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For the second straight morning, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left the pads behind as they took the field for their morning practice, sporting just shorts, jerseys and helmets.
Temperatures were in the high 80s and some cloud cover kept the morning practice somewhat cooler than Tuesday morning’s workout, which was extremely hot and humid.
Cornerbacks Juran Bolden and Brian Kelly, and guards Matt Stinchcomb and Dan Buenning, and tackle Derrick Deese were all held out of the morning workout.
Running back Ian Smart and fullback Mike Alstott left the practice early due to a mild groin strain and stinger, respectively.
After stretching, the Bucs wide receivers and running backs worked on ball security, with two players trying to strip the ball as they ran with the ball carrier in stride.
The receivers continued to drop too many passes. Rookie WRs Larry Brackins and Paris Warren were among the receivers who couldn’t hold onto the ball.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden spent a lot of time working with the team’s receivers this morning. As he’s known to do from time to time, Gruden tried to push the receivers by covering them on comeback routes. Offensive quality control coach Kyle Shanahan joined Gruden and covered the receivers on the other side of the near field.
Shanahan was there to give Gruden a breather, and when he wasn’t, Gruden let quarterback Brian Griese know about it before getting the ball off to the next receiver in line, who was Kevin Youngblood. “Hold up,” Gruden said to Griese while he walked back closer to the line of scrimmage out of breath. “I’m tired as hell. (Expletive).”
Gruden was really emphasizing the importance of running hard and precise comeback routes, and at times, he was really trying to get under their skin. “I don’t want you guys coming in my office, ‘I can’t run comebacks. I can’t beat Shanahan, or the Coach.'”
Bucs WR Joey Galloway participated in the warm-up session, but he stopped practicing about 30 minutes into the workout as a precaution. He later participated in 11-on-11 drills.
Gruden has spent the past two days getting the team ready for game-like situations. During the offensive warm-ups, Gruden stressed the importance getting to the line of scrimmage and getting the play off in a timely manner. “You have 18 seconds,” Gruden yelled.
When QB Chris Simms replaced Griese, Gruden continued to stress the importance of time management. “You’ve got to gun it, man,” Gruden yelled to Simms. “You gotta gun it.”
While the players did a fairly good job of executing the plays Gruden was calling, the head coach expressed his frustration on one play and made the players huddle up again after one of the players failed to line up properly. “Geez, you can’t remember the play on fourth-and-3,” Gruden yelled. “Huddle up again.”
From there, Tampa Bay entered an 11-on-11 session.
Running back Earnest Graham started this morning’s practice the way he played in Tuesday afternoon’s workout – impressive. He took his first carry and made a nice spin move to gain an extra five yards.
Center Scott Jackson, who is nursing a broken hand, participated in this drill with the second-team offense.
The Bucs ran mostly running plays in this drill, which might be a sign of things to come on Friday night when the team takes on the Tennessee Titans. Gruden called a lot of toss sweeps and dive running plays.
Rookie RB Cadillac Williams was impressive with cutting moves this morning, but Derek Watson stood out the most by displaying tremendous speed and explosion on runs to the outside. Watson is still better suited to run inside, but he certainly has the speed to outrun defenders on the outside.
While Tampa Bay’s starting offensive line remained the same Tuesday (John Wade at center, Anthony Davis at left tackle, Sean Mahan at left guard, Jeb Terry at right guard and Kenyatta Walker at right tackle), this united saw a significant amount of playing time with the second-team offense. The team is trying to build some chemistry along the line and will likely play the starting offensive linemen longer than any other starter on Friday night.
They say all good things must come to an end, and that’s exactly what happened with kicker Todd France’s streak of 31 straight field goals. On Tuesday morning, France started off 2-of-2, but he missed his third attempt wide left, which broke his streak at 33. However, he started a new streak by drilling his fourth and final field goal attempt of the morning. Matt Bryant did not attempt any field goals this morning.
With Dave Moore sidelined with a broken finger, Brian Sawyer handled all of the long snapping duties on France’s field goal attempts, and did a pretty good job.
The Bucs went back into another 11-on-11 session, this time running the two-minute offense. The second-team offense went up against the first-team defense.
Quarterback Chris Simms struggled during this drill. He overthrew a receiver on his first pass attempt. A few plays later, Simms was pressured out of the pocket and ran to the sideline, but before going out of bounds, Simms threw his pass deep down the left sideline.
Safeties Will Allen and Kalvin Pearson awaited the errant pass, and after Allen tipped it, Pearson snatched it up by diving for it on the ground. This was a great play by the defense, but a terrible decision by Simms. “Way to go 3-9,” Bucs defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin said to Pearson, who sports jersey number 39. “Way to go. That was clean.”
Griese, on the other hand, was sharp again, displaying a strong and accurate arm. He hit Williams down the sideline in-between two defenders on one play. Even when Griese was pressured by defensive lineman Dewayne White, he eluded the sack and hit Galloway on a crossing route for a first down. Griese’s game and the Bucs offense are taken to a new level when Galloway is in the lineup.
Galloway wasn’t able to outrun everyone, though. Cornerback Blue Adams, who has put together several solid practices in training camp, did a nice job of covering Galloway and breaking up a pass intended for the speedy receiver on a slant route.
After a cool down period, Tampa Bay did some special teams work. Wide receiver DeAndrew Rubin fielded a lot of punts this morning. It appears as though the Bucs are going to give the former USF product a chance to win that job in preseason.
The most impressive play of this session came when linebacker Marquis Cooper, who is nursing a back injury, dove for a punt that landed near the goal line. Not only did Cooper lay out for the punt, he got his hand on the ball and batted it back to the 2-yard line.
Tampa Bay finished the morning workout with another 11-on-11 session.
Simms continued to hold onto the ball too long on a few occasions, getting sacked by DE Simeon Rice and taking a sack by a group of players a few plays later. Even safety Dexter Jackson got into the mix by sacking Simms on a blitz.
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