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Tuesday morning’s practice took place under hot and sunny skies at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. For the third straight day, the Bucs had full pads on in the morning. Several players were held out of practice this morning, including defensive end Charles Bennett (hamstring), Juran Bolden, David Boston and Michael Pittman (wisdom tooth).

Backup right tackle Sam Lightbody does a good job of knee bending for someone who is 6-foot-9. Jeremy Trueblood, who is 6-foot-8, needs to work on this aspect of his game a bit more.

When I discussed this matter with Bucs coaches, they were explaining to me that they are not as concerned about this because most of Tampa Bay’s defensive ends – with the exception of the 6-foot-5 Simeon Rice – were about 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2. Most NFL defensive ends that Trueblood will face will be closer to Rice’s height instead of the Bucs’ “midget defensive ends” as one insider told me, and Trueblood will not have to work as hard to play “down” to the current defensive end level.

Fullback Carey Davis, whose build resembles Jameel Cook’s, does a really good job of accelerating through the hole as a lead blocker. The one thing I’ve noticed with fullback Rick Razzano is that he doesn’t always get into the hole as quickly as he should, which means that the linebacker gets on him in the hole, which creates a stalemate. When a stalemate occurs, the hole is blocked and the defense wins.

Davis has fared well and is in the mix with Razzano and Jerald Sowell, who has been a bit quiet thus far in camp. But Davis did collide with rookie tight end Tim Massaquoi during a shift in the skeleton installation period (no defense), which didn’t make head coach Jon Gruden happy.

Fullback Mike Alstott looks just as good as he did last year from a physical standpoint. He’s running with great agility and fluidity for an 11-year veteran. His days as the A-Train of old may be over, but he should be able to produce the same amount of yards and touchdowns as he did last year while still paving the way for Cadillac Williams.

You can tell from the interaction between Gruden and rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski that Gruden really likes him. Gradkowski took a ton of reps today – likely more than Tim Rattay and probably the same amount as Chris Simms. Although he did make some mistakes, Gruden is clearly happy with how quickly Gradkowski is picking up the offense and executing the plays.

The thing I’ve noticed about Gradkowski is how much louder and more demonstrative he’s become in the huddle. You can tell that Gruden has really been coaching him up in this area.

Gruden told PewterReport.com that Jay Fiedler was getting close to practicing, but that it would be about 7-10 days before he would be able to practice. Gruden wants to make sure that Fiedler can make all of the throws required, including the deep balls, before he puts him in the lineup.

During individual workouts, wide receivers coach Richard Mann was telling his players to accelerate on slant routes.

“I gotta have a quick 5, a quick 5!” Mann shouted.

Gruden also wanted the receivers to speed up, saying, “Let’s go receivers! Let’s not run like a stick in the mud!”

Gruden noticed how well wide receiver J.R. Russell was running this morning and noted, “It’s gotta be the shoes, J.R.! You just look a lot faster today!”

I spent some time watching the individual 1-on-1’s between receivers and cornerbacks and safeties this morning rather than the 7-on-7 drills. All three quarterbacks – Simms, Gradkowski and Rattay rotated between the 1-on-1’s and the 7-on-7 drills.

Safety Donte Nicholson really struggled in man coverage, getting beaten badly by Russell and Edell Shepherd. With Blue Adams switching to safety and the emergence of Kalvin Pearson, Nicholson’s roster spot is far from secure. But even Pearson did get beat by the small and shifty Mark Jones on a comeback route.

Jones also beat veteran cornerback Ronde Barber to the inside after juking an outside fake. The only problem for the wide-open Jones was that he dropped a catchable ball. Jones has speed, but needs to work on his hands.

Paris Warren is not the fastest receiver on the Bucs, and he has trouble accelerating out of his breaks. His lack of quickness and acceleration will likely cost him a roster spot at a very crowded wide receiver position. He just doesn’t have the wheels or the size to make an impact.

Cornerback Torrie Cox had a fine morning and made a couple of nice plays, including a pass breakup on a throw to Terrence Stubbs.

Rookie Justin Phinisee also got into the playmaking mode on Tuesday morning. After giving up too much cushion to Maurice Stovall, he came back and made a great play on Michael Clayton, beating him to the ball and breaking up a pass. Phinisee did get beat by Stubbs on one play as the receiver made a diving catch.

Receiver Derek McCoy made a great, diving catch in front of rookie cornerback Reuben Houston. Warren also beat Houston later in the 1-on-1’s. At times, Houston looks lost and slow on the field.

