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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Friday morning training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex sporting full pads.
For the first time this training camp, the skies were clear, which meant hotter and more humid conditions. However, a slight breeze made the conditions tolerable.
Tampa Bay linebackers Derrick Brooks, Ryan Nece and Barrett Ruud, fullback Mike Alstott and guard Davin Joseph were once again the practice captains and led the Bucs in calisthenics to start the workout.
The Bucs welcomed back rookie defensive end Gaines Adams to practice on Friday morning. He had been sidelined with a triceps strain. Although he returned to practice, Adams was limited during the two-hour workout.
Even though Bucs head coach Jon Gruden expected to have him back on the field this morning, left tackle Luke Petitgout missed another practice due to a back strain.
He didn’t participate in practice, but Petitgout did walk out onto the practice field about midway through the workout to work with Bucs head athletic trainer Todd Toriscelli on the far field’s end zone.
After practice, Gruden felt strongly that Petitgout would return to practice on Saturday. In the meantime, Anthony Davis continues to receive reps at left tackle with the first team offense while rookie Arron Sears takes reps at left guard with the first-team unit.
Nose tackle Ryan Sims remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury. He is still listed as day-to-day.
After stretching concluded, the Bucs broke off into different parts of the field to work on ball security drills. What is interesting to note is the fact that the Bucs actually had their quarterbacks run through the line of players that swatted them with blocking pads. The players did a good job of holding onto the football during this drill.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Chris Simms did a significant amount of throwing on Friday morning compared to preview practices. In addition to participating in warm-ups, Simms tossed some passes during a 7-on-7 session.
Not only did he throw, Simms threw well. His first pass attempt of the 7-o-7 session was a deep pass down the left seam to wide receiver Joey Galloway, who hauled in the perfectly thrown ball against rookie cornerback Marcus Hamilton.
Simms’ next throw was a short dump off to tight end Anthony Becht. Simms managed to fit the ball to Becht between cornerbacks Sammy Davis and Carlos Hendricks. The pass was a bit low, but still catchable.
The majority of Simms’ came after Friday morning’s practice concluced when he threw several passes on the field with quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett observing.
If Simms can start throwing again on a consistent basis, he could have a chance to sneak back in to the competition at quarterback.
That’s because QB Luke McCown did not turn in a consistent performance on Friday morning.
During warm-ups, McCown overthrew WR Chad Owens by about 5 yards down the left sideline. He overthrew Owens near the sideline again during an 11-on-11 session, but the 5-foot-7 receiver did a great job of getting his hands up and securing the football while keeping his feet in bounds for the catch.
McCown was actually quite accurate and decisive during one of the 7-on-7 drills, hitting WR Michael Clayton on a slant and Becht in the flat. But he wasn’t consistent, missing WR Mark Jones badly on a slant. However, one of McCown’s final throws of the practice was a good one. During the 11-on-11 red zone session, McCown used play-action to help TE Jerramy Stevens get open in the end zone for a touchdown.
Starting QB Jeff Garcia was sharp during the first part of practice, getting the ball out of his hands quickly and hitting his receivers in stride. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, but it’s strong enough. Simply put, Garcia puts the ball where it needs to be.
During an 11-on-11 session, Garcia found WR David Boston on a slant and fired the ball in to his hands, but he dropped it. Boston rebounded from that mistake by making a great catch across the middle in coverage during a 7-on-7 session.
During the same session, Garcia threw a great pass down the middle of the field to hit tight end Alex Smith in stride. Garcia did a nice job of only putting Smith in position to make the catch and not the defender. Garcia and Smith hooked up again, this time for a touchdown, in an11-on-11 red zone drill.
Garcia is developing quite a rapport with WR Joey Galloway, whom he hit in stride down the left sideline during a 7-on-7 drill. In regards to Galloway, he still looks really fast and fresh in camp.
Several veteran players have been given practices off in training camp, but Garcia has only missed one workout. He might be 37, but Garcia doesn’t play like it. His body is holding up extremely well for his age, which is a good thing since the Bucs desperately need Garcia to stay healthy this season.
Bucs QB Bruce Gradkowski is also doing a better job of getting the ball to Galloway. He hooked up with the speedy receiver twice during a 7-on-7 drill.
The Buccaneers have been focusing a lot on running the football in training camp, and that was the case again on Friday morning. Tampa Bay ran an awful lot of misdirection running plays this morning, which proved to be effective against the Bucs’ speedy, but at times overaggressive defense.
Tampa Bay continued to attack the perimeter via the running game. The Bucs have been pulling right guard Davin Joseph and running the ball behind he and left tackle Anthony Davis a bunch. Both players have been doing a nice job as run blockers.
