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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held Tuesday morning’s training camp practice in full pads. However, the shoulder pads came off a little more than halfway through the workout after the team ran some physical 9-on-7, blitz and goal line periods.
Temperatures were in the high 80s and low 90s with partly cloudy skies and high humidity.
Several players missed Tuesday morning’s workout, including left tackle Derrick Deese (ankle), running back Michael Pittman (ankle), defensive tackle Ellis Wyms (shoulder), center Scott Jackson (hand), cornerback Juran Bolden (hamstring) and fullback Rick Razzano (hamstring).
Rookie wide receiver Larry Brackins returned from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday morning. He was, however, very limited during practice, which made it tough to evaluate exactly where he is.
Most of the injured players saw action on bikes, which helps them keep their conditioning up while waiting to take the field again.
After stretching and warm-ups, Tampa Bay had a spirited blitz period. Once again, safeties Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen stood out in this drill. On one play, Allen literally drove back rookie running back Derek Watson and sacked quarterback Brian Griese.
The defensive line dedicated a portion of the early part of practice to goal line responsibilities. This drill was rather quiet until defensive line coach Rod Marinelli ripped into defensive tackle Brian Save for hitting the wrong gap. As it turns out, that was a sign of things to come from the defense.
Head coach Jon Gruden huddled the entire team up before they held a goal line drill. No one knows what Gruden said in the huddle, but based on the offense’s performance, he evidently inspired this group.
The offense ran three plays in goal line drills and scored all three times.
Fullback Mike Alstott scored the first time on a run behind left tackle Anthony Davis, who was playing in place of Deese and opened up a nice hole for the “A-Train.”
Before the second play could even get off, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and Marinelli blew up on DT Lynn McGruder for lining up wrong. As they were yelling at McGruder, the ball was snapped and handed to rookie RB Cadillac Williams, who leaped over a pile of defenders for the second touchdown in as many tries. This got the crowd to roar and the other offensive players to explode.
“I did, man, and I got fired up,” Bucs WR Michael Clayton said of Williams’ dive over the pile for the score. “That’s what it’s all about. When you see a guy make plays like that in practice you know he’s going to be a big plus for this offense.”
The third carry went to RB Earnest Graham, who easily found the end zone by running off right tackle.
Gruden was hoping to get a better effort from the defense, but he was pleased that the offense scored on all three tries.
Several players stood out during red zone one-on-one (WR vs. CB) drills.
Wide receiver Derrick Lewis made a nice catch down the left sideline against CB Torrie Cox, who needed to use better handwork in his effort to break up the pass. Cox made a similar mistake later in this drill.
Bucs WR Kevin Youngblood used his 6-foot-5 frame to leap over CB Ronyell Whitaker for a touchdown in the right side of the end zone. Youngblood showed great timing and leaping ability on that pass play.
Rookie WR J.R. Russell used similar moves to put himself in position to make a touchdown grab in the left corner of the end zone, but he dropped the pass. “You’ve got to have that, J.R.,” Bucs quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett yelled to Russell.
Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly really thrived in this drill. Barber did a nice job of taking a good angle to break up a pass thrown to Youngblood on a slant. And Kelly showed great strength by pressing WR Terrance Metcalf on the line of scrimmage – so much in fact that Youngblood never got off the line, which prompted the coaches to move on to the next receiver and cornerback.
Barber attempted to press Clayton at the line, but Clayton did a nice job of shedding the Pro Bowl cornerback and got open for a catch. Clayton is very polished as a route runner and is extremely physical at the line of scrimmage.
Cornerback James Patrick made a great diving interception in the end zone on a pass intended for WR Derrick McCoy. Cornerback Blue Adams stood out by breaking up a pass in the corner of the end zone intended for WR DeAndrew Rubin.
Rookie WR Paris Warren displayed good foot and handwork to get off of the line of scrimmage vs. Cox. Warren is still learning head coach Jon Gruden’s playbook, but he is one of the sharpest route runners on the team.
Tampa Bay’s kicking game improved on Tuesday morning. In the two previous morning practices, Todd France and Matt Bryant had went 10-of-18 on field goal attempts.
