The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field this afternoon without pads. The temperature was in the upper 90s with high humidity and the skies were sunny. This afternoon’s practice was easily the hottest one yet.
The offensive line worked on the 2-man sled, focusing on forearm shivers and leg drive. The wide receivers were again working on the overhead catch drill as well as difficult catches in the red zone over their outside shoulders, which forced them to wheel around to snag the ball.
Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Michael Pittman were both doing a great job of catching the ball, as was Derek Watson in the running back individual period.
The primary focus of the offensive team period was working on screen passes – running back screens, wide receiver screens and tight end screens. The athleticism of the offensive line was on display in this drill, and this group may be the most athletic the Bucs have had. Left tackle Anthony Davis and guard Matt Stinchcomb stood out.
The Bucs quarterbacks were practicing throwing into the end zone during the red zone period. Tight end Anthony Becht had his first dropped pass this afternoon. Receiver J.R. Russell, fullback Mike Alstott and tight end Nate Lawrie also dropped catchable passes. After Alstott’s drop, the “A-Train” went back to the sideline and did 10 push-ups to punish himself for the drop. It’s things like this that have made Alstott such a successful player over the years.
The quarterback play was good, but not great. Brian Griese was on top of his game and looked fantastic. Chris Simms was streaky again, putting together some good throws and some bad throws in conjunction.
Wide receiver Joey Galloway was on fire during the afternoon period. He has a great rapport with both Simms and Griese, but he was making most of his plays with Griese throwing him the ball today.
Rookie cornerback James Patrick made a great interception on a deep pass thrown to Galloway. Patrick was running stride-for-stride with Galloway on the play.
In 7-on-7 drills, Galloway scored three touchdowns, including a beautiful catch on a fade pass over Patrick in the end zone. His first touchdown was on a perfect skinny post pattern in the middle of the Bucs’ zone defense in the end zone. In his last attempt at a touchdown pass, cornerback Blue Adams dove and knocked the ball away in the end zone.
Linebacker Josh Buhl made a great play in the running game, knifing through the offensive line on a run blitz to nail Williams in the backfield. Williams showed some jets on a sweep around the left side with left guard Dan Buenning out in front.
Williams also showed some great cutback ability on a play this afternoon, as did Watson. Watson displayed excellent hands in the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 periods.
Defensive end Dewayne White made a great play in the backfield, stopping Alstott.
Once again the Bucs used their “Rocket” backfield, which is a two-halfback set. The two backs used were Pittman and Earnest Graham. In a regular formation, Graham ran a “rail” route up the left sidelines and caught a beautiful fade pass from Griese in the back of the end zone for a score.
Clayton also had a couple of nice catches, including a touchdown pass from Simms in the middle of zone defense. Patrick did a job of covering Clayton on one occasion in 7-on-7.
After the Bucs’ cool down intermission, Tampa Bay worked on punt and punt return drills. Running backs Ian Smart and Williams were fielding punts, in addition to wide receivers Ike Hilliard, DeAndrew Rubin and Edell Shepherd.
Linebacker Ryan Nece and safety Jermaine Phillips were playing the personal protector roles this afternoon instead of Alstott. Receiver Derrick Lewis and Phillips did a great job as “vice” players, not allowing Adams, who was playing flier, to get off the line of scrimmage on one punt.
Tight end Alex Smith made two nice catches in the end zone today, including the last one in the 11-on-11 period.
From the way he tracks and locks in on ballcarriers across the middle, rookie safety Donte Nicholson looks like he’s going to be a big-time hitter.
Rookie middle linebacker Barrett Ruud looks like he’s swimming a little bit in his head, but he did make a nice play breaking up a pass in coverage and almost had an interception this afternoon.
Linebacker Marquis Cooper is a fast player, who is really adept at blitzing due to his speed. Cooper’s problem is that he’s so lean that he gets pushed around the offensive line as he tries to break through the line of scrimmage and get into the backfield. Cooper’s awareness in coverage seems to be improving. However, he bobbled a would-be interception, which would up end up in the hands of Becht.
Right tackle Chris Colmer got a lot of reps this afternoon as Kenyatta Walker sat out due to precautionary reasons. That’s good because he needs a lot of work, especially after getting beaten for a sack by defensive end Greg Spries in 11-on-11 drills.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org