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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were back in full pads when they took the practice field on Friday morning.
They took the field without tackle Lance Nimmo, who retired from football to persue a business opportunity outside of the sport. The team filled his roster spot by re-signing long snapper Brian Sawyer.
Temperatures for the two-hour practice were in the mid-to-high 80s, but the humidity wasn’t as potent.
Fullback Rick Razzano (hamstring), tackle Kenyatta Walker (knee) and center Scott Jackson (hand) all missed the morning workout.
Left tackle Derrick Deese participated at the start of the morning practice, but he limped off the field during the workout and didn’t return. Tight end Nate Lawrie sprained his ankle and will be questionable for the afternoon practice. Guard Dan Beunning stained his calf during the morning workout.
Running back Jacque Lewis returned to practice after being sidelined for nearly a week with a hamstring injury. Cornerback Juran Bolden and running back Michael Pittman also returned to the field after being sidelined with minor hamstring injuries.
The Bucs implemented a new warm-up drill at the receiver position on Friday morning. Two receivers would quickly run in place while facing WRs coach Richard Mann. From there, they’d hit the ground and then immediately jump back up on their feet and continue to run in place.
Mann also had the receivers practice catching the ball over their shoulders, and from there, they practiced up-field blocking.
The defensive line started the morning on the blocking sled and followed that up with dummy drills.
The Bucs once again held a spirited blitz period. Linebacker Ryan Nece stood out in this drill. He even notched a sack.
Defensive end Josh Savage finished the blitz period on a strong note, working his way into the backfield to record a sack.
Pittman dropped a pass during the blitz period, and this mistake turned out to be one of many for the Bucs offense on Friday morning.
Tight ends Will Heller and Alex Smith, wide receiver Ike Hilliard and running back Earnest Graham each had drops in practice.
Rookie WR Larry Brackins seems to be improving a bit. His routes this morning were much crisper than the ones he ran during the rookie mini-camp, and he was doing a nice job of catching the ball. However, Brackins still has a lot of room for improvement. On one particular play in warm-ups, Brackins ran the wrong route, which caused QB Chris Simms to throw a pass that completely missed the mark.
Tampa Bay’s defense dominated the 11-on-11 drills.
Left defensive end Greg Spires continued to get the best of rookie tackle Chris Colmer, who is fighting through a hip injury. On one play, Spires blew Colmer off the ball and raced down the line to tackle rookie RB Cadillac Williams from behind. Colmer allowed defensive end Bryant McNeal to sack Simms during 11-on-11 drills.
Backup DE Dewayne White continued to shine, pushing guard Matt Stinchcomb off the line on one play to stop Williams on a running play.
Rookie DE Lynn McGruder has got to do a better job of keeping his feet. He lost his footing twice this morning against G Matt Stinchcomb. He did, however, penetrate the backfield to make a couple of big stops this morning.
There were, however, some encouraging things shown by a few offensive linemen.
Anthony Davis, who was playing in place of Derrick Deese (ankle), had a solid showing and is really proving that he’s worthy of starting on the Bucs offensive line. Although he appeared fatigued from time to time, Davis did a nice job of anchoring the left side of the line against DEs Simeon Rice and McNeal. He even teamed up with Stinchcomb to open a huge hole up for Pittman during two-minute drills.
Rookie right guard Jonathan Clinkscale might have had his best practice of training camp on Friday morning. He really stepped up in the running game during 11-on-11 drills, opening up running lanes on consecutive plays for the running backs.
Guard Jeb Terry actually saw some action at right tackle this morning. He did a fairly good job but is better suited for the right guard position, where Sean Mahan continues to push him. Terry showed impressive upper-body strength during two-minute drills when he opened up a huge running lane for Pittman.
Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks didn’t fare well at all during the morning session. On the first play of 11-on-11s, starting QB Brian Griese threw a pass that was nearly picked off in double coverage. On the next play, Griese was intercepted by safety Dexter Jackson. Despite his struggles, Griese still had the better outing of the three signal callers. Fouth-string quarterback Jared Allen was released today
Jackson had an impressive day, making that pick and intercepting QB Josh McCown and returning it for a touchdown during the second 11-on-11 session.
Simms struggled, throwing too many arrant balls and taking too many sacks. During 11-on-11s, Simms’ pass was tipped by S Will Allen and intercepted by linebacker Barrett Ruud, who returned it for a score. In Simms’ defense, WR DeAndrew Rubin got yelled at after the play for running the wrong route.
Simms also overthrew WR Edell Shepherd on a deep route down the left sideline. Shepherd did a nice job of getting himself open, but Simms overthrew him by about two yards. Shepherd later came up with a big grab on a play-action pass thrown by Griese during two-minute drills.
Savage probably gave Simms the most problems in practice. In addition to the sack he recorded during the blitz period, Savage added two quarterback takedowns by getting to Simms twice during 11-on-11 drills. Simms seemed to have a lot of trouble finding open receivers this morning, but there were times when he was simply at fault for holding onto the ball too long.
During two-minute drills, the Bucs offense managed to move the ball down near the goal line, but linebacker Shelton Quarles made a stop by stuffing RB Ian Smart. The second two-minute drill ended with Griese play-action passing to TE Anthony Becht in the back of the end zone for the score. That was a solid ending to what was otherwise an unimpressive performance by the Bucs offense.
There was a bright spot from Tampa Bay’s dismal offensive performance. Rookie WR J.R. Russell has really stepped his game up and will separate himself from the rest of the receivers fighting for fifth receiver spot if he turns in the type of practice he had on Friday morning. Russell ran sharp routes and made incredible catches all morning long. This was easily Russell’s best and most consistent practice of camp.
Tampa Bay got mixed results from its kicking game again. While Todd France was perfect (3-of-3), Matt Bryant missed all three of his field goal attempts.
The Bucs finished the morning session with 10 minutes of special teams work.
Tampa Bay cut its afternoon practice short due to severe weather in the area, which means there will not be a Pewter Insider report filed this afternoon.
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