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With helmets, shoulder pads, jerseys and pants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were almost in full pads for their morning workout on Monday. The only thing missing was thigh pads, and as it turns out, it would prove costly as starting left tackle Anthony Davis was carted off the field halfway through practice with a deep thigh bruise.
While that injury was scary for the coaching staff, who have seen far too many offensive linemen go down with injuries this camp, a couple of Tampa Bay rookies returned to practice in a full capacity today, including fullback Rick Razzano and guard Dan Buenning. Running back Derek Watson also returned from a stomach virus and fully participated in the morning session.
Running back Michael Pittman was not donning shoulder pads, but did participate in individual and some team drills with some tightness in his hamstring.
During the individual periods, the offensive line was working on the two-man sled. With guards Jeb Terry and Sean Mahan still out with left knee and elbow injuries, respectively, there were only 10 offensive linemen available for practice, and that included Davis, whose leg injury happened halfway through the morning session. Guard Doug Buckles was missing due to an appendectomy.
In a bit of a change up, running backs coach Art Valero was working with the wide receivers on agility drills. Special teams coach Rich Bisaccia and receivers coach Richard Mann were working with the running backs on ball security and tight ends coach Ron Middleton was working with quarterbacks and tight ends on agility drills.
The tight ends then worked on in-line blocking drills with Middleton, while the quarterbacks and running backs worked on roll out passing and catching with Valero and quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett.
Mann had the receivers working on downfield blocking and was encouraging them to “get that body lean.” Rookie receiver Larry Brackins must stop lowering his head when blocking or he’ll seriously injure himself. Brackins is so technically raw that you can see that there is little chance that he’ll make the team this year.
Brackins is missing so many of the key fundamentals in his game that there is a good chance that he won’t be picked up on waivers, either. He’ll need a good year or two develop into a quality backup receiver. That’s my early analysis on where Brackins is. Maybe he’ll step it up in the preseason games, but he has to hurry. And with him missing the first week of training camp after missing mini-camp, time is running out.
Michael Clayton and Kevin Youngblood stood out in the blocking segment of practice. Rookie J.R. Russell has a wiry build and could stand to be more physical. He has the frame to add 20 pounds of muscle and rival Clayton in size, but that will only come with hard work in the weight room, and that’s ultimately up to Russell’s level of commitment.
Russell made a nice, spinning, acrobatic catch during the overhead pass tracking drill in the individual receiver period. Clayton and DeAndrew Rubin also did a nice job catching the ball, while Youngblood and Joey Galloway had drops.
In a lively and intense blitz pick-up period several players stood out. Razzano literally pancaked middle linebacker Jermaine Taylor and really showed some power and aggressiveness. That caused linebackers coach Joe Barry to tell Taylor, “Better bring your lunchpail.”
Razzano also drilled rookie safety Donte Nicholson and knocked him to the ground. Later, he did a great job of keeping linebacker Ryan Nece off the quarterback. In his first day back in pads, the young fullback impressed with his strength and toughness.
Fullback Jameel Cook had two nice pick-ups on safety Kalvin Pearson.
Rookie halfback Carnell Williams showed tremendous technique in picking up blitzing safety Dexter Jackson. Williams jolted Jackson and extended his arms while bending his knees properly and maintaining a nice, wide base. Williams was impressive and drew praise from the coaching staff. Williams also had a great block on linebacker Shelton Quarles.
Safety Will Allen blew past Watson on one play, which drew the ire of head coach Jon Gruden. “Damn, this is third down!” Gruden screamed at Watson. “Get the blitz!”
Later, Gruden challenged Watson, who was facing rookie middle linebacker Barrett Ruud. “Alright Derek Watson, let’s go! Come on!” Gruden said. Watson fared better in his second opportunity and did a good job on Ruud.
Tight end Nate Lawrie did a good job picking up Nece on one play, but didn’t finish the block, which irked Middleton. “Finish him!” Middleton yelled. “Finish! Finish!”
If Lawrie, who is a better receiver than Will Heller, can improve his blocking, he could steal the third tight end spot from Heller. Right now, Heller is the better blocker, but not by much.
Left tackle Todd Steussie looked good for the second day from a technique standpoint. Once Steussie gets his hands on a defensive end, it’s usually over. Steussie is a big, strong (no steroid pun intended) lineman who doesn’t have the quickness he once had, but he did a good job of locking onto impressive defensive end Bryant McNeal and shutting him down.
Steussie’s problem, which re-surfaced today, is getting false start penalties. Steussie got flagged on back-to-back plays while going against Simeon Rice in the 11-on-11 period.
In the offensive installation period, Gruden got upset when wide receiver Derek Lewis ran the wrong route. “I can’t put in a new play if you are not going to take notes!” Gruden screamed.
In the inside running period, which featured every unit except receivers and cornerbacks, linebacker Matt Grootegoed laid a good pop on Watson.
It was during this period when Davis injured his thigh after getting accidentally kicked by a defensive player.
Taylor also got hurt during the inside run period towards the end of practice, spraining his ankle. He had to be helped off the field.
The Bucs then worked on field goals. Todd France was 4-of-4, but Matt Bryant was 1-of-2, missing wide to the right.
Gruden told the players they could take off their shoulder pads for the rest of practice. Tampa Bay went into an 11-on-11 period that saw cornerback Brian Kelly pick off Brian Griese.
Rudd almost came away with a pick off Chris Simms on a tipped ball, but didn’t catch it before he started running for the end zone. After dropping the pick, Ruud disciplined himself by dropping and doing push ups on the field.
In a day marred by two injuries, Clayton and rookie tight end Alex Smith had a scary collision after Smith ran the wrong route. Ruud also collided with Clayton, breaking up a pass in the process.
Clayton finally got some retribution by leaping up over cornerback Torrie Cox and making a dramatic catch deep down the left sidelines.
Derek Lewis had a nice catch and run in the 11-on-11 session and seems to be helping himself lately. Brackins also made a good catch downfield.
Defensive end Josh Savage beat Chris Colmer and sacked Griese. Despite giving up the sack, Colmer has shown some improvement, and he has been one of the few offensive linemen to suit up every day and not miss a practice.
Scott Jackson had some good plays and lined up at center and right guard today, rotating with Jonathan Clinkscale. Buenning received lots of reps at left guard.
Rookie right tackle Sam Lightbody continued to see some time at left tackle due to the injuries to Davis and Derrick Deese.
Tampa Bay also worked on punting the ball out of their end zone. This story is intended to be read by PewterInsider 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. Be sure to read the latest issue of Pewter Report on-line in PDF format on PewterReport.com. Buccaneers merchandise in the world.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com