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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held their second of four mandatory mini-camp practices scheduled for this week at One Buccaneer Place on Tuesday afternoon.
The temperatures were in the low 90s. But like Tampa Bay's morning workout, this afternoon’s practice was held in hot and humid conditions and under an overcast sky.
Bucs linebackers Derrick Brooks, Ryan Nece, cornerback Ronde Barber and fullback Mike Alstott led the team in calisthenics to start the two-hour workout.
A few players that were held out – or limited in – Tuesday morning’s practice participated this afternoon, including left tackle Luke Petitgout, Brooks and cornerback Brian Kelly.
Guard Jeb Terry, who had to leave the practice field early with a trainer during the morning session, returned to practice and participated on Tuesday afternoon.
Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway was held out of the practice. The 36-year old receiver normally only participates in one of Tampa Bay’s two training camp practices, so his absence from the afternoon practice was no surprise.
Also held out of the afternoon practice were tight ends Keith Heinrich and T.J. Williams and defensive ends Simeon Rice and Charles Bennett.
Rookie guard Arron Sears was also absent from both practices due to a “minor” injury.
Although he was held out of both of today’s practices, you can bet Rice will be in shape when the Bucs report to training camp on July 26. He spent the entire two-hour afternoon practice sprinting around the far football field and doing 100-yard wind sprints. Rice is an incredible athlete, and he looks to be in great shape while he rests his shoulder for camp.
Tuesday afternoon’s practice wasn’t as eventful as the morning session. The coaches spent the first hour of the workout working with their respective players on fundamentals and technique.
For example, Bucs defensive backs coach Raheem Morris dedicated a significant amount of time to the cornerbacks and safeties catching the football.
Intercepting passes was a real issue for Tampa Bay’s defensive backs, particularly the safeties, last season.
Safety Jermaine Phillips and rookie cornerback Marcus Hamilton each dropped interceptions during this drill.
Rookie S Sabby Piscitelli put his soft hands and athleticism on display during this drill by coming up with the pick on every ball thrown his way. Not all of the catches were easy, either, which make Piscitelli that much more impressive.
If Piscitelli can create turnovers and bring some playmaking ability to the table, he could unseat Phillips as the starter as early as Week 1.
Like the morning practice, Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia received most of the reps this afternoon while second-year QB Bruce Gradkowski received the most work behind him.
Garcia’s best throw of the afternoon came in 7-on-7s when he threw a perfect strike down the right seam to tight end Alex Smith, who had beaten Phillips to haul in the pass for what would have been a touchdown.
Later during an 11-on-11 period, Smith was on the receiving end of a shovel pass from Garcia, but got stuffed by defensive tackle Kevin Carter, who has been impressive.
Garcia was more accurate this afternoon than he was this morning. But he didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers. Second-year WR Maurice Stovall, who had yet to drop a pass in OTAs (or at least from the OTAs Pewter Report had been allowed to watch up to this point), dropped a perfect pass on a slant pattern.
Chris Simms and Luke McCown appeared to get more work in this afternoon, but neither player was that impressive. Simms is still attempting to regain his throwing form after going months without throwing due to his season-ending Splenectomy.
During team drills, Simms had one of his passes, which was thrown on a three-step drop, batted in the air by right end Gaines Adams. Had Adams not tipped the pass at the line of scrimmage, linebacker Jamie Winborn was in position to intercept it. Instead, it fell incomplete.
Several Tampa Bay defenders put themselves in position to make plays on the football this afternoon. Bucs LB Cato June is extremely quick and instinctive in pass coverage. He defended at least two passes during the practice.
Second-year CB Alan Zemaitis also had a nice pass breakup on a deep ball thrown down the left sideline. Bucs CB Torrie Cox almost came up with a pick off of one of Garcia’s throws during a team session. Phillips also rebounded by making a nice play on a pass thrown into the corner of the left end zone by Garcia to cause an incompletion.
If he didn’t already have a shaved head, Morris would have likely been bald by the time the afternoon workout ended anyway because of S Will Allen.
Allen put himself in position to make at least two interceptions during the practice, but produced zero. One pick opportunity was a simple drop. The second one came on a pass deflected by Kelly. They’re not the easiest plays to make, but Allen has got to capitalize on those opportunities when they knock, especially with rookie Tanard Jackson knocking on his door for the starting job.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden tested his offensive players mentally during one of the sessions, telling the quarterback what they might expect to see from a particular defense and then having that quarterback either stick with the play or audible to another one.
This drill didn’t go as smoothly as Gruden would have hoped. On one particular play, Garcia audibled and threw to WR Chas Gessner down the left sideline.
Even though the pass was completed, Gruden jumped all over tight end Jerramy Stevens as he apparently didn’t understand his responsibilities for this particular audible.
“How far are you supposed to be from the sideline?” Gruden asked. “How far from the sideline do you have to get? Know your plays. This isn’t Arena Football.”
Bucs running back Cadillac Williams is running extremely well this offseason. He is quicker and seems more certain of where he’s going with the football, meaning his instincts are serving him well. Williams is also driving to holes with authority, which is something he didn’t do on a regular basis last year. It’s early, but so far Williams appears to be poised to rebound from his sophomore slump.
Tampa Bay spent a significant portion of the second half of the afternoon practice working on substitutions in the two-minute drill. From there, Gruden had the offensive players line up on the right sideline and the defensive players line up on the left sideline while the coaches worked on substituting players in different packages and situations.
In previous offseasons, the Bucs haven’t typically worked on substitutions until training camp, but the team apparently wanted to get an early start on it this year.
The Bucs will hold their final two mandatory mini-camp workouts on Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday’s practice will be held at Raymond James Stadium. Thursday’s workout will be held at One Buc Place.
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