard.
Cornerback Rashaan Melvin made a fantastic pass breakup against Vincent Jackson. He prevented a touchdown by leaping into the air and batting the ball away from the big receiver. The big play comes just one day after he made a fantastic diving interception. The string of good practices has earned him the majority of the first-team reps alongside Danny Gorrer with Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks sidelined with injuries.
A rookie mistake was made by running back Charles Sims when he fumbled the ball on a toss play headed towards the weakside. Sims saw most of his playing time with the third-team on Thursday.
Later on in the period, rookie linebacker Nate Askew made a great break on the ball and swatted down a pass from Mike Kafka in zone coverage.
Glennon hit tight end Brandon Myers down the seam for a big gain early on in the period. Myers and Luke Stocker got more reps with second-year tight end Tim Wright not participating in Thursday’s practice.
Stocker made the most of his extra reps on Thursday, making an excellent contested catch for a touchdown during the 11-on-11 period. He didn’t create much separation from the defensive back, but he hauled in the well-thrown pass and managed to keep his feet in bounds for the score.
Glennon had a very good 11-on-11 session, finishing with 11 completions on 12 attempts. McCown wasn’t too shabby either, wrapping up the period with 10 completions on 14 attempted passes.
Following the 11-on-11 period, the team began a simulated session where the offense was forced to drive the ball down the field for a field goal in the two-minute drill. Josh McCown got the first chance to lead the Buccaneers offense.
On the first play of the session, McCown threw a perfect 40-yard pass to a streaking Vincent Jackson, but the veteran wide receiver dropped the pass that would have instantly put them in field goal range. The mishandled pass was McCown’s only incompletion during the period, fishing with three completions on four passes for the drive.
After a methodical drive led by McCown, kicker Connor Barth blasted the ball through the uprights from about 40 yards away to win the simulated game for the Buccaneers offense.
The second-team offense made their way onto the field where Mike Glennon got his chance to run offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense in a two-minute drill situation.
Safety Bradley McDougald got in the way of a pass headed to wide receiver Skye Dawson and tipped the ball in the air, but Dawson was able to snatch the pigskin and gain yards for the Buccaneers offense.
After a series of short completions, Glennon had led the Buccaneers offense down to about the 10-yard line, where kicker Patrick Murray banged the ball through the uprights for the field goal.
Practice wrapped up and the players headed over to a shaved ice truck that was located on the edge of the practice facility. The truck was brought in by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy as a reward to the players for their hard work.
The Buccaneers have a lengthy break before returning to One Buc Place for training camp, which is set to kick off on Friday, July 25th at 4:30 p.m.
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