The Buccaneers took the field at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista to conduct a two-hour practice in shorts, jerseys and helmets on Tuesday afternoon.
The workout was held under somewhat clear skies and in hot and humid conditions. At one point, the thermometer hanging off the scoreboard on the nearest field read 106 degrees.
Bucs running back Michael Pittman, who missed the morning workout after having a wisdom tooth pulled, returned to practice in the afternoon. Cornerback Juran Bolden (undisclosed injury) and rookie defensive end Charles Bennett (hamstring) were held out of practice again.
As part of their training camp regimen, wide receiver Joey Galloway and tackle Kenyatta Walker were held out of the afternoon practice after participating in the morning session.
There were several dropped passes during Tampa Bay’s warm-up session. Bucs tailback Cadillac Williams and wide receivers Michael Clayton and Chas Gessner each had a dropped pass in this period.
Bucs rookie WR Maurice Stovall is one heck of a blocker. His 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame allows him to get the upper hand against smaller defensive backs. Stovall made a great in-line block to open up a big running lane for Williams this afternoon. He has yet to take a rep at tight end, but still is spending a few minutes each day working on some of the fundamentals and techniques of playing that position.
Quarterback Chris Simms had an impressive practice. During an 11-on-11 session, Simms play-action faked to Pittman, which drew in the defense and allowed him to throw a perfect strike across the middle of the field to Clayton for a big completion. Although he hasn’t done a lot of it in camp, Simms probably doesn’t get enough credit for being a solid play-action passer.
Simms didn’t have a perfect practice, though. During a 7-on-7 drill, Simms had a pass tipped in the middle of the field and intercepted by a diving safety Will Allen.
Tight end Anthony Becht also didn’t help Simms out when he dropped a pass in the flat. However, Becht made up for that mistake later in an 11-on-11 session when he hauled in a dump off pass from rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski on a middle screen pass and raced 40 yards up the field. Gradkowski did a great job of drawing in Tampa Bay’s defense, which was blitzing two linebackers, on the play.
With the exception of his one drop, Becht turned in a pretty good practice. He hauled in a pass from Gradkowski, who was running to his right side off of a bootleg, for a touchdown. A few plays later, Becht got himself open in the back of the end zone again to haul in a Simms pass for a touchdown that also came off of play-action.
This time last year, Becht was featured often as a receiving threat on play-action passes that were run near the goal line. However, those types of plays never really came to fruition in the regular season. Whether that changes or not in 2006 remains to be seen.
Bucs TE Alex Smith also was a recipient of a touchdown pass from Simms during the 11-on-11 goal line drill.
After letting one slip off his hands in the morning session, Clayton nearly dropped another pass near the sideline during a 7-on-7 drill, but he managed to bring the pass in and keep his feet in bounds in the process as cornerback Torrie Cox attempted to defend the pass. Clayton later ran a great pattern and made a nice catch during a full team drill. Clayton had one of his better practices on Tuesday afternoon, which says a lot since he’s been quite impressive in camp thus far.
The drops continued in the 7-on-7 session when WR Mark Jones allowed one of Simms’ passes to bounce off his chest and land on the ground for an incompletion.
Simms just missed WR Edell Shepherd on a deep ball in 7-on-7s. Shepherd laid out for the ball, but it bounced just out of the reach of his fingertips. However, one play later, Simms bounced back by dropping a pass in-between two defenders so that tight end Mark Anelli could haul it in and race up the field for a big play.
Gradkowski wasn’t as sharp as he had been over the past few practices. During a 7-on-7 drill, Gradkowski threw a pass that was nearly intercepted by linebacker Shelton Quarles. During the second 11-on-11 session, Gradkowski actually took reps with the first-team offense. However, he didn’t fare much better as he had a pass picked off by cornerback Brian Kelly in the flat and returned for a touchdown, which drew the praise of his defensive teammates.
Bucs QB Tim Rattay made a great throw to WR Terrance Stubbs in a 7-on-7 drill. However, it’s become painfully obvious that Rattay really struggles to get enough zip on balls thrown to the flat. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s offense requires quarterbacks to check down to receivers in the flat quite often, and several of Rattay’s passes have struggled getting there and have nearly been intercepted because of Rattay’s lack of arm strength.
Tampa Bay’s offense did a nice job of running the ball on Tuesday afternoon, especially in goal line drills. Williams scored one time while fullback Mike Alstott scored twice. The fact that Alstott has been featured a lot in goal line drills suggests his role as a goal line and short yardage ball carrier will continue in 2006. The “A-Train” scored seven touchdowns last season, and each of those touchdowns came inside the 20-yard line.
Bucs FB Rick Razzano had an impressive outing as a lead blocker on Tuesday afternoon, especially in the goal line session.
Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice has established himself as one of the league’s best pass rushers, but what he probably doesn’t get enough credit for is his ability to defend passes. During an 11-on-11 session on Tuesday, Rice dropped back into coverage and raced to the right side of the field to defend a pass thrown by Gradkowski. It was one of Rice’s more impressive plays of camp.
Tampa Bay held a brief special teams session during the two-hour practice. The Bucs focused primarily on kickoff returns and coverage.
Pittman, Shepherd, running backs Earnest Graham, Derek Watson and cornerbacks Justin Phinisee and James Patrick were returning kickoffs.
The Bucs are scheduled to hold a two-hour practice in full pads at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
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