Under sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 80s, the Buccaneers hit the practice fields at One Buc Place on Tuesday for an organized team activity. With hardly a cloud in the sky, the bright and harsh sun gave players a small sample of what they are in store for once late July rolls around.The practice was the first time that the newly drafted rookies were able to work with the veterans on the field.
The team opened up practice by splitting into their position groups with the receivers, running backs and tight ends on the far west field and the defensive players on the middle field.
It’s incredible to see the leadership role that defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has taken on. After each defensive lineman is done with their rep, the Pro Bowler acts like a coach, critiquing their technique or giving them praise. It’s clear that he is one of the team’s most influential teammates.
Running backs worked on ball security and catching reaction time drills and the receivers practiced beating press coverage and releasing off the line of scrimmage. Draft picks Mike Evans and Robert Herron were both told by receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker to go back and run a press coverage drill again, after doing it incorrectly the first time around.
The team then transitioned into a one-on-one session with the receivers and cornerbacks working on one half of the field and running backs, tight ends, linebackers and safeties on the other side.
Veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson sat out Tuesday’s workout with a slightly tweaked hamstring.
In one-on-ones, Hawkins hauled in a deep touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Glennon down the left sidelines. Glennon threw a perfect pass and Lavelle Hawkins easily beat Johnthan Banks to haul in the ball at the goal line. Banks did not get his hands on Hawkins and re-route him, which prompted some correction from cornerbacks coach Gil Byrd.
“You are going too slow, John,” Byrd said.
A couple of plays later, Banks played with more aggressive and urgency and did a better job of hanging with Chris Owusu and tracking the football on a deep go route. Banks tipped the football to himself and caught the deflection at the goal line for an end zone interception, which pleased Byrd. Owusu injured his right heel on the play and sat out the rest of practice.
The talkative Byrd got on another cornerback, rookie Keith Lewis, for batting down a pass instead of trying to pick it off.
“This is not volleyball,” Byrd reminded his unit, imploring them to create takeaways instead of pass breakups.
Rookie wide receiver Mike Evans injured his left hamstring when he used a double move to create separation from cornerback Mike Jenkins, who cramped up on the play. Neither Evans nor Jenkins returned to action for the rest of the day.
Also sitting out on Tuesday were starting safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron, who are both recovering from injuries. Barron was involved on a limited basis at practice on Tuesday.
One thing is certain with the addition of rookies Robert Herron and Solomon Patton, both of whom have 4.3 speed, the Bucs wide receiving corps is so much faster than it was a year ago. Aside from Herron and Patton, other receivers that showed off their speed on Tuesday were Louis Murphy, Skye Dawson and Lavelle Hawkins, who had a really good day catching the ball and making plays. Hawkins seems to be playing faster and with a greater sense of urgency than he did during the team’s initial mini-camp.
Patton did a great job of getting separation on nickel cornerback D.J. Moore on a deep comeback, by the time Moore recognized the route and came back to the ball, Patton had slowed down, created some cushion, caught the pass and accelerated.
Herron really motored to catch a perfectly thrown slant, beat cornerback Rashaan Melvin and then pulled away from the bigger cornerback to get yards after the catch.
Hawkins was praised by coaches and players alike as he used great route running to create separation across the middle on cornerback Deveron Carr.
Both Patton and Herron impressed Pewter Report with something not seen at One Buc in a while and that was the ability to actually create space after the catch. On more than one occasion, despite the defenders have great angles and position, Patton and Hawkins were are able to run away from the would-be tackler. And we don’t mean after getting behind the defender. Many other receivers would have been tackled immediately after the catch, but these two receiver showed an unique ability to re-accelerate after the catch and beat the defensers for long scores.
Another standout play occurred when West Virginia third-round pick Charles Sims blew past linebacker Lavonte David on an angle route early on in the session. Sims also left linebacker Dane Fletcher in the dust after running an out route. It was just his first practice as an NFL player, but Sims looked like a veteran.
Tight end Tim Wright started off his excellent practice by beating safety Major Wright down the seam. He made a tremendous over-the-shoulder-catch with Wright draped all over him. Later on in the session, Wright burnt safety Bradley McDougald on a deep corner route for a touchdown.
Veteran Brandon Myers created great separation on a seam route by running a nice double move against safety Keith Tandy. The third-year safety bit hard on the initial outside move and fell to the ground when Myers cut up field.
