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Conditions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Monday morning practice in full pads were milder than they have been. Light cloud cover gave way to sunshine just after practice started, but temperatures were in the high 80’s instead of the low 90’s, as is the norm for morning practices. A slight breeze kept the morning practice from being hotter than it could have been.
Paul Hackett and Aaron Kromer were working with centers and quarterbacks at the start of practice. John Wade, Sean Mahan, Matt Stinchcomb and Jonathan Clinkscale were playing center in the individual period.
Rookie fullback Rick Razzano is still in rehab and will continue to be out for some time. Razzano has a torn hamstring and the prognosis was 4-6 weeks worth of rehab. However, Razzano told Pewter Report that he expects to be back after the Bucs’ first preseason game.
The Bucs continued to work on ball security drills during the individual period. Running backs were running through a gauntlet-type drill where they would have to cover up the ball before getting whacked with two blocking pad shields.
Quarterbacks were working on the “soapy ball drill.” Balls were literally dumped into soapy water to make them concentrate on gripping the ball tightly.
I have never seen the Buccaneers spend so much time on ball security drills as they have this year. It is a major point of emphasis and it has resulted in fewer turnovers in practice.
Left tackle Derrick Deese was still out with a walking boot on his injured foot, while right tackle Kenyatta Walker sat out with some soreness in his right knee, which was wrapped. Free safety Dexter Jackson was also held out this morning.
The offensive line hit the two-man sled and worked on pulling during the individual period, while the defensive linemen hit the bags and worked on pass rush. The defensive backs hit the 7-man sled and worked on jamming technique. Quarterbacks and running backs worked on the shovel pass.
Split end Joey Galloway continued to have a great training camp and made a nice one-handed catch in wide receiver drills.
Young wide receivers Kevin Youngblood and Larry Brackins don’t always play big. Neither receiver is exceptionally fleet of foot. The reason why they are on this team is because they are 6-foot-4. However, they don’t always use their long arms to shield defenders away from the ball or extend them to make the catch.
The offensive skill position players came together for a period to work on the red zone passing game with different personnel groupings. “I want to see some more imagination in the passing game,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said.
Quarterback Brian Griese was very accurate during this session, and rarely gets chewed out the way Chris Simms and Luke McCown do occasionally. That’s also why Griese is the clear-cut starter.
The offensive players worked on running out of the huddle and into formation with just 10 seconds left on the play clock. It seems the Bucs are leaving no stone unturned in their game preparation.
The cornerbacks and wide receivers went 1-on-1 today with the corners working on off-coverage, press techniques and defending slot receivers. Rookie corner Kevin Arbet did a nice job covering Derek Lewis. Fellow rookie corner James Patrick had a real rough outing this morning, especially after a blant case of holding off the line while covering Michael Clayton. Clayton eventually shoved Patrick down and made a nice one-handed touchdown catch.
Wide receiver Derek McCoy dropped a sure touchdown on a slant pass after beating Patrick. That drew the moans and groans from receivers coach Richard Mann. “We’ve got to catch that. Got to!”
Cornerback Ronde Barber was matched up on Ike Hilliard outside and did a superb job of defending a pass thrown towards the receiver.
Wide receiver J.R. Russell has really been making strides and has gained some momentum over the last couple of practices. You can see the light bulb starting to turn on. On a slant pass against Arbet, Russell made a real physical move off the line to gain some separation and catch a touchdown pass. A few reps later, Russell caught a touchdown pass against Ronyell Whitaker.
Cornerback Blue Adams may be starting to assert himself. He had a nice, aggressive move to cut off Lewis’ slant route and pick off a pass.
Cornerback Torrie Cox had a nice jam on receiver Terrance Metcalf, but overall, had an uneven practice period.
Clayton dropped a quick slant that would have been a touchdown. He’s had more drops during the first week this year than he had last year. The reason is some rust from missing much of the offseason program after minor knee surgery. So far, Clayton is the second-best receiver in camp behind Galloway, who has simply been dominant.
The good news from the morning practice was the fact that both Todd France and Matt Bryant were perfect on their field goal attempts. They combined to go 6-of-6 with each kicker getting three attempts. Long snapper Brian Sawyer was doing the snapping and only his first snap was a bit shaky. The last five looked much better.
The 11-on-11 drills started off with the offense trying to get the ball off their 1-yard line. Three running plays later, the offense got the first down past the 10-yard line. Right guard Sean Mahan and center John Wade played exceptionally well on this series to help the offense power out of its own end zone. Rookie Chris Colmer was starting at right tackle and Michael Pittman was starting at running back.
“That’s embarrassing, defense,” Gruden said with a competitive scowl towards the Bucs defensive coaches.
The embarrassment continued for the defense on the next series when second-string under tackle Lynn McGruder, who was subbing for Ellis Wyms, jumped offsides and hit Clinkscale, who was playing center, on the 1-yard line. That really ticked off the defensive coaches.
