The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Monday afternoon training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex sporting shorts, jerseys and helmets.
This afternoon’s practice was held in extremely hot and humid conditions. The thermometer underneath a scoreboard on the closest field read 104 degrees at one point during the afternoon workout.
Just as he did in the morning session, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden attempted to keep practice fun by blasting music out of speakers as the players took part in calisthenics on the field.
Several players were held out of the afternoon practice, including left tackle Luke Petitgout, centers John Wade and Dan Buenning, running back Cadillac Williams, wide receiver Joey Galloway, linebacker Derrick Brooks, defensive tackle Ellis Wyms, defensive ends Kevin Carter and Greg Spires and cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly. After having a physical practice in the morning, it made sense for Gruden to give some of the veterans the afternoon off.
Once stretching concluded, the players and coaches broke off into different parts of the fields to work with their respective units in warm-ups.
Bucs defensive backs coach Raheem Morris had a lively warm-up session on the far field. He worked with the defensive backs on re-re-routing receivers, chasing down passes and catching interceptions at their highest point.
Tampa Bay assistant defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake played the role of quarterback. Some of his passes certainly fit the description of “poorly thrown” to the point where even the defensive backs couldn’t chase them down. Morris had a little fun at Lake’s expense.
“I know we have Brett Favre here at quarterback,” Morris said jokingly.
The Bucs have really been preaching the importance of creating turnovers. Morris stressed to his players that they must capitalize on turnovers when opportunities present themselves.
“Catch the ball at its highest point, and don’t let it hit the ground,’ said Morris.
Safety Donte Nicholson dropped an interception during this drill. However, the defensive backs fared quite well overall.
Two players that really stood out during this drill were safeties Will Allen and Sabby Piscitelli.
Piscitelli does a good job of turning his hips and chasing down passes due to his impressive speed. His hands are also soft.
Unfortunately for Piscitelli, he had to leave practice shortly after these drills ended. While it’s unclear what is wrong with him, Piscitelli, who missed Friday night’s preseason opener due to a hamstring pull, was seen icing his right hamstring from the sideline during the afternoon workout.
Piscitelli will need to play against the Jacksonville Jaguars if he still hopes to beat out Jermaine Phillips for the starting strong safety job by Week 1. He was making a strong case for himself during the first 10 days of camp when he led the defense in interceptions.
However, Piscitelli’s hamstring injury is hindering his chances of beating out Phillips.
Morris really emphasized the importance of re-routing receivers. At one point, he made CB Phillip Buchanon re-run the drill because he didn’t like the way the veteran DB ran it the first time.
“Shuffle, agility,” Morris said.
The DBs also worked on covering deep crossing routes. Morris reminded his players of the types of players that have made a name for themselves on these types of patterns.
“We’ve got to deal with [Carolina Panthers WR] Steve Smith and [Tampa Bay WR] Joey Galloway,” Morris said. “You know, those types of guys.”
From there, the Bucs held an 11-on-11 session on the far field.
Tampa Bay’s offense, which struggled mightily during the morning practice, did a much better job of running the football this afternoon.
Gruden and Bucs offensive line coach Bill Muir were still boiling from this morning’s disappointing outing, particularly from the offensive line. Both Gruden and Muir laid into this unit throughout the afternoon workout.
“Swiftness, men. Swiftness instead of movement,” Gruden said.
Muir cut right to the chase.
“Kick some [expletive] ass,’ he yelled.
Tampa Bay’s offense opened up a bit this afternoon, and the imagination paid off in several instances, particularly on end-arounds to wide receivers Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall. Both players picked up some big yardage on their respective turns to carry the football.
Tampa Bay’s scout team offense was able to move the ball against the Bucs’ starting defense. Bucs fullback B.J. Askew threw a nice block on linebacker Jamie Winborn to open up a nice running lane for rookie running back Kenneth Darby during the full team session.
Darby came through again later in the 11-on-11 scout team offense session when he hauled in a middle screen from quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and picked up big yardage.
It is interesting to note that Gradkowski ran more scout team offense this afternoon than Chris Simms, who has struggled to regain his form since undergoing a splenectomy in September.
Tampa Bay’s offense had some problems with the center/quarterback exchange on Monday morning, and those problems carried over into the afternoon workout when Gradkowski fumbled a snap during the scout team offense drill.
Gruden was also unhappy with the tempo of the afternoon practice.
“It’s like dead man walking out here,” Gruden said. “Let’s go.”
For whatever reason, Tampa Bay’s offense had trouble breaking the huddle with Gradkowski in the lineup for the second straight practice. It is clearly getting on Gruden’s nerves.
“Break the damn huddle,” Gruden yelled.
Gradkowski threw the ball better this afternoon than he did this morning. He threw a beautiful deep ball across the middle of the field to WR Kyle Smith, who hauled in the pass for a big gain.
Gruden had to be pleased with how his offense fared against the scout team defense this afternoon. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs run more misdirection and play-action against the Jaguars than they did the Patriots. These types of plays worked well for the offense this afternoon.
Bucs QB Jeff Garcia ran a great play-action play and scrambled out of the pocket and threw deep ball to WR Chad Lucas, who beat cornerback Carlos Hendricks and hauled in the pass for a 50-yard touchdown.
Tampa Bay QB Luke McCown took the second-team reps again. He hooked up with Stovall several times on deep crossing routes. Like Garcia, McCown used play-action to help get his receivers open. On one play, McCown used a play-action pass to hit WR Chad Owens in stride for a touchdown. Owens beat safety Tanard Jackson on the play.
Since it was the scout team offense running plays against Tampa Bay’s defense, Gruden was actually pulling quite hard for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s unit.
“Come on, defense,’ Gruden said. “Where’s the turnover?”
The defense responded when linebacker Ryan Nece intercepted a pass on one play, and LB Antoine Cash nearly intercepted a pass on another.
Simms received some reps toward the latter part of practice as a part of the scout team offense. He actually looked a little better throwing the football. However, Simms is still off and has a long way to go to climb back into the quarterback battle.
One player that struggled a bit this afternoon was WR Paris Warren, who had an impressive performance against New England on Friday night. Warren dropped two passes this afternoon.
Tampa Bay dedicated a significant amount of the afternoon practice to special teams work.
Receivers Mark Jones, Chad Owens, Ike Hilliard and Smith took turns fielding punts.
Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia is itching to use Clayton and Stovall on special teams. Both players have taken reps as lead blockers on kickoff returns, and on Monday afternoon they each saw playing time as edge rushers on punts.
Clayton and Stovall looked good doing it, too. On one punt play, Stovall got off the line quickly and rushed into the backfield and ran over the personal protector, rookie defensive end Greg Peterson.
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