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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Monday morning training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in helmets and full pads.
There was some cloud cover over the practice field, but the sun did manage to make an appearance several times during workout. The weather remained hot and humid, with little breeze to cool down the spectators.
Tampa Bay linebackers Derrick Brooks, Ryan Nece, fullback Mike Alstott and guard Davin Joseph were once again the practice captains and led the Bucs in calisthenics to start the workout. Nose tackle Chris Hovan took the place of injured linebacker Barrett Ruud as one of the practice captains.
For the third consecutive day, safety Sabby Piscitelli was held out of morning practice with what is still being classified as “sore lowers.” For the second consecutive day, Ruud was held out of practice and is still nursing a bruised knee. Ruud is listed as day-to-day and the Bucs expect him to be back to practice in a day or two.
Left tackle Luke Petitgout was absent from practice and will not suit up on Friday in the preseason opener against the New England Patriots. Petitgout hasn’t participated in full contact drills following the second day of practice with pads on. Petitgout has also been a spectator, minus some running and walk through action, for more than a week.
After stretching concluded, the offense went over to the five-man blocking sled for its normal quick-off-the-ball drill. As each offensive team went through the drill, head coach Jon Gruden could be heard yelling, “Get off the ball, get off the ball.”
After the sled drill, the players broke off into their group drills to run different drills for different situations. The tight ends began working on their run-blocking ability on the one-man sled. This drill works on the tight ends keeping their blocking base low and sustaining their blocks.
On many of the running plays, the tight end is normally responsible for sealing off the defensive end or kicking out on the outside linebacker. Unlike an offensive lineman, who is looking for a quick block and then moving to the second level, the tight end must hold their blocks for at least two seconds to keep the defensive end or linebacker from forcing the running play back into traffic.
The quarterbacks were working on handoff drills with the running backs making sure they put the ball right into the midsection of the ballcarrier. With the recent rash of fumbled snaps and handoffs, this drill has become imperative for the quarterbacks and running backs to get on the same page.
The offensive line was seen working on run-blocking techniques and sealing off each block to create running lanes. The drill shows that the tackle is blocking his man toward the sideline and the guard is blocking his man toward midfield to set up a lane. Once the lane is set up, the fullback can come through and find the first defender across his face to clear the lane as well.
The wide receivers worked on an important drill during Monday’s morning’s practice – a tippy-toe drill on the sideline. This drill teaches the wide receiver to know where he is on the field and get a feel for how close he is to the sideline. The receiver must concentrate on the ball, but also be aware of getting both feet in bounds to complete the reception.
The standouts from the drill were wide receivers Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall, Chas Gessner and Ike Hilliard. Hilliard, who has been quietly productive this training camp, was the best at knowing how close he was to the sideline and dragging his second foot in bounds. Stovall also showed the ability to tap his feet close together to keep his feet in bounds.
The wide receivers broke from this drill and went to the 30-yard line to run fade sideline routes. This is a route where the wide receiver starts on the hash mark, makes one move to get rid of the cornerback and fades toward the sideline. This is a timing route that is used to get over the cornerback and just in front of the safety.
Quarterbacks Bruce Gradkowski and Chris Simms were responsible for all the attempts during this drill and both quarterbacks had nice touch on their passes. Gradkowski and Simms were pretty accurate during this drill, but Gradkowski did overthrow one attempt for wide receiver Chad Owens.
The quarterbacks and wide receivers then began to work on slant and comeback pass patterns across the middle of the field. During this drill, Gruden yelled to his quarterbacks and receivers, “You guys are like a double play combo, 6-4-3.”
Gruden has been stressing that the quarterbacks and wide receivers must by in sync and on the same page on every play.
Even though Simms did do a good amount of throwing during the wide receiver drills, he again didn’t throw during any of the 7-on-7, 9-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills. Simms was seen after practice for the second consecutive day throwing passes to different wide receivers. Due to his lack of reps during practice, Simms is relegated to getting his reps after practice.
The preseason opener is on the minds of the players and Gruden as Friday’s game is getting closer. Gruden was heard yelling at the offensive skilled players during the group installation period, “It’s an all out blitz, here comes New England!”
Even though the starters will see limited time, the Patriots are a good test to open the preseason for the Bucs.
In the group installation period, quarterback Jeff Garcia was accurate with his passes hitting most of his receivers in stride. One particular throw during the period was impressive when Garcia found Hilliard in the corner of the end zone with a tight spiral for the touchdown.
