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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were noticeably lighter when they walked onto the practice field at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex on Tuesday morning.
That’s because head coach Jon Gruden opted to have his players leave the pads off for the morning workout. Instead, the players sported shorts, jerseys and helmets in what were extremely hot and humid conditions. Temperatures were in the low 90s and the humidity might have been the highest it’s been since camp started on July 29.
As usual, the offensive line worked on footwork drills before working their way over to work on the two-man blocking sled.
The first thing that stood out during the morning workout was how laid back it was. Players seemed like they were simply going through the motions of the practice.
This might explain why there were so many dropped passes during the morning workout. During wide receiver warm-ups, Michael Clayton dropped a pass that hit him square between his jersey number.
Rookie WR Paris Warren followed Clayton’s drop up with one of his own.
The good news is WR Derrick Lewis finished warm-ups off by making a great catch over his left shoulder on a ball that looked like it was going to sail out of his reach.
The drops, however, continued in 7-on-7 drills.
Rookie tight end Alex Smith dropped a perfectly thrown pass from quarterback Brian Griese, who was sharp again on Tuesday morning.
Not all of the passes that hit the ground on Tuesday morning were drops, though. On one play during 7-on-7s, cornerback Torrie Cox made a great play on a ball thrown to WR Joey Galloway, which caused the incompletion near the flat.
Speaking of Cox, he and fellow CB Ronyell Whitaker forced WR DeAndrew Rubin to fumble after the former USF standout hauled in a pass down the left sideline. Rubin later helped to make up for that mistake by making the best of a play call for an end around, which he took for nearly a 20-yard gain.
It was apparent that Gruden was growing frustrated with his receivers’ inability to hold onto the ball. After one particular play, Gruden blew up on WR Edell Shepherd for running the wrong route and failing to get open, which led to a sack.
After dropping a pass in warm-ups, Clayton did a nice job of hauling in a few passes during 7-on-7 drills.
The quarterbacks weren’t perfect, either. Chris Simms displayed a cannon for an arm this morning, but he was nearly picked off by rookie linebacker Barrett Ruud on one play when he threw underneath to a receiver. Ruud should have had the interception, but he seems to be getting more and more comfortable with his assignments.
Bucs QB Luke McCown had one of his better practices on Tuesday morning. He has impressive speed, which really shows on Gruden’s bootleg calls. McCown might be at his best when he’s on the move, so don’t be surprised if Gruden moves McCown around quite a bit with his playcalling on Friday night, which is when the Bucs play their first exhibition contest against the Tennessee Titans.
While the Bucs were conducting a 7-on-7 drill, the offensive and defensive linemen were squaring off against each other in 1-on-1 drills. Players who stood out during this drill were defensive tackles Chris Hovan and Anthony Bryant, and defensive end Josh Savage. Tackle Todd Steussie was actually able to win several battles in this drill and surprisingly stood out.
Even if Bryant didn’t weight 350 pounds, it wouldn’t take one long to locate him on the field. All you’d have to do is look at the direction in which defensive line coach Rod Marinelli is yelling more often than not.
Marinelli has been riding Bryant hard all camp long in an effort to improve his technique, which tends to get sloppy when not monitored. “Get down and get off the ball,” Marinelli shouted to Bryant before a snap. Bryant seems to be responding, but he still has plenty of work to do in the technique and fundamentals department.
From there, the Bucs went into an 11-on-11 session.
The momentum Clayton had picked up in 7-on-7s with a great catch carried over into this drill and the rest of practice. Clayton made several spectacular catches, including a few one-handers.
Clayton was, however, one of the few bright spots for the offense in this drill. Simms was picked off by safety Jermaine Phillips, who has had an outstanding camp, and WR Kevin Youngblood dropped a pass during 11-on-11s.
Running back Earnest Graham made one of the more impressive plays during this session by getting open down the field and hauling in a pass from the quarterback for a big gain.
The Bucs practiced some onside kickoffs this morning. Kicker Todd France did one hell of a job on his onside attempt, placing the ball exactly 10 yards up the field and having it bounce off the ground and back five yards, which allowed them to recover the ball.
Punter Josh Bidwell spent several minutes punting, and like he’s done all camp long, Bidwell delivered some outstanding punts. However, running back Ian Smart fumbled one of Bidwell’s punts on a return.
Of course, Tampa Bay held what has become a popular field goal session. To Gruden’s delight, kickers Matt Bryant and Todd France were perfect on their attempts this morning.
When France went to attempt his first field goals, Gruden turned to his players and demanded that they make as much noise as possible in order to create a hostile environment for the former NFL Europe star. “Make some noise,” said Gruden. “He’s got 28 in a row.”
Gruden wasn’t kidding. Going into this morning’s workout, France had connected on 28 straight field goal attempts. Despite the players’ noise, France connected on all three of his kicks this morning, bringing his streak to 31.
When Tampa Bay returned from its cool down session, it once again held an 11-on-11 drill.
The starting offensive line remained the same, with Anthony Davis at left tackle, Sean Mahan at left guard, John Wade at center, Jeb Terry at right guard and Kenyatta Walker at right tackle. Tackle Derrick Deese and guards Dan Buenning and Matt Stinchcomb are still nursing injuries.
Defensive end Simeon Rice had a very active session here. He did a nice job of getting around the tackles in order to get to the quarterback. In fact, Rice even lined up at left end on occasion, and on one particular play, he beat Walker with a nice swim move to get to Griese for the sack.
Smith did a nice job of trying to make up for an earlier drop by hauling in a pass from Simms. Smith ran a sharp route and used his speed to beat LB Ryan Nece to the flat on that play.
Clayton continued to shine here by catching a few passes and dropping none.
Once the 11-on-11 session concluded, the Bucs spent 15 minutes working on special teams.
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