The amount of running plays being run around the perimeter suggests the Bucs aren’t too confident running the ball up the gut, which could be because of the uncertainty surrounding the center position. John Wade is 32 and doesn’t have the size or athleticism the Bucs would prefer at the center spot, which is why they moved Dan Buenning over from guard to center and signed Matt Lehr this offseason.
Lehr, who has been getting a lot of work in at center, actually took some reps at that position with the first team offense this morning, and he held up quite well, especially as a run blocker.
With Tampa Bay’s wide receivers dropping several passes during Thursday morning’s rain-soaked practice, Gruden spent some extra time with them this morning. During warm-ups, Gruden actually attempted to cover the receivers.
Unfortunately, some players continued to struggle in the pass-catching department. Boston had a huge drop during the 11-on-11 session, WR Kyle Smith was guilty of a drop during a full team drill and RB Earnest Graham had two dropped passes out of the backfield.
Perhaps the receivers’ recent problems with dropped balls is one of the things that prompted Gruden to flirt with the idea of moving cornerback Phillip Buchanon over to the offensive side of the ball as a situational type player.
Gruden hinted after Thursday morning’s practice that he might feature Buchanon in a few offensive plays, and on Friday that became a reality.
Buchanon made his debut in the Bucs’ offense during an 11-on-11 session when he lined up as a wide receiver. Not only did he get in on offense, Buchanon, who ran a pretty sharp hitch route, was on the receiving end of a pass. He picked up about 8 yards on the play.
Gruden became quite frustrated with his offense during a 7-on-7 drill when it had some trouble getting lined up properly. In fact, Gruden had to have the offense re-huddle two different times and also had to reiterate the importance of getting the play called in the huddle and getting up to the line of scrimmage in a timely manner.
“Hurry up,” Gruden yelled.
Shortly after that outburst, Gruden grew even more frustrated with the offense’s execution, or lack thereof, in this particular drill.
“What are we doing?” Gruden said in disappointment.
Fullback B.J. Askew is a huge upgrade over Jerald Sowell. He has great hands and is a more than capable run blocker. Not only will he likely make the team, Askew could take some playing time away from FB Mike Alstott.
Tampa Bay’s defense is still extremely quick and all over the field. This is important to note with one week of training camp in the books. Not only is this unit fast, the Bucs defense, particularly the first team unit, is assignment sound. They’ve been making it really tough for the offense to move the ball, especially in the passing game.
Jovan Haye has received a lot of work at under tackle with the first-team defense, but Ellis Wyms actually got a lot of reps there this morning. He also made the most of the opportunity during an 11-on-11 session when he worked his way into the backfield and sacked Garcia for a loss.
Defensive end Greg Spires continues to have an impressive training camp. During an 11-on-11 drill, Spires beat right tackle Jeremy Trueblood off the ball and raced around the corner and into the backfield to sack Garcia.
Rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli continues to impress. His biggest plays have come in the passing game, but Piscitelli put his run defense skills on display this morning. He’s also been a turnover machine, which is something Tampa Bay’s defense needs.
While Piscitelli is pushing for the starting strong safety job, current starter Jermaine Phillips isn’t going to give this job up without a fight. During an 11-on-11 session, Phillips put his helmet down and drilled WR Chas Gessner on a pass thrown near the right sideline by McCown. That hit put Gessner on the ground and got the attention of the players, coaches and crowd.
Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly might have turned in the most impressive practice of the morning. He made life extremely difficult for the quarterbacks and wide receivers by breaking up several passes.
Kelly’s most impressive pass breakup came during a 7-on-7 drill when he showed great speed by keeping up with Galloway down the left sideline and putting his hands up to break up a deep pass attempt from Gradkowski.
Bucs CB Carlos Hendricks also defensed a pass against Jones, but unfortunately for him the referees attended this morning’s practice and flagged him for pass interference on the play.
Tampa Bay dedicated a significant amount of the morning practice to special teams work.
The Bucs worked on fake field goals and pooch kicking this morning. On the two kicks that Bryant actually attempted, he was 2-of-2. Not only can he drill field goals, Bryant isn’t that bad of a punter. He managed to put the ball inside the 20-yard line and keep it out of the end zone on two of his pooch kicks.
As usual, the Bucs focused on punt blocking and returns. Wide receivers Chad Lucas, Kyle Smith, Mark Jones and cornerback Phillip Buchanon fielded the punts after the cool down period. They did a nice job of fielding the punts cleanly.
However, at the end of practice, Buchanon fielded some more punts, and he muffed one of them in front of Gruden.
“I saw that,’ Gruden said to Buchanon. “I saw that.”
Buchanon responded by dropping to the ground and doing 10 pushups for Gruden.
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