The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice fields at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday afternoon just a few hours after conducting a mandatory morning workout.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris’ decision to move both practices up to avoid having any rainouts turned out to be the right one as the team held their afternoon practice under sunny skies and in hot and humid temperatures in the mid-90s with the players were sporting helmets, jerseys and shorts.
Neither quarterback Brian Griese nor guard Arron Sears were at this afternoon’s practice. Sears’ absence has been excused by the team as he deals with a personal issue, but Griese’s absence is not excused.
Running back Cadillac Williams (knee), wide receiver Sammie Stroughter (hamstring), fullback B.J. Askew (illness), linebacker Matt McCoy (calf), defensive lineman Greg Peterson (knee), defensive end Stylez G. White (motorcycle accident/shoulder) and DE Gaines Adams (foot) did not practice for the third straight practice due to their respective ailments. Defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson, who left practice early on Wednesday morning with some tightness, did not practice this afternoon.
Bucs rookie defensive end Jarriett Buie returned to practice this afternoon after being tossed out of this morning’s workout by Morris after he bull-rushed left tackle James Lee and blocked him into quarterback Byron Leftwich, who was knocked to the turf.
After stretching, the Bucs coaches broke off into different parts of the fields to work with their respective players.
During the individual period, running backs coach Steve Logan worked his backs on blitz pick-up drills. Derrick Ward was the blitzer on one rep and absolutely flattened first-year player Kareem Huggins, who was attempting to block him. The play happened right in front of the media, and Ward turned to a nearby TV cameraman and said, “Did you get that on film?” as the rest of the running backs laughed.
The Ward, who was armed with a padded blocking shield, then blitzed Earnest Graham. Graham, who is normally a good pass protector, got shoved to the side and beat for the sack, which was simply a spot on the field as no quarterbacks were present. That prompted Logan to yell, “No, no, no. I’m going to carry the QB off the field. Somebody call 9-1-1!”
Logan then got serious and shouted, “Come on, guys. Our pass blocking is really suspect!”
Bucs defensive line coaches Robert Nunn and Todd Wash worked with their players on dummy drills, but they were too far away for Pewter Report to be able to determine which players stood out during this particular workout.
Defensive backs coach Joe Baker worked with his players on breaking on passes and intercepting them. As usual, Bucs second-year cornerback Aqib Talib’s athleticism and ballhawking skills stood out here.
With this afternoon’s practice being the team’s last before the start of training camp, the mood was light, evidenced by cornerback Ronde Barber throwing passes to his fellow DBs during this drill. Barber has a pretty good arm, but he won’t be competing with Tampa Bay’s current stable of quarterbacks anytime soon.
Barber has quietly turned in a good mini-camp, but wide receiver Antonio Bryant managed to get himself open versus the veteran defensive back during an 11-on-11 session, which allowed quarterback Luke McCown to hit him on a deep out for a big first down.
McCown continued to look sharp, hitting tight end Kellen Winslow on a go route down the right sidelines, beating safety Tanard Jackson for a 30-yard gain. McCown then hit running back Clifton Smith in stride on a screen pass in the left flat. That play picked up a first down.
Byron Leftwich didn’t have too much success this afternoon. He is having difficulty getting rid of the football while in the pocket, which is resulting in way too many sacks.
After completing a pass to wide receiver Cortez Hankton on a deep post with safety Donte Nicholson in coverage, the sack party began – and Leftwich was the host.
Bucs defensive lineman Louis Holmes was the first to get in on the action, sacking Leftwich during the 11-on-11 period. Keep in mind that the quarterbacks don’t actually get hit or taken to the ground, only tagged. On the next play, Leftwich took the snap and attempted to roll to his right, but was sacked by blitzing safety Will Allen.
Leftwich’s problems carried over to the next series, where he was sacked by rookie defensive end Kyle Moore shortly after a play-action, which Moore didn’t bite on, shooting straight up the middle.
While Leftwich was working with some different offensive linemen in the afternoon practice, several of the sacks came because he appeared to be indecisive in terms of where to throw the football.
Even when he threw the ball, Leftwich struggled. On one particular play he underthrew wide receiver Brian Clark down the right seam. The ball fell incomplete.
During a red zone drill, Leftwich’s pass into the back of the end zone was intercepted by a leaping Tanard Jackson. The safety showed impressive athleticism and leaping ability on the play.
If anyone tries to tell you that Leftwich has the edge in the Bucs’ starting quarterback battle they simply haven’t watched practice this offseason or paid attention during the workouts – especially today’s practice.
During the 7-on-7 period, the group that provided the best view to the media was the third-team units, which featured Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson at quarterback, Amarri Jackson, Dexter Jackson, Pat Carter and Joel Filani at wide receiver, running backs Kareem Huggins and Josh Vaughan and tight ends Jason Pociask and Ryan Purvis. The defense featured linebackers Angelo Crowell, Rod Wilson and Jammal Johnson and defensive backs E.J. Biggers, C.J. Byrd, Evan McCullough, Marshall McDuffie and DeAngelo Willingham.
Working from the 10-yard line and throwing into the end zone, Freeman was late on his first pass, which was a fade to the back corner of the end zone intended for Dexter Jackson. Biggers made a nice play on the ball and broke up the pass. But Freeman came back and found Amarri Jackson on a crossing route in the end zone for a touchdown in front of Wilson.
Freeman was robbed of another touchdown pass when McCollough broke up a pass to Filani in the end zone.
