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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Sunday afternoon training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in helmets, jerseys and shorts.
This afternoon’s practice was scorching hot for the players and spectators. There was little breeze and absolutely no shade from the few clouds in the sky. Temperatures reached 95 degrees in the Orlando area and the heat index was well over 100 degrees on the practice field.
Several players were held out of the afternoon practice including running back Michael Pittman, tight end Jerramy Stevens, wide receiver Joey Galloway, fullback Mike Alstott, offensive linemen Luke Petitgout, John Wade, Aaron Sears and Dan Buenning, defensive linemen Kevin Carter and Greg Spires, cornerback Ronde Barber and linebacker Barrett Ruud.
The Bucs spent 15 minutes on special teams before stretching on Sunday afternoon and the entire session was dedicated to kickoff coverage, both covering and receiving kickoffs. Special teams coach Rich Bisaccia was working with the coverage team on how to cover kicks in the correct lanes and then sliding down the field horizontally to swarm the ballcarrier.
Bisaccia then worked with the kick return team and stressed to the players to get back into the wedge quick enough and know which guys to block. Bisaccia was very thorough during this period, going as far as to have the players almost walking down the field so that he could point out who has to block who.
Bisaccia’s attention to detail with the special teams has stood out during training camp and head coach Jon Gruden has noticed. Gruden stated during Saturday morning’s practice that the special teams were easily the best group in training camp so far. Gruden also said that he believes this year’s special teams group is more athletic than in any other season during his tenure.
After stretching concluded, the offense worked on some more trick plays that were different from the trick plays that were run during the morning practice. One of the plays had quarterback Jeff Garcia split out wide as a wide receiver with running back Cadillac Williams receiving the direct snap from center.
With Garcia split wide, wide receiver David Boston moved into the backfield with Williams. When Williams received the snap, he faked a hand off to Boston, almost like an option play, and takes the ball sweeping to the sideline.
While Garcia was working on the trick plays, quarterbacks Luke McCown, Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski worked with the wide receivers on fade routes into the corner of the end zone. Simms looked decent throwing the fade route and completed all of his pass attempts in the end zone. McCown had good touch on his passes into the corner, but did miss a couple of receivers. McCown struggled with throwing the deep ball too long and out of the back of the end zone.
Gradkowski, on the other hand, struggled with putting enough arm behind his throws, often throwing behind the receiver or too short. Wide receiver Chas Gessner made a nice catch from Gradkowski having to turn his entire body around to snag the errant pass attempt. It’s doubtful that the Bucs will keep six wide receivers this year, unless either Mark Jones or Chad Owens earns a roster spot as a full-time return man. But if Tampa Bay does end up keeping six after Galloway, Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall, Ike Hilliard and David Boston, Gessner is in the mix.
On the opposite practice field, defensive backs coach Raheem Morris was working with Cover 3 and Cover 4 coverage schemes with the defensive backs. Morris also worked on some man-to-man coverage and the correct switches during zone coverage on different pass patterns. Safety Will Allen stuck out during this drill as he didn’t miss one coverage assignment.
Safety Jermaine Phillips, however, struggled a bit during the Cover 4 scheme knowing when to cover the deep receiver. Morris was heard joking with Phillips during the drill saying, “You ain’t [expletive], you ain’t [expletive].” Morris made Phillips run the drill again and Phillips ran the coverage correctly on the second try.
Linebackers coach Gus Bradley worked with the linebackers on their correct drops in coverage. Bradley was working on the drops and the footwork when getting back into pass coverage.
The defensive linemen were working on their swim moves from the right and left side of the line. Newly acquired defensive end Tim Jones was impressive with his swim move from the right side and defensive end Jeremy Pittman was equally impressive from the left side.
In the 11-on-11 period, Gruden pulled out another trick play with the offense running a double reverse. Williams took the handoff from Garcia and handed the ball off to wide Clayton, who then pitched the ball to wide receiver Maurice Stovall as he raced down the far sideline for the end zone. Gruden seems to be pulling out all of the stops this year when it comes to trick plays and misdirection as Pewter Report has seen more unconventional plays on offense in training camp than ever before.
During the 11-on-11 drill, Garcia and McCown got the majority of the reps with Gradkowski getting a few snaps at the end of the drill. Simms again took no snaps during 9-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills. Garcia was sharp during the drill, completing all of his pass attempts. Simms’ sore elbow doesn’t appear to be a concern anymore, rather Gruden has liked what he has seen out of McCown and wants to continue to give him the reps that Simms would normally receive. Simms’ days in Tampa Bay appear to be numbered.
Garcia’s best pass of the drill came on a 7-yard slant play to Clayton across the middle of the field. Garcia hit Clayton in stride with the pass allowing Clayton to get up field and get some yards after the catch.
McCown didn’t have the same success during the drill as cornerback Phillip Buchanon had his hands on an interception, but couldn’t pull the ball in. Buchanon screamed out his displeasure and then immediately dropped to the ground and did 10 pushups for missing the turnover opportunity.
To end the session, Gradkowski threw a nice sideline go route to Stovall. Gradkowski hit Stovall in stride up the far sideline allowing Stovall to race down the sideline heading right for the end zone. This pass drew cheers from the fans that were brave enough to withstand the heat of practice.
After the 11-on-11 drill, the quarterbacks seemed to lose their accuracy during the 7-on-7 drill. Garcia overthrew wide receiver Chad Owens on a seam route up the field and McCown also overthrew wide receiver Jovon Bouknight on a sideline go route. The defense once again forced a lot of check down passes during 7-on-7, which is forcing all the quarterbacks to go through their progressions.
The first-team offense worked on the goal line with noise from the loud speakers as they did in the morning practice. With Tampa Bay opening up on the road in a noisy Seattle stadium, Gruden is making sure that his offense is comfortable with running plays in a hostile environment.
On the opposite field, the defensive linemen were working with the tackling dummies on their pass rushing ability with the swim move. Defensive end Patrick Chukwurah displayed his quickness during the drill and did a good job of getting around the tackling dummies.
Jeremy Pittman, Jones and defensive tackle Darrell Campbell continued their productive practice showing off their swim move skills. Defensive tackles Ryan Sims and Ellis Wyms were a step slower during the drill, but did a good job of using their hands to get off the blocks. Both are recovering from some minor leg aches, so that may have attributed to their slowness. Defensive tackle Chris Hovan was quick with his hands and feet through the drill.
After practice had concluded, Michael Pittman was seen working with rookie running back Kenneth Darby on route running. Pittman was instructing Darby on how to line up as a wide receiver and how to begin his route down the field. Rookie linebackers Quincy Black and Adam Hayward were seen after practice working with Bisaccia on what seemed to be either dropping back into coverage or dropping back on kick return.
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