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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Saturday morning training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex sporting full pads.
For the second consecutive day, the skies were clear, and the sun was beating down on the players and the spectators. 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 veteran left tackle Luke Petitgout to practice on Saturday morning. He had been sidelined with what head coach Jon Gruden has termed “a sore body”. Although he returned to practice, Petitgout was extremely limited during the two-hour workout.
Along with Petitgout, defensive tackle Ryan Sims returned to practice and defensive end Gaines Adams saw some more action after returning from his triceps strain.
Wide receiver Michael Clayton, safety Sabby Piscitelli and tight end Matt Herian were held out of Saturday morning’s practice. Clayton was held out with a sore back, Herian had a calf strain and Piscitelli was dealing with what Gruden termed “some tight lowers”.
Despite Petitgout’s return to practice, Anthony Davis received most of the reps at left tackle with the first team and rookie Aaron Sears was getting the reps at left guard. Donald Penn also received some reps with the first team at left tackle and continues to take advantage of his opportunities.
After stretching concluded, the players broke off to different parts of the field to work on different aspects of the game. The quarterbacks worked on ball security with the tight ends trying to strip the ball from behind. The tight ends were ripping at the ball from the back and the quarterbacks were working on keeping the ball tucked high and close to their chest.
The wide receivers ran through the gauntlet drill as coaches swung blocking pads at them as they ran down the sideline. This drill is used to remind the wide receivers to tuck the ball as quickly as possible after the catch. It also gives them a chance to get some contact without injury.
The running backs were working on cut drills with cones after catching passes from out of the backfield. This allows the running backs to get used to catching the ball out of the backfield and then making different moves in the open field. Fullback B.J. Askew showed some quick feet during the drill, but was still running straight up instead of getting his pads down.
The offensive linemen were working on the two-man sled with a quick hands drill, forearm shivers and goal line drill. The quick hands drill is used to get the offensive linemen used to get their hands up quickly during running and passing plays. The quicker a lineman can get his hands on a defender, the better chance they have of staying in front of the defender.
The forearm drill helps the offensive linemen to get a quick shot on the defender that knocks them off balance. The goal line drill is where an offensive lineman just lunges at the pad imitating a caused pileup on the goal line. In goal line situations, offensive linemen just want to get a hit on the defender and try to open a hole or cause a pile up.
The defensive linemen and linebackers were working on tackling drills. This drill is to teach the linebacker to square up the ball carrier and explode with his hips into the ball carriers midsection.
During the warm-up drills, Jon Gruden’s brother, Jay, was seen working with the wide receivers. Jay Gruden, who was a quarterback for the Tampa Bay Storm and Orlando Predators in the Arena League, was throwing passes to the wide receivers. Jay Gruden usually makes an appearance during training camp to work with the team.
The wide receivers were working on bubble routes during the warm-up drills. The bubble route is where the receiver steps a yard off the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball for short pass. Maurice Stovall, Chas Gessner, Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway ran the bubble routes to perfection.
The offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers worked on a blocking drill one side at a time. On the left side, with Aaron Sears and Anthony Davis, the offensive linemen did a good job of keeping Patrick Chukwurah and Chris Hovan from getting to the quarterback.
The same can’t be said for Jeb Terry, who was running at left guard. Terry allowed Jovan Haye to blow past him during the drill prompting a chewing out from Gruden. “Get you head out of your butt,” Gruden said to Terry after the poor effort.
Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood did a good job of manning the left side during the drill. Trueblood and defensive end Kevin Carter have had some good tussles during training camp and Trueblood did a good job on Carter during the drill.
Donald Penn, who has impressed Gruden with his play as of late, had two consecutive false start penalties during the drill. Penn also was beat on consecutive plays by veteran defensive end Greg Spires. Penn struggled during Saturday’s morning practice, having problems blocking during running and passing plays.
The installation of the shotgun was a slow process for Gruden, but the snap under center was just as bad as in the shotgun on Saturday morning. Second-year center Nick Mihlhauser had a bad snap in the shotgun to Chris Simms and Jeff Garcia struggled to get the handle from John Wade and Matt Lehr. Gruden expressed his displeasure with the center-quarterback exchange after practice.