But the second-string defense rose to the challenge on third down with blitzing safety Donte Nicholson beating a block by fullback Jameel Cook and sacking Simms from behind.
The Bucs are catching a lot of flak from the media and fans over the re-signing of Todd Steussie. Hey, I don’t like the move, either. I’m not going to defend the organization, but I do understand why they did it – even though I’m not a Steussie fan. He knows the system, and that’s important to understand.
Colmer has more physical talent than Steussie does right now, but because Colmer doesn’t have a full grasp of the offense, he’s getting beat a lot, especially in pass protection sets. You can’t just sign a guy off the street and have him play left tackle (effectively) for you that day. It just doesn’t happen. The Steussie signing makes sense, whether you want to hear it or not.
Keep in mind that this team has signed two other offensive tackles – Sam Lightbody and Jeff Hatch – before signing Steussie. That tells me that he was basically the Bucs’ third option at offensive tackle. And at this stage of training camp, players who can play left tackle are extremely hard to find right now.
In evaluating Steussie, he certainly looks more comfortable on the left side as opposed to the right, and seems to be in good condition. That’s about all I can ascertain after watching just one practice.
Rookie left guard Dan Buenning was having a good practice and pancaked defensive tackle Bryan Save before leaving with tightness in his calf. Midway through practice, the offensive linemen starting falling like insects that had been fried in a bug zapper. Hatch and left guard Matt Stinchcomb both succumbed to back injuries. Lightbody suffered a bad laceration on his right hand that required stitches.
The Bucs came out of their cool down session and worked on punt and punt return drills. Punter Josh Bidwell is having a great camp and had a great practice this morning by drilling several punts inside the 10-yard line.
On the first play of the next 11-on-11 session, cornerback Brian Kelly stepped in front of Edell Shepherd and picked off a Griese pass.
Right guard Jeb Terry, who also played left guard today due to Buenning’s absence, committed a false start penalty, which really angered Gruden. “Get your head out of your (expletive), Terry!” said Gruden, as Terry was yanked from the lineup.
Strong safety Jermaine Phillips and outside linebacker Marquis Cooper had good days in coverage with Phillips breaking up a pass.
Strongside linebacker Jeff Gooch forced a fumble by stripping tight end Nate Lawrie of the ball after a catch across the middle. Lawrie thought the play was over, but the alert Gooch came in for the strip.
Under tackle Ellis Wyms beat Colmer inside for a sack while twisting outside with left end Greg Spires.
Patrick laid a big hit on running back Ian Smart, who has been getting smacked around quite a bit during training camp.
Rookie safety Hamza Abdullah made a nice pass breakup in the end zone on a pass intended for Galloway.
Smart and rookie halfback Jacque Lewis dropped easy passes in the 11-on-11 session.
Defensive end Bryant McNeal recorded a sack rushing inside on a twist with nose tackle Chris Hovan.
Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli keeps pushing rookie nose tackle Anthony Bryant to be a better player. “Be a (expletive) tank,” Marinelli shouted. Bryant then proceded to blow up Mahan on the next play. One of Byrant’s biggest problems is losing pad level due to conditioning. At the snap of the ball, Bryant stands up because he’s winded.
Cox had a nice pass breakup on Russell in 11-on-11.
Clayton made two great touchdown catches in 11-on-11. The first came on a pass between Phillips and Will Allen. The second one came against Cox, who had great coverage. The ball was thrown high and Clayton went up above Cox to pull it in. Clayton caught it and fell to the ground with possession, but right at the end of the play, as he was out of bounds, Clayton dropped the ball, and the ref called it incomplete. This touchdown was worthy of instant replay.
Guard Doug Buckles did a nice job of pancaking Dewayne White on one play.
Galloway had two touchdowns near the end of practice, one against Nicholson and one versus Kelly, who ended up accidentally kicking Galloway in the crotch as he was falling down.
Linebacker Bam Hardmon picked off an ill-advised Griese pass in the middle of field right by the end zone. Hardmon has made some great plays in coverage during training camp and is one to watch as the preseason rolls on.
Tight end Anthony Becht is such a powerful blocker. On one play he blew up Gooch and drove him down the line before releasing him, whipping around and catching a pass on a tight end delay. Becht may be the best free agent addition this offseason for the Bucs.
Clinkscale had a nice kick out block and pancaked Spires. Clinkscale has been improving and really coming on. He could impress enough to be placed on the practice squad.
The Bucs ran a killer screen to Alex Smith today that was executed to near perfection. The play went for big yardage.
Practice ended with a violent collision between running back Derek Watson and Abdullah. The hit resulted in a stalemate.
Tampa Bay’ s afternoon special teams practice was cancelled due to severe weather in the Orlando area.
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