Tampa Bay held its third and final rookie mini-camp practice at One Buccaneer Place on Sunday morning. Temperatures were in the high 70s with a light breeze and lower humidity than the two previous workouts, which were held on Friday and Saturday afternoon, respectively.
On Saturday, one of the Bucs' draft picks, wide receiver Dexter Jackson, was limited in practice. On Sunday, it was Cory Boyd's turn. The seventh-round pick Boyd, suffered a leg injury on Saturday and was unable to participate on Sunday. Boyd had a neoprene sleeve on his left knee and was seen leaving the field about 30 minutes into practice after talking to head coach Jon Gruden.
Jackson was the last player on the field and was late. Gruden was staring at Jackson jogging towards the other receivers who were taking reps running routes and catching passes. He seemed to be healthy and was fully participating in practice through the first 40 minutes. After practice he claimed to have a tweaked hamstring on Saturday. While he felt good enough to practice on Sunday, Jackson said it would be a few weeks before he was 100 percent.
The players warmed up in their position groups before stretching. For the third straight day, Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib, wide receiver Dexter Jackson and offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah led the players in stretching.
Some of the players coming on the field seemed somewhat tired and lackadaisical. The coaches were ready to push the players in the third and final rookie mini-camp workout. They didn't want to waste time, either. The intensity started during stretching drills.
"Wake the [expletive] up," Bucs running backs coach Richard Bisaccia said.
The intensity carried over just as soon horn sounded for stretching to end and the individual periods to begin.
"Buckle up," Bucs offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Muir said to offensive lineman Brian Johnson as the offensive linemen prepared to work on footwork/quickness drills. "It's time to go to work. You've already wasted 30 seconds."
Speaking of intensity, Bucs defensive backs coach Raheem Morris brought his usual energy to the practice field on Sunday morning. He began the session by running his players through comeback drills where they broke on the ball and practiced intercepting it.
Talib's ballhawking and wide receiver skills were apparent during this drill as he caught everything thrown his way. Talib ran through these drills with relative ease, which was something Morris was preaching to the players."
"Work hard, but make it look easy, men," Morris said.
Two tryout players – cornerbacks Junior Rosegreen (Auburn) and Elbert Mack (Troy) – did fairly well during the individual drills the media was permitted to watch during the first 40 minutes of practice.
At one point, Rosegreen showed up Tampa Bay's 2008 first-round pick during drills that called for the players to move side-to-side and quickly break on the ball.
"Way to kick his ass, Junior," Morris said to Rosegreen. "You kicked Talib's ass."
But Talib proved to be a competitor by bouncing back and drawing praise from Morris on the next rep.
"There you go, Talib. "Morris said. "Get out of your break."
From there, Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin came over to work with Morris and the defensive backs on tackling. The coaches had one defensive back hold a blocking pad while another would attempt to explode into him with good arm technique and knee bend.
"Remember [John] Lynch on tape," Morris said. "You don't fly into them [with arms out like wings]. Tight elbows. Tight elbows, guys."
Talib, Mack and Rosegreen had apparently paid attention in film study as they stood out in this drill.
Not far from the defensive backs were the linebackers. Some rookies were struggling with dead legs and blown mental assignments on Sunday, which is understandable after three consecutive days of up-tempo practices. The usually mild-mannered Buccaneers linebackers coach, Gus Bradley, was upset with a couple of his linebackers who were too slow in getting prepared for a drill and was trying to impress upon them the sense of urgency they need to play with during the final practice.
"On the hop men!" Bradley yelled. "[Expletive!] You are trying to make an NFL team!"
Linebacker Geno Hayes, Tampa Bay's sixth-round pick, has a slight frame that has been discussed by Pewter Report before. But Hayes does have a great deal of fluidity in his hips. He has impressive lateral movement and agility. He's a limber athlete who should be right in the mix for a roster spot with the likes of Adam Hayward, Teddy Lehman, Matt McCoy and Leon Joe.
Gruden spent the first part of practice watching the running backs, whom were the first unit to hit the field under the guidance of new running backs coach Bisaccia. Bisaccia was throwing the ball to the backs for 10-15 minutes before any other position group took the field.
Although Bisaccia may not be a fan favorite, he is one of the hardest working and most respected coaches at One Buccaneer Place by the organization. Expect an increase in production and accountability from the Tampa Bay running backs this year on offense and on special teams.
Former Auburn fullback Carl Stewart looks like a fluid athlete. He turns and catches the ball cleanly and has soft hands. Stewart signed a contract with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent, giving the team three fullbacks on the roster, including starter B.J. Askew and backup Byron Storer. What makes the fullback position interesting this year is that Bisaccia is also the special teams coordinator. With the fullbacks playing a huge role on special teams, Stewart is going to be under Bisaccia's scrutiny every snap on the field – on offense and on special teams.
Stewart will have to beat out Storer to make the team, and Storer, an undrafted free agent out of Cal last year, did a great job on special teams a year ago and was assignment sound on offense. Storer certainly has the edge heading into camp, but Stewart comes to the Bucs with good credentials. Yet the only real way to totally evaluate fullbacks is to put them in pads and have them bang heads with linebackers, and that won't happen until training camp.
Gruden made his way over to the quarterbacks and wide receivers and was one of many coaches watching their practice. Assistant head coach Larry Coyer was watching the wide receivers throughout their workout. The wide receivers and quarterbacks had a lot of coaching eyes on them. Watching them work out was Gruden, Coyer, Mann, and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson.
Wide receivers coach Richard Mann was throwing deep high passes the receivers were supposed to run underneath and catch over the shoulder.
Some of the receivers had problems catching the ball and dropped some easy passes. Charles Spiller continued the drops that have plagued him throughout the mini-camp. Spiller dropped two passes in close succession. Tryout wide receiver Bruce Hocker from Duquesne also dropped a ball.
Dexter Jackson was displaying good hands not dropping the ball through the first 40 minutes of practice. San Diego wide receiver Wes Doyle also displayed good hands catching some high passes and securing the ball. South Florida's Amarri Jackson used his tall frame and long arms to bring in some high passes as well.
After the rookie mini-camp a few things seem to be apparent. Talib should fight for the starting position at left cornerback opposite Ronde Barber with Phillip Buchanon and free agent signee Eugene Wilson. With safety Tanard Jackson winning a starting position last training camp last year, the Buccaneers won't hesitate to start another rookie – Talib – if they think he's ready.
Jackson will need to pick up his intensity to earn playing time over Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall, and Ike Hilliard. With their experience in Gruden's offense it will be a big challenge for Jackson to learn the offense and beat out those veterans.
Defensive tackle Dre` Moore is going to need to be in better shape for the tough training conditions in Orlando. If the Buccaneers continue to rotate defensive lineman under new defensive line coach Todd Wash, The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Moore will need to be an effective part of that unit.
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