Quarterback Luke McCown was impressive with his passes during the group installation period, including a nice pitch and catch with wide receiver Joey Galloway on a corner route to the end zone. McCown also found fullback B.J. Askew out of the backfield and Askew made the bobbling catch as he continued down the sideline.
Running back Cadillac Williams, who was impressive early in camp catching the ball out of the backfield, has dropped a couple of passes in the last couple of practices. Williams had another drop from McCown in the morning practice. Gruden wants to get Williams more involved in the passing game this season and these drops are not what either the coach or the player wants to see. But training camp is the perfect place for Williams to get all of the drops out of the way.
Garcia showed some of his arm strength on the last pass attempt of the session, hitting Clayton down the field on a deep corner route in the end zone. Garcia has thrown the ball deep on a few occasions during training camp and has been accurate for the most part.
During the 9-on-7 drills, second-year left tackle Donald Penn, who has impressed Gruden with his play, matched up with rookie defensive end Gaines Adams. Penn showed his good footwork being able to stay in front of Adams on a pass play. On the second play, a running play, Penn pushed Adams away from the play and kept him from pursuing the ballcarrier.
Adams got reps at both right and left defensive end on Monday morning and looked explosive from both sides around the edge. He also got some snaps at the under tackle position in nickel defense, but seemed to be lost at times with his responsibilities.
Defensively in the 9-on-7 drills, rookie Tanard Jackson and Donte Nicholson ran at safety with the first team defense. With Piscitelli on the sideline, Jackson and Nicholson are getting more reps at safety and should see a good amount of playing time against New England.
Place kicker Matt Bryant worked on the pooch kick for the second consecutive day during his work on Monday. Bryant was accurate with his field goals for the second consecutive day, hitting two of three field goal attempts from 35 yards out. Bryant lined up for a 54-yard field goal, but put a pooch kick inside the 20-yard line, compared to inside the 5-yard line on Sunday.
To end the 9-on-7 drill, running back Lionel Gates dropped the handoff from McCown and Gruden was heard saying, “Ah [expletive] blow the damn horn.”
The horn signals the end of a session and Gruden just kept shaking his head in displeasure as he ran to the next session.
During 11-on-11 drills, defensive lineman Kevin Carter took some reps as the under tackle with the first team defense. Carter also ran with the second team defense at defensive end with defensive tackles Ellis Wyms and Ryan Sims and Adams.
On the first play of the 11-on-11 drills, Garcia was forced out of the pocket from the oncoming rush and scrambled out of the pocket to find Galloway in the middle of the field. After the play, Gruden walked over the Garcia and said, “Atta boy Jeff, good job getting out of there and doing something.”
Since training camp opened more than a week ago there has only been one skirmish between teammates. Monday’s practice marked the second one as Gessner caught a pass on the sideline from Garcia and raced down the sideline. However, Gessner got a friendly bump out of bounds from linebacker Cato June and wasn’t happy about it. Gessner got up and threw the ball at June and a coach held June away from Gessner as they both ran back to their respective huddles.
On the following play, Garica hit Hilliard with a nice throw to the sideline and Hilliard again flashed his fancy footwork on the sideline. Hilliard caught the ball and got his first foot down and dragged his second foot to get it in bounds.
For the first time in training camp, the 3-4 defensive scheme was seen during the nickel coverage drill. For two plays, Carter, defensive tackle Chris Hovan and defensive end Greg Spires were the three down linemen. At linebackers was Cato June, Derrick Brooks, Ryan Nece and Quincy Black. Linebacker Antoine Cash came in as the fourth linebacker on the second and final play of the 3-4 defense.
The offense struggled during 11-on-11 drills and Gruden voiced his displeasure after a third consecutive unsuccessful play. The offensive line couldn’t keep the defensive line from getting pressure on the quarterback and McCown wasn’t able to even look down field for a receiver. Gruden was heard saying, “Give me a [expletive] break, this is ridiculous.”
During the special teams drill, the punt team worked on two different fake punts from the direct snap to throwing the ball downfield. On the first fake punt, safety Kalvin Pearson took the direct snap and raced toward the sideline.
On the second fake punt, punter Josh Bidwell took the snap and looked for Ernest Graham down field. Bidwell’s pass was short and Graham had to go to his knees to catch the ball prompting special teams coach Rich Bisaccia to yell, “Come on Josh, throw the ball.”
Garcia ended the 11-on-11 session and practice with an accurate pass to Galloway down the seam. Garcia’s spiral hit Galloway right on the hands and split the cornerback and safety that were playing in the Cover Two scheme.
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