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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Tuesday afternoon training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex sporting shorts, jerseys and helmets.
This afternoon’s practice was held in hot and humid conditions with a slight breeze. The thermometer underneath a scoreboard on the closest field read 102 degrees at one point during the afternoon workout.
For the second consecutive day, head coach Jon Gruden had music playing as the players took part in calisthenics on the field. Gruden is trying to liven up his players during the last days at training camp.
Several players were held out of the afternoon practice, many of them veterans including center John Wade, guard Dan Buenning, wide receiver Joey Galloway, cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly, running back Michael Pittman, linebacker Derrick Brooks and defensive linemen Kevin Carter, Chris Hovan and Greg Spires. Rookie Arron Sears was also held out.
This has become a ritual for many of these players as Gruden is trying to give players who need the time off the rest they need so they are fresh early in the season.
One of the players that sat out Monday afternoon’s practice, left tackle Luke Petitgout, participated in the afternoon drills. Petitgout has looked good since returning to practice on Sunday and all signs lead to him getting the start on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night. The fact that he participated in both the Tuesday morning and afternoon practices is a really good sign for Petitgout, who missed most of training camp with a bad back.
The special teams were seen working on three different aspects that are used during punts and punt returns. The gunners on the punt team, which are the players that are spread out wide almost like a wide receiver, were working on getting downfield to down a punt inside the 5-yard line.
Special teams coach Rich Bisaccia and pro scout Shelton Quarles were throwing the ball high in the air so that the gunners could get in place to catch and down the ball inside the 5-yard line. Bisaccia and Quarles also were throwing the ball so that it would hit and bounce, forcing the gunners to chase after the ball before it went into the end zone.
Many of the gunners including safeties Sabby Piscitelli and Jermaine Phillips and cornerback Carlos Hendricks struggled getting their hands on the ball during this drill. Piscitelli had good position on a ball during the drill, but it bounced right through his hands and between his legs to go into the end zone.
Wide receivers Chad Owens, Mark Jones and Kyle Smith were practicing fielding high-arching punts. The JUGGS machine was sending the ball high into the air, giving the punt returners the feeling of fielding a punt that stays in the air for at least four seconds. Owens, Jones and Smith did a good job of concentrating on the ball as not one ball hit the ground.
The linemen were working on getting off their blockers and locating the ballcarrier while running downfield. The linemen also worked on keeping their blockers in front of them and forming a wall on punt returns. With each pair of players, one player was responsible for trying to push the other player downfield while he fights him off with his hands.
During the individual period, the defensive linemen went onto the opposite field and worked on their swim moves with the stand-up blocking dummies. Defensive end Patrick Chukwurah and rookie defensive end Gaines Adams showed good swim moves and defensive tackle Greg White showed some quickness of the snap of the ball.
The wide receivers worked on their stutter-step moves when running routes with cones set out for the routes. This route helps the receivers to work on their moves on slant and comeback routes. Wide receivers coach Richard Mann kept yelling during the drill, “Sink your hips, plant that foot and go.”
On Monday, Gruden expressed his feelings about running tight end Alex Smith as well as others at the fullback position after Mike Alstott was lost for the season last week. That plan came into focus in Tuesday afternoon’s practice during group installation as Smith along with fellow tight end Jerramy Stevens were seen running plays at fullback.
There were two different formations that were shown as Smith and Stevens lined up in the backfield like a traditional fullback and also came in motion and moved into the backfield.
As the Bucs wrapped up the group installation drill, wide receiver Chad Lucas lined up on the wrong side of the formation and Mann was heard saying, “You are killing me, let’s get it straight.”
The offense huddled up before running the play and as they broke the huddle, Gruden yelled, “Get the cobwebs out of your head!”
With the absence of Wade and Sears in the afternoon practice, Jeb Terry filled in at left tackle and Matt Lehr filled in at center while running with first team offense.
In the scout team defense portion of the practice, the first team offense ran three reverses to three different receivers. Wide receivers Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall and Mark Jones each ran a reverse during the drill. Gruden made a statement with running the reverse play that should be looked for during the Jacksonville Jaguars and during the regular season.
When the Bucs play aggressive defenses, just like the Jaguars defense, the reverse is a good change-of-pace play that can catch the defense over-pursuing. If the Bucs can capitalize on a defense over-pursuing, the speed of wide receiver Joey Galloway or the long strides of Stovall and Clayton can create a big play.
After the Bucs wide receivers struggled to catch the ball during the morning practice, the offense ran a little bit smoother in the afternoon as the receivers held on to the ball. Wide receiver Chas Gessner displayed his good hands in the afternoon during scout team offense when quarterback Bruce Gradkowski hit him in stride down the sideline against cornerback Phillip Buchanon.
During an offensive scout team session, the defense did a good job of breaking on pass plays and recorded five interceptions. Cornerback Sammy Davis and linebacker Barrett Ruud picked off Gradkowski on pass attempts to Jones and fullback Byron Storer. Quarterback Chris Simms was intercepted three times during scout team offense by cornerback Marcus Hamilton and linebackers Quincy Black and Sam Olajubutu.
Black, however, didn’t remain on the good side of Gruden during defensive scout team when Black ran the wrong assignment. Gruden was heard yelling, “Hey Quincy, read the damn cards! [Bucs linebackers coach] Gus [Bradley] have him read the damn cards right! They don’t show it like that!”
Quarterback Luke McCown, who showed his arm strength on the deep ball in the morning practice, displayed his arm strength again in the afternoon. McCown hit wide receiver Parris Warren right in the hand in stride on a 25-yard go route down the sideline. The receivers fared better catching the ball in the afternoon than they did in the morning.
The Bucs defense was seen running a dime package in 11-on-11 drills at the end of the practice. Hendricks, Davis and Tanard Jackson were running at cornerback with Will Allen and Donte Nicholson running at safety. Tampa Bay rarely runs a dime defense, opting instead to run a nickel defense – even if an opposing offense trots out four wide receivers. The reason is because Tampa Bay’s linebackers are typically so good when it comes to pass coverage that the Bucs naturally feel that their starting linebackers are better than their fourth cornerback.
During special teams working on kickoffs, Jones was seen returning kickoffs with running back Earnest Graham as the lead blocker. Buchanon was also back receiving kickoffs as well. On the second team, Hendricks was returning kickoffs with running back Kenneth Darby as the lead blocker. Owens also ran back some kicks with Stovall as the lead blocker.
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