On Tuesday morning, France attempted and drilled all seven field goal attempts for the Bucs. While he made all of them, a few of France’s kicks were dangerously close to the right upright. Bryant was given the day off and will do all of the kicking during Wednesday morning’s workout.
Dave Moore handled all of the long snapping during kicking drills and did a nice job.
After the cool down period, the Bucs did some special teams work, mainly on punt returns and coverage. Edell Shepherd, Cox, Ian Smart, Rubin and Ike Hilliard returned punts.
Adams and CB Kevin Arbet, both of whom were serving as gunners, got into a shoving match toward the end of punt drills, but they decided to go their separate ways after an exchange of hard pushes.
From there, Tampa Bay held a 7-on-7 session, and Gruden allowed the players to take their shoulder pads off. For some reason, Phillips opted to keep his pads on for the rest of the practice.
Shepherd did a nice job of getting himself open in this session, but he’s got to do a better job of coming up with the catch. He dropped a perfectly thrown ball by QB Chris Simms just past two defenders down the left sideline. However, Shepherd made up for that mistake by making a great catch in similar fashion a few plays later.
Although he was sidelined with a fractured left hand, Jackson was serving as the center during 7-on-7 drills, using his healthy right hand to do all of the work.
One player who has stepped up over the past couple of practices is WR Chris Davis. He has really polished his routes and has done a nice job of catching the ball. Although he did drop one pass, Davis really stood out in 7-on-7s today.
Barber continued to have a great practice by breaking up a pass thrown to Russell, who seems to have difficulty creating separation. On more than one occasion, Gruden has been seen talking with Russell about his route-running ability and his need to improve it.
There were too many drops during the 7-on-7 session. Tight end Alex Smith dropped a pass in the flat after trying to run with the ball before he actually caught it.
Williams and WR Kevin Youngblood also dropped passes during this drill.
The best catch of this session was hauled in by Derrick Lewis, who did a nice job of catching a ball that was deflected by Cox, who thought the pass fell incomplete. Instead, Lewis continued to run with the ball, which caught the attention of defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin. “Finish it, Torrie. You’ve got to finish,” Tomlin said.
Linebacker Marquis Cooper has really stepped up over the past few practices. He broke up a pass intended for TE Will Heller in the flat during 7-on-7 drills. During 11-on-11 drills, Cooper used his impressive speed to blitz from the strong side and sack QB Luke McCown. Cooper seems to be more sure of himself and his assignments.
The last session was 11-on-11 team drills. Bucs quarterback Brian Griese continued to shine, displaying an accurate arm and good decision-making ability.
Gruden called several screen plays in this drill, one of which was caught by RB Ian Smart.
Sean Mahan saw action with the first-team offense at right guard while Jeb Terry saw playing time with the second- and -third-team units. Mahan also got some snaps at center. The Bucs are known to change up the offensive line’s lineup in practice from time to time.
One of the most impressive plays of this session was a middle screen play call to Smith, who hauled in a perfectly thrown pass by Griese down the left seam of the field. In fact, both Smith and TE Anthony Becht had several passes thrown their way and were used as receivers quite often in the 11-on-11 session.
Simms continued to show some inconsistency. He fired a pass down the right sideline to Rubin, who was double covered, which allowed Cox to make the interception.
Gruden grew frustrated with the offense at one point and had them re-huddle. On the very next play, Gruden urged the defense to get after McCown. “Blitz this son of a (expletive). Blitz his (butt),” Gruden shouted.
The drops continued for several players, including RB Derek Watson and Russell. However, Watson made up for his dropped pass and some inconsistency in the blocking department by taking a handoff and completely running over middle linebacker Shelton Quarles, who landed on his butt. Watson is a bull of a runner up the gut, but he’s got to improve his blocking, receiving and play-recognition ability.
The play of the day came when WR Derrick Lewis and Barber fought for a ball thrown down the right sideline by Griese. Both players got a hand on the ball, but Barber lost his balance, which allowed Lewis to tip the ball two more times before hauling it in and getting both feet in bounds for a miraculous 20-yard reception.
“That will be on our highlight reel,” Gruden said of Lewis’ miraculous catch.
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