The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for a two-hour practice on Thursday morning at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The Bucs was wearing shells (shorts, helmets, jerseys and shoulder pads) for the first time this training camp. The team had sported full pads for every morning practice since Sunday.
Weather conditions were hot and humid with clear skies and temperatures in the mid 90s.
Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway was held out of practice as part of his daily regimen. Defensive end Greg Spires and cornerback Brian Kelly were given the morning off in the Bucs’ effort to keep them fresh and healthy.
Tampa Bay running back Derek Watson was injured during the first 30 minutes of practice. He evidently sustained what is believed to be a neck injury. Watson was carted off the field to undergo further evaluation.
Bucs RB Carnell “Cadillac” Williams dedicated a significant portion of his offseason to improving his pass-catching and blitz-pick up skills, but that didn’t show Thursday morning when he dropped several passes. Although he struggled to catch the ball cleanly on some plays, Williams did show the ability to haul in passes and make big plays during the morning session. He hauled in a screen pass and raced up the field for a big gain to put the Bucs offense in field goal range with 18 seconds remaining in the 11-on-11 hurry-up offense session. That play set up kicker Xavier Beitia’s field goal, which was good.
Williams’ first drop came in 11-on-11 drills when he did a great job of getting himself open down the right sideline vs. cornerback Justin Phinissee, but quarterback Chris Simms’ perfectly thrown ball went right through Williams’ outstretched hands to fall incomplete.
One player that seems like he’s catching every ball thrown his way is WR Chas Gessner. A first-year player, Gessner has used his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame and solid route-running ability to get himself open on a consistent basis. Gessner, who reminds Pewter Report of former Bucs WR Joe Jurevicius, is definitely the Bucs’ “sleeper” at the wide receiver position, and he could beat out WR Edell Shepherd for a roster spot if he can make an impact on special teams. Shepherd, who made a nice play during the 11-on-11 session by hauling in a pass across the middle of the field from Simms, won’t give up his roster spot without a fight, though.
Rookie WR Maurice Stovall received a lot or reps on Thursday morning, and he made the most of them by hauling in several passes near the sideline for decent gains. The quarterbacks seem to be comfortable throwing to Stovall, whose 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame isn’t difficult to find out on the football field. He also made a nice catch and picked up some big yards on a nicely run slant pattern in the 11-on-11 hurry-up offense session. That catch, which came with 16 seconds remaining on the scoreboard, set up K Matt Bryant’s 47-yard field goal, which was good.
Bucs WR David Boston continues to impress. Ike Hilliard has dropped several passes in camp, and he dropped one across the middle of the field from Simms during the 11-on-11 hurry-up session.
Simms struggled during Thursday morning’s practice. The Bucs defense suffocated the offense on several occasions during the hurry-up offense drills. Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s decision to blitz cornerback Ronde Barber really paid off when the three-time Pro Bowler raced into the backfield and would have sacked Simms had the pads been on.
During a 7-on-7 session, Bucs WR Michael Clayton got himself open in the back of the end zone vs. CB Torrie Cox, but Simms misfired on the pass. However, Clayton eventually scored on another player when he beat safety Steve Cargile for a touchdown. Simms also connected with Shepherd for a touchdown in the period.
Bucs QB Tim Rattay seems to have trouble seeing over the offensive and defensive linemen in the trenches. The 6-foot-0, 200-pound Rattay is the shortest quarterback on Tampa Bay’s roster. His lack of height and difficulty seeing over the line might help explain why he checks down to his receivers in the flat so often. The majority of his throws went to that part of the field on Thursday morning. However, Rattay did deliver a few nice passes during the morning session. His best might have come during an 11-on-11 session when he threw a crisp pass toward the right sideline to WR J.R. Russell for 15-yard gain. Russell made a great one-handed catch on the play and managed to keep both feet in bounds while rookie CB Alan Zematis pushed him out of bounds.
Barber showed that he’s worth every penny of his contract extension by turning in an impressive practice. During a team drill, Barber did a nice job of jumping a route executed by Gessner and intercepting the pass. However, Gessner showed great hustle by getting the ball out of Barber’s hands, and the deflection of sorts landed in Stovall’s arms to make for a very interesting play. Barber got his revenge later in a 7-on-7 drill when he allowed Stovall to haul in a pass near the sideline but caused the receiver to fumble the ball out of bounds.
Tampa Bay CB Torrie Cox took advantage of the extra reps he received with Kelly having the practice off by making some impressive plays. During the 11-on-11 hurry-up session, Cox did a great job of reading Simms by racing to the flat to almost intercept a pass intended for Shepherd.
However, Cox has some serious competition at the cornerback position, especially from Zemaitis, who continues to show a nose for the football. During a 7-on-7 period, Zemaitis came up with an interception after a pass from Simms was tipped into the air by Clayton. Cox nearly came up with an interception later in an 11-on-11 drill when he broke up Simms’ pass intended for Clayton. Cox also was aggressive when he sniffed out a screen play to fullback Mike Alstott, who would have been stuffed for a loss.
Rookie CB Justin Phinisee nearly came up with an interception when he jumped a route and ball thrown by Simms in the flat during a 7-on-7 drill.
Tampa Bay continues to have success running the ball on the left side, where center John Wade, guard Dan Buenning and tackle Anthony Davis have been doing a nice job of run blocking. Wade and Buenning opened up a huge hole for RB Michael Pittman during an 11-on-11 hurry-up offense session this morning. Defensive tackle Anthony Bryant saw a lot of reps Thursday morning and had a good practice. He beat offensive lineman Scott Jackson to sack rookie QB Bruce Gradkowsi during the first 11-on-11 drill.
Bucs DE Simeon Rice, who sat out of Wednesday morning’s workout for a break, looked well rested on Thursday morning. During an 11-on-11 session, Rice disrupted Tampa Bay’s offense by working his way into the backfield to tip a pass thrown by Rattay. On the next play, Rice blew by tackle Sam Lightbody again to sack Rattay in the backfield for a big loss.
The Bucs dedicated a portion of practice to special teams work. Kicker Matt Bryant was 2-of-3 on field goal attempts. Kicker Xavier Beitia continued to impress by drilling his field goal tries.
Things got heated during the special teams session on a kickoff drill when safety Blue Adams and tackle Jeremy Trueblood were involved in a skirmish at midfield. Linebacker Jermaine Taylor worked to separate the two players before Adams and Trueblood went their separate ways.
The Bucs worked on punt protection and pursuit as well during the morning session. Rookie tight end Tim Massaquoi and RB Earnest Graham each got into the backfield to put themselves in position to blocks punts during the period. The team also ran a fake punt with a direct snap going to personal protector, fullback Rick Razzano.
Tampa Bay is scheduled to hold a one hour and 10 minute special teams workout on Thursday afternoon.
Visit BucGear.com today to view and choose from the largest selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers merchandise in the world.