“Some parts obviously we had some fumbles with the exchange during 9-on-7, which is ridiculous, totally ridiculous,” Gruden said.
Gruden’s displeasure continued during 7-on-7 drills with the lack of consistency with running simple offensive plays. Gruden was heard yelling, “How many [explicative] snaps do we need out here?”
Linebacker Cato June, who Gruden expressed is having the best camp of any player, showed some of his aggressive play during 11-on-11 drills. On one running play, June met fullback Byron Storer in the hole and sent Storer backwards with a forearm shiver to the chest. The hit drew cheers from the crowd and had Storer shaken running back to the huddle.
On another running play, Kenneth Darby took a sweep to the far sideline and has he was cutting back across the field, Greg White stripped the ball, but fortunately for Darby he did jump back on the ball. That doesn’t help Darby’s chances of making the squad as Gruden said on Wednesday, players who fumble the ball won’t be here long.
During 7-on-7 drills, Gruden yelled “Come on Donald Penn,” just before Penn took on rookie defensive end Gaines Adams. Penn proceeded to plant Adams on his stomach with a crushing block. Adams’ day was compounded when a fumbled snap came his way and he was unable to scoop up the loose ball.
June’s voice was heard again in the 7-on-7 drills when he knocked the ball out of tight end Jerramy Stevens’ hands after a reception and cornerback Ronde Barber scooped up the loose ball racing to the end zone. During the drill, the defense did an excellent job of forcing Garcia and Luke McCown to throw to the check down receivers in the red zone.
During individual drills with the offensive linemen and defensive linemen going one-on-one, the offensive linemen held their own with a 12-5 edge. Anthony Davis dominated Greg White, knocking his helmet off in the second rotation. Aaron Sears won both matchups with Darrell Campbell. Kevin Carter got the best of Dennis Roland, schooling the second-year tackle on the swim move.
Rookie Gaines Adams showed some of the speed that has been talked about, racing past Jeremy Trueblood. Trueblood has improved his footwork from last season, but Adams got past the 6-foot-8 right tackle with a quick first step. Greg Spires also beat Trueblood, only Spires used a double swim move to take down Trueblood. Spires made his first swim move to the outside and then dipped back inside with another swim move and Trueblood couldn’t keep his hands on Spires.
Special teams was a mixture of good and bad on Saturday morning with the punt team impressing and Matt Bryant not looking good. Bryant tried five field goals from 30 yards and out and missed four of the five. Bryant showed his frustration by yanking off his helmet and not locking eyes with anyone as he left the field.
Josh Bidwell, on the other hand, had an impressive showing punting the ball with nice hang time and a tight spiral. Bidwell was consistently punting the ball at least 45 yards down field. He also put a punt out of bounds at the 2-yard line, which will be a big time plus in field position during the season.
Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris and wide receiver Ike Hilliard had an entertaining moment during 11-on-11 drills. Hilliard caught a pass across the middle of the field and Jermaine Phillips flew by him like he was going to put a hard hit on Hilliard if he could. As Hilliard was coming back to the huddle, Morris was yelling at the ground as though Hilliard was out cold, “Come back to us Ike, are you okay?”
As practice was coming to an end, Gruden had the radio out and was calling the plays from the sideline. Late in the 11-on-11 drill, Julian Jenkins came free on a missed assignment by Anthony Davis and forced Garcia to throw the ball before David Boston was out of his break. Gruden screamed, “What the hell are we doing out here?”
To end practice, Bruce Gradkowski showed some of his arm strength hitting wide receiver Chas Gessner with a deep pass down the far sideline. Gessner, who had a spectacular one-handed reception on Friday, is starting to make it hard not to recognize his talents at the receiver position.
Jon Gruden played a little cornerback during passing drills in the end zone and gave the crowd a little stir when he lined up across from wide receiver Joey Galloway. Gruden followed Galloway into the end zone and was able to intercept a pass from Jeff Garcia. In unusual Gruden fashion, after catching the interception he turned around and heaved the ball into the crowd.
Gruden’s skills at the cornerback position drew some loud cheers from the fans in attendance.
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