Johnson also had his moments, threading the needle to Dexter Jackson on a drag pattern in front of Biggers, who had great coverage. The reception was just short of the end zone.
Meanwhile on the far field, McCown threw a laser to Stovall for a touchdown on a deep out in between safety Donte Nicholson and linebacker Adam Hayward.
Johnson didn’t get as many reps as Freeman in the 7-on-7 session. His first throw, which was to tight end Ryan Purvis, was dropped in the back corner of the end zone. Wilson had good coverage, but Purvis, who has displayed shaky hands all offseason, should have caught the pass.
A few plays later, Purvis dropped a pass from Freeman with Crowell and McDuffie in coverage. To his credit, Purvis rebounded on the next play when he ran a route in the back of the end zone and adjusted to a great pass thrown by Freeman. Purvis caught the touchdown, but the play only happened because the two players were on the same page, which frustrated Wilson, who once again had solid coverage.
Wilson’s luck didn’t get any better. A few plays later, Vaughan caught a pass from Freeman in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Wilson had good coverage, but was victimized by another solid throw by Freeman.
What was impressive on Freeman’s touchdown throws to Vaughan and Purvis was the fact that Freeman aimed those passes towards the backside shoulder away from the defender. Those are tough throws to make, but necessary throws in the NFL due to the tight coverage prevalent in the pros. The fact that Freeman was making those throws with such savvy was quite impressive.
The Bucs practiced the two-minute drill in the afternoon with Leftwich getting the reps with the starters, starting at the offense’s 35-yard line with 1:35 on the clock. Because Adams and Wilkerson were not present in the afternoon practice, Kyle Moore moved from defensive tackle to left end. Louis Holmes was at right end replacing Adams, while Chris Hovan and rookie Roy Miller were the defensive tackles in the nickel “Go” package.
On first down, Leftwich held on to the ball too long and was sacked by Hovan. The next play featured a false start by Smith, which moved the offense back even more. On a replay of second down, Leftwich forgot the snap count and center Jeff Faine snapped the ball before he was ready. Luckily for Leftwich, the play was inadvertently ruled a false start instead of a fumble. After the play, Leftwich and Faine were arguing over the snap, but other linemen moved with Faine’s snap, which meant that the fault lied with Leftwich.
Leftwich did rebound on third-and-long, throwing a 25-yard pass to Clark to pick up a first down with less than a minute left. But Leftwich didn’t spike the ball to stop the clock and the time whittled down to 22 seconds when Stovall made a great catch to get the offense into the red zone. With only one more play, Leftwich threw an errant overthrown pass through the back of the end zone and failed to score the game-winning touchdown that the drill was set up to produce.
With 1:35 posted on the clock and the ball on the 35-yard line, McCown got his turn with the second-string offense squaring off against the second-string defense.
McCown’s first play was a scramble to his right to avoid pressure from Holmes, who had beaten tackle James Lee on the play. McCown managed to dump the ball off to Smith for a short completion. On the next play, Holmes recorded a sack on McCown by beating Lee inside. McCown had no chance on the play.
Lee struggled during this particular practice. Holmes once again beat McCown, but Lee held him, which didn’t draw a penalty flag, but should have as Holmes would have easily gotten to McCown had it not been for the infraction.
“Can our offensive line block somebody please?” Bucs offensive line coach Pete Mangurian yelled in frustration.
As Pewter Report has written this offseason, Holmes is one to watch during training camp and has a nice burst off the edge in pass rushing situations.
This session was a sloppy one for the offense. In addition to Lee’s woes, Hankton was flagged for lining up offsides.
The second-string offense’s drive fizzled out after McCown’s pass on fourth down fell incomplete. McCown didn’t have much time to throw the ball and couldn’t make anything happen on his own.
The third-string offense got its shot with Freeman leading the way. Crowell broke up a pass intended for Purvis on first down, but Freeman came back and hit Filani in front of McDuffie for a big play on a deep slant across midfield that should have gone for a touchdown, but the officials blew the play dead where the catch was made with one minute left in the drill.
Freeman’s next pass was a 35-yard strike to Dexter Jackson who made a nice, leaping catch over McDuffie near the 5-yard line. Jackson landed on the ball and had the wind knocked out of him.
Freeman threw two incompletions in the red zone before having his third pass broken up in traffic when he tried to throw a slant into the end zone with 15 seconds left. On fourth down, Freeman tried to throw a fade into the back corner of the end zone, but Biggers showed off his 41-inch vertical and knocked the ball away to prevent a touchdown.
Just like they did in the morning session, Tampa Bay dedicated a significant amount of time to special teams on Wednesday afternoon.
The starting kickoff coverage team consisted of Stovall, Clark, linebackers Niko Koutouvides, Geno Hayes and Hayward, and safeties Sabby Piscitelli, Donte Nicholson and Tanard Jackson.
After watching Matt Bryant go perfect on field goal tries this morning, Mike Nugent turned in his own impressive performance this afternoon.
Nugent kicked the game-winning field goal in a scramble drill, where only 20 seconds remained on the clock as the field goal unit rushed onto the field to get the kick off. Nugent nailed it. He also went 6-of-6 on field goal tries during the practice.
The Bucs will have the next month and a half off before reporting to training camp at One Buc Place on July 31. The team’s first practice will be held the morning of Aug. 1 at One Buc Place followed by a night practice at Raymond James Stadium. The rest of Tampa Bay’s training camp schedule is expected to be released in a few weeks.