Rookie Alan Zemaitis continues to make progress and had a nice pass breakup on a throw to Chas Gessner, who had a real quiet morning.

The veteran receivers showed well as Joey Galloway smoked cornerback James Patrick on a slant and Ike Hilliard beat Brian Kelly on a comeback route.

While glancing over to the 7-on-7’s, I noticed the Bucs were running a lot more to the right, which seems to be a trend this year. After being primarily a left-handed running team a year ago, it is obvious that they are trying to be more balanced in their approach this year. Just look at the personnel they drafted – Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood – who are both playing on the right side of the line.

The big play of the 1-on-1 session came as Patrick came up and tried to press the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Stovall. Stovall forcefully slapped Patrick away with one hand. It resembled someone swatting a mosquito or a fly. The slap got Patrick out of the way and allowed Stovall to gain inside positioning where he caught a pass and ran upfield. The receivers laughed at Patrick, with Galloway saying, “You’re too small for him, J.P.!”

Kicker Xavier Beitia was perfect on all four field goal attempts on Tuesday morning. He nailed three from 44 yards out and one from 41 yards out. Matt Bryant did not kick field goals in the morning session.

The Bucs worked on their goal line drills on Tuesday morning. On the first goal line play from the 3-yard line, Derek Watson gained two yards, but was drilled and quickly taken down by linebacker Ryan Nece. On the next play, Williams scored a 1-yard touchdown off the left side. Left guard Toniu Fonoti blew open a hole that allowed Williams to score.

With the starters entering the lineup on the next play, Alstott blasted in from the left side as left tackle Anthony Davis blocked Simeon Rice to the ground, which caused defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to throw his visor in disgust.

The defense redeemed itself on the next play as Gradkowski fumbled the snap from center Jonathan Clinkscale. Safety Jermaine Phillips scooped up the loose ball and scored. Phillips also had another outstanding play as he and rookie defensive tackle Julian Jenkins teamed up to stuff Watson for no gain as he ran to the right. However, Watson did manage to score on the ensuing play as he ran left to the weakside of the formation.

After the cool-off period, the Bucs started off the second half of practice with special teams. Shepherd, Hilliard, Jones, Phinisee and Jacque Lewis were the punt returners.

Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia was livid after a flag flew as they were practicing punt rush and punt return. “That’s the sixth (expletive) penalty in three days!” Bisaccia screamed.

Defensive end Dewayne White doesn’t get enough credit for his superb play on special teams. He did a great job of holding up defensive tackle Jon Bradley after one punt. White used great technique and simply didn’t let Bradley get by him.

In 7-on-7 drills, Cox continued his solid morning with great pass defense against Shepherd. Simms overthrew Shepherd and seemed to be off target all morning on his deep passes.

Second-year middle linebacker Barrett Ruud did a great job of dropping into coverage and taking away the middle of the field. First-year outside linebacker Antoine Cash also was sound in coverage.

Just as he did in the 1-on-1’s, Phinisee made a great pass breakup on a pass intended for Clayton, who was running a slant.

Gradkowski got a high-five from Gruden after he threw a pinpoint pass to Galloway on a slant, just over the outstretched arm of Nece.

Zemaitis came up with another pass breakup, this time on a pass intended for Hilliard. But a few plays later, Stovall rocketed down the right side of the field and caught a fade pass from Simms for a touchdown as he beat Zemaitis and Pearson in zone coverage. Stovall showed great acceleration on the play for such a big man.

To end the 7-on-7 drills, Cox made another play on the ball, but dropped an easy interception on an underthrown Simms pass intended for Galloway.

In the final 11-on-11 session, middle linebacker Shelton Quarles came through the left “A” gap and sacked Rattay. On the next play, Rice beat Davis and sacked Rattay.

Gradkowski entered the huddle and threw a duck on a deep ball. Zemaitis broke up the pass intended for Shepherd, but Shepherd could have caught the ricochet – only to watch it fall between his arms to the ground.

Adams had a nice blitz and almost recorded a sack.

Kelly drilled Stovall on a slant, which caused an incompletion.

Tampa Bay finished the practice with a couple of goal line plays run out of the offense’s end zone. Williams had a nice run from the 1-yard line and appeared to pick up a first down off left tackle. But the lowlight of this series came again from the 1-yard line when Alstott fumbled a clean handoff from Gradkowski in the end zone. The defense recovered for a touchdown.


This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.



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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

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: sr@pewterreport.com
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