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After canceling their Sunday morning practice, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hit the field at 2:45 p.m. ET for a hot, sweaty afternoon workout at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. Skies were sunny, temperatures were in the low to mid-90’s and the gentle, sweltering breeze seemed like wind blowing from a furnace. This afternoon’s practice may have been the hottest workout yet since the Bucs’ training camp began on July 29.
The Bucs were in helmets and shorts and embarked on a very laid back practice that dragged along without much action. Fullback Mike Alstott, who has been out since last Wednesday morning when he suffered a neck burner, returned to practice and fully participated today.
Also back in the lineup was left guard Matt Stinchcomb. Among those sitting out were injured guards Sean Mahan (elbow) and Jeb Terry (knee). Left tackle Derrick Deese was out of his boot cast and dressed for practice, but only did individual work with one of the Bucs’ trainers, due to his lingering foot injury.
Tampa Bay spent the first 15 minutes or so working on kick coverage and kick returns. These drills were run at half speed and were largely uneventful. As good as reserve defensive ends Bryant McNeal and Josh Savage played in the preseason opener at Tennessee, the Bucs’ decision on which player to keep may come down to who does a better job as a blocker on kickoff return. Right now, that player may be Savage, who was used in that role sparingly last year. However, McNeal was working hard on this aspect of his game today.
In the individual practice period, the running backs were working on ball security in drills where they would catch a pass down the sidelines and have to try to stay in bounds while getting hit with blocking pads as they ran by. Both fullback Jameel Cook and running back Derek Watson ran too close to the sidelines in the Tennessee game and cost themselves extra yardage by accidentally stepping out of bounds.
In individual wide receiver drills, J.R. Russell dropped an easy, catchable pass and loafed after the ball, which irked receivers coach Richard Mann. “Come on, J.R.,” Mann said. Russell is on the verge of emerging from the pack of young receivers, but it is just the little things like practice habits and drops in warm-ups that seem to keep him from taking a big step towards making the team.
The Bucs had some “clean up” periods where they cleaned up some poor technique from the Tennessee game. The defense was first, going against a scout team offense, which saw right tackle Sam Lightbody get some action on the left side today.
It was interesting watching quarterback Luke McCown operate out of the shotgun for the scout team offense, especially since head coach Jon Gruden has a strong dislike for the shotgun formation and doesn’t believe in it or use it. McCown was picked off by cornerback Ronde Barber on a pass intended for WR Paris Warren.
Rookie tight end Alex Smith had a couple of dropped passes in team drills today, but he wasn’t alone. Dropped passes have become too common a sight during Buccaneers training camp this year.
Defensive tackle Lynn McGruder continues to be defensive line coach Rod Marinelli’s whipping boy at practice. McGruder, who had generated some buzz for himself during the offseason, has had trouble keeping his feet under him in pass rush situations. Today, it was failing to line up properly that got Marinelli angry. “Get your head out of your [expletive]!” Marinelli screamed. “Line up right!”
With the solid play of defensive tackles Jon Bradley and Anthony “Bear” Bryant, McGruder doesn’t seem likely to win a roster spot at this stage of the preseason.
Wide receiver Derrick Lewis made a real nice catch today in between several Bucs defenders – linebacker Ryan Nece, safety Will Allen and cornerback Torrie Cox.
When the Bucs offense got its turn to run plays in an 11-on-11 situation against the scout team defense, running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams got the first carry for the Bucs in place of the injured Michael Pittman, who was held out of team drills today. Derek Watson missed the afternoon practice due to a stomach virus.
McCown threw another pick, this time while running the Bucs’ offense. Rookie cornerback James Patrick was the recipient of the errant pass.
Wide receiver Derek McCoy made a nice shoe string catch off a Chris Simms’ pass on a skinny post pattern.
Right tackle Kenyatta Walker committed a false start penalty, which ticked off the offensive coaching staff.
The blocking was excellent for a screen pass to tight end Anthony Becht, who gained nearly 15 yards before being touched by a defender.
Despite a couple of drops today, Russell made a great catch while running a crossing pattern on a pass from Brian Griese.
As the practice went on, the Bucs quarterbacks worked on throwing the ball downfield more, which is something that we haven’t really seen too much of in practice. Ike Hilliard caught a nice pass running a deep post pattern.
Cornerback Ronyell Whitaker had a nice pass breakup on a pass intended for Joey Galloway downfield. But even Galloway wasn’t immune from the drops as he couldn’t haul in an easy pass from Simms on a post pattern.
Running back Jacque Lewis made a great catch downfield while running a rail route out of the backfield and down the sidelines. Simms laid the pass in beautifully over the top of linebacker Jermaine Taylor, hitting Lewis in stride.
Receiver Kevin Youngblood dropped a catchable pass just before the mid-practice cool down period.
The Bucs worked on punt coverage and fielding punts after the cool down period. Lewis, Hilliard, Cox, Galloway, Williams, DeAndrew Rubin and Edell Shepherd were back fielding punts today. Strangely enough, running back Ian Smart, who fielded a couple of punts against Tennessee, was not back there. Perhaps he has worked himself out of a punt return job due to a lackluster effort versus the Titans.
In another 11-on-11 session, Galloway was wide open on a crossing pattern and hauled in a pass from Griese. After the catch, he proceeded to hot dog down the right sidelines, holding the ball like a loaf of bread, which prompted tight ends coach Ron Middleton to bellow, “Put it away!”
Galloway has a great rapport with both Griese and Simms, and don’t be surprised if he takes a significant amount of catches away from Michael Clayton this year if he can stay healthy all season. Galloway is having a tremendous camp and is the best receiver on the team right now while Clayton is still working his way back into shape.
Savage had a pair of great pass rushes back-to-back against Walker and got a sack on Simms.
The Bucs finished up the practice with work on goal line offense. Alstott and Williams pounded the ball in for several touchdowns – mostly off the left side of the offensive line.
Safety Jermaine Phillips had great coverage on Becht in the end zone on a play action pass from Griese that fell incomplete.
A few plays later, Griese ran the same play action play and tried to hit Becht in the end zone again, only to have the pass swatted away by cornerback Ronyell Whitaker.
Cornerback Juran Bolden broke up a Simms’ pass intended for Warren.
The practice was over after Simms ran a naked bootleg to the left and scored a touchdown with his legs.
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