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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Monday morning training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex sporting full pads.
Although a good portion of the morning practice was held under plenty of cloud cover, temperatures were hot and humid for Tuesday morning’s practice.
Tampa Bay linebackers Derrick Brooks, Ryan Nece and Barrett Ruud, fullback Mike Alstott and guard Davin Joseph were once again the practice captains and led the Bucs in calisthenics to start the workout.
Tuesday marked the fifth day of training camp practices for the Bucs, and nobody is riding bikes during practice, which is a sign that this team is fairly healthy.
Several players were held out of the morning workout, including left tackle Luke Petitgout and cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly. This is part of their regular training camp regimen.
However, Brooks, who had been sidelined and/or limited due to a hamstring injury over the past few days, returned to action on Tuesday morning.
To begin practice, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and offensive line coach Bill Muir brought the offensive linemen over to hit the five-man blocking sled. This morning marked the third straight morning practice that Gruden observed this particular drill instead of working with the quarterbacks and/or wide receivers, which is what he typically did in previous training camp.
The quarterbacks worked on the wet ball drill, receiving the snap from center with a wet football. The balls were dipped into buckets full of water and then handed to the center to snap the ball.
Bucs quarterback Bruce Gradkowski fumbled the ball three times and Jeff Garcia had two fumbles. Luke McCown and Chris Simms each had one fumble.
Quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett tried to remind the quarterbacks that the Bucs could be playing in rainy conditions sooner rather than later.
“We’re in Seattle and they just had a downpour,” Hackett said to the quarterbacks.
After the offensive linemen hit the blocking sled, Gruden ventured over to the far field to watch the defensive linemen on their own blocking sleds.
Bucs defensive backs coach Raheem Morris spent the early part of practice working with the defensive backs on lateral movement and getting the proper depth on drops into coverage.
Tampa Bay linebackers coach Gus Bradley worked with his group on attacking the proper gaps on running plays. This drill would pay off for the linebackers later in practice.
Once those drills wrapped up, Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin brought the defense over to the far end zone on the far field to work on installing run defenses.
The most entertaining part of this drill was watching Kiffin, 67, takes snaps from center. At one point, Kiffin ran a naked bootleg. Of course, this drill was for installation purposes only, so the defense was not going full speed.
From there, Kiffin used assistant defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, Morris and Bradley to show the defensive players different types of fronts and test their knowledge of play recognition and audibles.
One defensive player that had a strong practice on Tuesday morning was rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli.
Piscitelli, a second-round draft pick, played quite well in some of the receiver vs. defensive backs drills. He’s shown tremendous instincts and ballhawking skills during the first five days of training camp.
During this drill, Bucs cornerback Torrie Cox tipped a pass up in the air that was intended for wide receiver Paris Warren, which allowed Piscitelli to fly in and haul in the pass for the interception.
Pewter Report doesn’t have an official count as of yet, but our guess is Piscitelli is leading the team in interceptions through camp.
Morris tested Piscitelli’s ability to play in man coverage during this session, and the speedy safety fared quite well. He displayed good cover skills and tremendous closing speed.
Tampa Bay ran an extremely physical and spirited full team goal line session in pads on Tuesday morning. At one point during the drill, the first scuffle of training camp took place with some pushing and shoving taking place at the bottom of the pile, but it didn’t last long.
On the first play, Bucs linebacker Ryan Nece helped safety Jermaine Phillips blow up fullback Mike Alstott and stop him short of the goal line, giving the defense a 1-0 advantage.
Tampa Bay’s offense wasn’t going to be denied the second time, though. On this particular play, fullback B.J. Askew punched open a hole for Alstott, who managed to lower his neck and barrel his way into the end zone for a score. That TD tied things up at 1-1.
The Bucs offense reached the end zone again on the third play thanks to running back Cadillac Williams taking a handoff and making a shifty move from right to left to find a hole en route to the end zone. That gave the offense a 2-1 advantage.
However, Tampa Bay’s defense wasn’t happy about allowing the offense to score on it on consecutive running plays, so on the fourth play RB Earnest Graham was stuffed short of the goal line. That tied things up at 2-2.
On the fifth play, Brooks and Phillips teamed up to stuff another running play by Graham, which forced him to fumble and allowed S Will Allen to recover the loose ball. That gave the defense a 3-2 advantage heading into the last goal line play of the morning.
It was close, but Tampa Bay’s offense managed to punch the ball into the end zone for a score on the sixth and last play thanks to rookie RB Kenneth Darby’s second effort to get by defensive tackle Jovan Haye. That offensive score tied things up at 3-3 to end what was a rather entertaining goal line session.
With Barber and Kelly getting some rest, cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Sammy Davis received some reps with the first team offense.
Tampa Bay’s defense carried the fire it had in the goal line session over to the 7-on-7 drill it held after the cool down period.
The linebackers were outstanding in coverage. Brooks didn’t miss a beat, although he did bite on a pump fake from quarterback Jeff Garcia during a 7-on-7 drill. Brooks jumped tight end Alex Smith’s route on the pump fake, which allowed Garcia to connect with a wide open Smith for a big gain.
Brooks, who thought he had the pick, began to kiddingly taunt Garcia.
“Oh no. Let it go,” Brooks said to Garcia. “Let it go. Let it go.”
Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud continued to play assignment sound football. Ruud is extremely physical against the run and has the speed to drop back into coverage. Perhaps the most surprising part of Ruud’s game thus far is that he’s mentally sharp. That was the biggest question when the Bucs decided to release Shelton Quarles, but so far Ruud is answering the bell.
At one point, Kiffin made it clear to Coach Morris that he liked what he was seeing from his defense.
“Hey, Raheem. Awesome, man. Awesome, Kiffin said.
Gradkowski had mixed results during Tuesday morning’s practice. One of his pass attempts during a 7-on-7 session sailed over the head of TE 6-foot-7 Jerramy Stevens and was nearly intercepted by Piscitelli.
On his next pass, coverage was tight, which prompted Gradkowski to have a Bernie Kosar moment where he attempted to sidearm the ball to the receiver. Let’s just say this pass wasn’t pretty, Bucs fans.
During the same 7-on-7 session, Gradkowski threw high to another tight end, this time Keith Heinrich, who had the ball go off of his finger tips and nearly into the hands of Allen.
To make matters worse, one of Gradkowski’s pass attempts slipped out of his throwing hand and fell three yards behind him, which could have easily resulted in a turnover if it weren’t for the fact that nobody was around him.
Although he didn’t get off to a great start, Gradkowski finished the session strong by hitting wide receiver Joey Galloway in stride on a 50-yard bomb down the middle of the field for a touchdown. Galloway beat Phillips and Nece on the play. Even though Gradkowski’s pass to Galloway was impressive, he still has struggled with the deep ball and is at his best when he works the short-to-intermediate part of the field.
Simms’ reps were extremely limited this morning, which is becoming a routine at training camp. Gradkowski and Simms have been the two quarterbacks that have thrown passes to the wide receivers during warm-ups. However, McCown joined Gradkowski instead of Simms on Tuesday morning.
Although both he and the team say he is healthy, Simms has struggled and just hasn’t looked right throwing the ball. In the few pass attempts Simms did have this morning he was off target on several of them.
McCown received a significant amount of reps during this practice. McCown got off to a great start by hitting WR Michael Clayton on a slant, but linebacker Adam Hayward, who had an outstanding practice this morning, stripped Clayton of the ball, which allowed CB Carlos Hendricks to recover it.
The one thing McCown is lacking at this point is decisiveness. He had a tough time getting the ball to his receivers during 7-on-7 and full team drills before the defender(s) got to him in the pocket.
On two consecutive plays, McCown was forced to scramble to the sideline to avoid the pass rush and was then was sacked by defensive end Patrick Chukwurah, who beat right tackle Jeremy Trueblood around the corner for the quarterback takedown.
Speaking of Trueblood, he also had some trouble against DE Greg Spires, who made his way into the backfield and sacked Gradkowski during an 11-on-11 drill.
At one point Gruden urged McCown to have confidence in his arm and decision making process, and most importantly, get the ball out of his hand as soon as possible.
“Throw that [expletive],” Gruden said to McCown. “Bam. Hit it.”
Although he’s playing better than Simms at this point, McCown was not that accurate this morning. He threw behind his receivers too often and he overthrew WR Maurice Stovall down field by about 5 yards during a 7-on-7 session.
Like Gradkowski, McCown had a strong finish to the 7-on-7 session, where he threw a beautiful pass to Clayton on a slant, which allowed him to catch the ball and gain some serious yardage.
Garcia wasn’t that impressive this morning, either. He threw up a wounded duck down the left sideline during a 7-on-7 session and had a screen pass intended for Cadillac Williams batted down by rookie defensive end Gaines Adams.
Adams made some impressive plays during the morning workout. During an 11-on-11 running play, Adams met Heinrich and planted the rookie tight end on his backside. Adams through a forearm shiver as Heinrich tried to block him during the play.
Although Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks struggled at times this morning, the team’s receivers didn’t do them any favors.
Bucs WR David Boston had a rough practice. He dropped two passes and was called out by wide receivers coach Richard Mann for running the wrong routes on a plays.
During a warm-up drill, tight end Alex Smith dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball from McCown.
Stovall, on the other hand, continues to impress. During an 11-on-11 session, Gradkowski underthrew Stovall down the middle of the field, but the second-year receiver did a great job of coming back to the ball and catching the poorly thrown pass in between two defenders.
With Monday afternoon’s special teams practiced getting rained out, the Bucs worked some special teams punt coverage and return drills into the morning practice.
Cornerback Phillip Buchanon and wide receivers Chad Owens, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, Mark Jones and Kyle Smith each fielded some punts.
Tampa Bay’s punt returners had done a nice job of fielding punts cleanly until Tuesday morning when Owens muffed the last punt of the session. Needless to say, Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia was not happy to see Owens put the ball on the ground.
“Come on, Chad. Let’s go,” Bisaccia said.
During the final 7-on-7 session of the practice, Brooks and linebacker Cato June were seen discussing assignments and reads on defense during 7-on-7 drills. Brooks was the teacher and June was the student as Brooks talked about reading a pass pattern by a receiver and which way for June to break.
Despite the fact that June is viewed by many as a possible successor to Brooks, the 10-time Pro Bowler isn’t letting that stop him from helping June get adjusted to Tampa Bay’s defense.
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