Quarterback Mike Kafka threw an incomplete back-shoulder pass to his intended target running back Mike James, who was blanketed on a wheel route. Kafka walked down the sideline to coach James up and tell him how he should have adjusted to make the catch.
Once the one-on-one session concluded, the Buccaneers followed it up with a special teams period and then transitioned into a 7-on-7 session.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford’s quick-hitting offense was once again featured in this session, and Josh McCown did a wonderful job of getting the ball out of his hands and into those of his receivers. Throughout the period, Josh McCown made noticeably quicker reads than Mike Glennon, which resulted in him throwing just one incomplete pass.
Tight end Luke Stocker had a rough practice, struggling to create separation and impact as a receiver. The Tennessee product will have to improve significantly if he wants to make the team over impressive second-year tight end Tim Wright, which seems unlikely at this point.
Following the 7-on-7 session, the Buccaneers went through an installation period with the offense working on the right west and the defense on the middle field. Once the period was over with, the units joined forces for 11-on-11’s, which was final session of the day.
The Buccaneers first-team offense consisted of quarterback Josh McCown, running back Doug Martin, wide receivers Lavelle Hawkins and Louis Murphy, tight ends Brandon Myers and Tim Wright, left tackle Anthony Collins, left guard Oneil Cousins, center Evan Dietrich-Smith, right guard Jamon Meredith, and right tackle Demar Dotson.
Going against them was the Buccaneers first-team defense, which consisted of defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald, defensive ends Steven Means and Adrian Clayborn, linebackers Mason Foster Lavonte David and Jonathan Casillas, cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks, and safeties Major Wright and Keith Tandy. Acting as the nickel cornerback was third-year pro Leonard Johnson, who rotated in and out with Casillas.
The Buccaneers second team offense was made up of quarterback Mike Glennon, running back Mike James, receivers Robert Herron, Tommy Streeter and Skye Dawson, tight end Tim Wright, left tackle Kevin Pamphile, left guard Jason Foster, center Jace Daniels, right guard Patrick Omameh, and right tackle Emmett Cleary.
Tampa Bay’s second-team defense included defensive tackles Akeem Spence and Everett Dawkins, defensive ends Will Gholston and Scott Solomon, linebackers Dane Fletcher, Ka’Lial Gloud and Danny Lansanah, cornerbacks Rashaan Melvin and Danny Gorrer, and safeties Bradley McDougald and Kelcie McCray.
Free agent acquisition Alterraun Verner outmuscled Louis Murphy on the right sideline to record an interception. Josh McCown made a pre-snap audible after recognizing a corner blitz and tried to hit Murphy on a comeback route, but Verner was in great position and snatched the ball away.
Linebacker Mason Foster tweaked his right hamstring after getting blocked by tackle Anthony Collins on a stretch running play and didn’t participate in the rest of practice.
Speedy running back Jeff Demps made a mistake running with the third-team offense. The track star showed nice burst and got through the hole quickly but had the ball stripped away from him, and defensive tackle Everett Dawkins ended up recovering the loose pigskin.
Florida rookie wide receiver Patton dropped a deep pass after running a post route to beat the defense. Quarterback Mike Kafka delivered a tremendous throw and laid the ball right in Patton’s hands but the rookie couldn’t make the catch.
After the practice, Smith addressed the media about the OTA.
“It really does seem like yesterday when we started, got down here and we started evaluating and then going into Phase 1 with our guys and hitting Phase 2 and that’s good, but in Phase 1 and 2, you can’t do any offense versus defense for the most part,” Smith said. “You can’t wait to get to the NFL’s version of spring ball with Phase 3, which we started today, where we can get that good crossover work. Guys know a little bit more about what we’re doing right now, what’s expected of them. We don’t have a lot of mental mistakes right now, so you get a chance to really get a better evaluation of where we are.
“Injuries are a part of it, [wide receiver] Mike Evans today tweaked his hamstring a little bit and things like that will come up from time to time, but that’s just a part of the offseason program. [Wide receiver] Vincent Jackson has a little tweaked hamstring also, but those guys will eventually get back out there on the football field. It’s good to see [safety] Mark Barron start to do a few more things also, but the guys that are practicing and able to get through it all, we do see improvement with what we’re trying to do. Again, there’s nothing like the competition of going against someone or having someone on the other side of the ball. We’re getting great video for the players to see exactly what they need to do to get better each day.”
The Buccaneers will have their next organized team activity next Tuesday and it will once again be open to the media for viewing.
-Eric Dellaratta, Scott Reynolds, and Mark Cook contributed to this report.
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