This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their fourth practice of this week's three-day mini-camp on Wednesday afternoon. It was the second practice of the day, and was held in clear skies with temperatures in the 80s.
Not present at the voluntary workout were quarterback Brian Griese, left tackle Donald Penn, and running back Earnest Graham. A number of Bucs players just observed the workout due to injury that list included center Jeff Faine (back), running back Cadillac Williams, linebacker Angelo Crowell (knee), linebacker Geno Hayes (knee), tight end Jason Pociask (undisclosed), and tight end Kellen Winslow (player choice).
To start the practice the defense practiced causing fumbles and recovering them. Defenders took turns working on arm rakes and punches on other defenders running with footballs to try and force fumbles. They then took turns working on their technique of recovering a fumble when running up to the ball. The defenders would slide around the ball and tuck it into their body.
The defensive backs and linebackers also worked on their pass coverage with drills that had them backpedaling in coverage and then breaking quickly straight ahead. The linebackers also spent time practicing man coverage.
Under former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, the linebackers played a lot of zone coverage. In the new defensive system the Bucs will be employing man coverage in the secondary, and that looks to be a point of emphasis for the linebackers as well. One route in particular that the linebackers worked on was the wheel route.
Former safety turned linebacker Jermaine Phillips looked especially strong in covering this play. Barrett Ruud stood out as well for staying with his man as he ran downfield.
The most impactful part of the allowed practice observation was the seven-on-seven passing scrimmage. The starting back seven for the defense was Ruud at middle linebacker, Phillips at weakside linebacker, Quincy Black at strongside linebacker, Ronde Barber at right corner, Aqib Talib at left corner, Sabby Piscitelli at strong safety, and Tanard Jackson at free safety. The second team defense has Rod Wilson at middle linebacker, Matt McCoy at weakside linebacker, and Adam Hayward at strongside linebacker. The cornerbacks were Greg Fassitt and Elbert Mack, and the safeties were Will Allen and Donte Nicholson.
Quarterback Luke McCown took the first reps, and had a very sharp practice. McCown was accurate on every throw, but had a few passes dropped by receivers. All of McCown's passes hit his receivers right in the hands, and he did a good job of helping them get open by using a lot of pump fakes in the session. A lot of the pass plays were short to intermediate completions that were reminiscent of the pass plays under former head coach Jon Gruden.
McCown started out the session by throwing a laser to wide receiver Maurice Stovall who ran a slant in front of a linebacker. He worked the short to intermediate part of the field with completions to fullback B.J. Askew, tight end Jerramy Stevens, and running back Derrick Ward. McCown also had to fit the ball into some tight windows, as the Bucs linebackers had tight coverage on the pass receivers in that part of the field.
A nice route and gain wasn't taken advantage of when wide receiver Anthony Mix dropped a perfect pass from McCown. Mix got a great release off the line and burned Talib to get open in the middle of the field. If he had held onto the ball he had daylight ahead of him as the other receivers had ran the defense out of the play. Talib and Mix were showing frustration after that play. McCown came back on the next play for a good gain on a completion to wide receiver Brian Clark.
Talib had done well a play or two earlier when he had a great jam of wide receiver Dexter Jackson at the line of scrimmage. Yesterday, Jackson blew by Talib down the sideline on a route, but today Talib's jam all but took Jackson out of the play. Eventually he got away from Talib, and caught a fastball from McCown who bought time by rolling out, but had to wait for Jackson to get an inch of room to throw him the pass.
Quarterback Josh Johnson threw some aggressive passes downfield, but was overthrowing passes consistently. Johnson started with a pass a little behind Mix. Then he overthrew tight end Alex Smith running a seam route downfield. Smith was covered by Allen and Nicholson, and the later came the closest to catching the ball for an interception.
Johnson then hit on his next two throws. One was a short pass to Stevens who was closely covered. The next pass was Johnson's best of the day. He lofted a perfect pass into running back Clifton Smith's hands when he was running a wheel route along the sideline. The pass had to be perfect because Ruud had great coverage on the play.
Johnson then finished with his worst pass of the session. Stovall was running into the end zone along the sideline with Ronde Barber running stride for stride with him. Instead of throwing a jump ball where the 6-foot-5 Stovall has a big advantage over the 5-foot-9 Barber, Johnson threw a ball towards the middle of the field. Barber broke on the ball and would have intercepted it in a game but let the ball fall in front of him incomplete to finish the scrimmage.
Speaking of Barber, he has looked very fast and fresh throughout mini-camp. He seems to be adjusting well to the new man coverage responsibilities. Receivers have not been burning him. The defense overall has done a good job in man coverage.
Pewter Report will have more coverage of the Bucs final day of mini-camp tomorrow, check back often throughout the day.