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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for Wednesday’s morning workout wearing shorts, jerseys and helmets. With the preseason opener just two days away, the practice featured very little contact and was more of a tune-up preparation for the New York Jets.

Several players were out today, including offensive tackles Torrin Tucker (knee) and Kenyatta Walker (knee), defensive end Charles Bennett (hamstring) and wide receivers David Boston (rest) cornerback Brian Kelly (unknown) and Michael Clayton (toe). Guard Toniu Fonoti (ankle) returned to practice, and free safety Will Allen (fractured thumb) participated with a big cast on his left forearm.

After warm-ups and calisthenics, Tampa Bay broke off into individual position drills as it does every morning. Bucs wide receivers coach Richard Mann was having his players run smash routes, which like the slant, is one of the staple routes in the West Coast offense. A smash route is where a receiver comes off the line of scrimmage and appears to be running a shallow drag route, which is typically a 5-yard route where a receiver runs a horizontal route parallel to the line of scrimmage from the outside in. Where a smash differs from a drag route is that the receiver starts to run inside towards the linebackers and then stops, plants hard and breaks outside towards the flat.

“Sell that drag,” Mann shouted to his receivers. “If we got man coverage, we should win.”

Most of the practice today was geared towards knowing assignments and getting the right personnel groupings on the field. The Bucs can execute properly without the right players on the field running the right plays. The offensive line and tight ends were working on blocking assignments and the quarterbacks and running backs were working on handoffs.

Assistant head coach/running backs coach Art Valero was working on personnel groupings with the offense this morning in preparation for Friday’s game. Valero is the coach that calls the personnel grouping on game days after head coach Jon Gruden calls the play over the headset for the coaches and quarterback Chris Simms. Valero was practicing switching personnel groupings from “Regular” to “Tiger” to “Patriot” to “U” to “Eagle” etc. and demonstrating the hand signals that will be used on game day. The hand signals are important so that the players that are currently in the huddle will know what personnel grouping was called and which players should be in the huddle for the next play.

If you read the latest SR’s Fab Five on, you’ll have an understanding of each personnel grouping and what positions are used in each group. Valero held up one finger for “Patriot,” flapped his arms like wings for “Eagle,” made a claw with his hand for “Tiger,” held up a fist for “Regular” and shaped his hand like a “U” for that particular personnel grouping.

Backup quarterback Luke McCown was seen doing individual rehab on the practice field and was actually taking 5- and 7-step drops, albeit gingerly. To see McCown bending and flexing his surgically repaired knee this way lends credence to the fact that he could very well be back by midseason. McCown does not wear a brace, rather he wears a neoprene sleeve on his knee.

When the Buccaneers were practicing 7-on-7 drills and 11-on-11 drills today, Jeb Terry was the starting right guard – not first-round pick Davin Joseph. That was good to see as Terry has had the better camp and his play has been more consistent this summer. Joseph has really picked things up better as training camp has rolled on, but Terry deserves to start – at least initially.

As the preseason rolls on, don’t be surprised to see Joseph get a start or two just to see how well he handles himself. There is some pressure to play him simply because of the fact that he’s the team’s top draft pick this year, but Tampa Bay does have a track record for starting the best 11 players, which is why Terry will likely get the starting nod on Friday.

Because the Bucs are in prep mode for the preseason opener, the depth chart is beginning to solidify itself. The second-string defense that lined up in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills was as follows:

RDE 98 Andrew Williams
NT 91 Jon Bradley
UT 96 Ellis Wyms
LDE 90 Dewayne White
WLB 50 Jamie Winborn
MLB 51 Barrett Ruud
SLB 58 Marquis Cooper
RCB 27 Torrie Cox
LCB 29 Alan Zemaitis
FS 46 Blue Adams
SS 39 Kalvin Pearson

The Buccaneers’ second-string offensive line consisted of:

LT 74 Scott Jackson
LG 78 Toniu Fonoti
C 79 Sean Mahan
RG 77 Jeb Terry
RT 70 Sam Lightbody (second-round pick Jeremy Trueblood was first team)

During 7-on-7 drills, running back Michael Pittman was running a rail route downfield and bumped into safety Jermaine Phillips, who was in man coverage. The pass fell incomplete, but a flag was thrown on the play. All of the offensive players started giving the player known as “Flip” grief, but it turned out that the flag was thrown on Pittman for offensive pass interference, which delighted Phillips. He started clapping his hands and yelling, “Great call! That’s what I’m talking about!” Phillips later went up to the old ref who tossed the flag and slapped him on the butt.

A few plays later, Gruden ripped into wide receiver Edell Shepherd for running the wrong route. “Shepherd, you’re making too many (expletive) mistakes!” Gruden shouted, followed by a pop quiz on what route Shepherd was supposed to run against the coverage.

Instead of taking the criticism, Shepherd fought back and said, “That wasn’t the play that was called in the huddle.”

Gruden looked back over at the huddle and saw quarterback Tim Rattay and shook his head. Neither Rattay nor Shepherd are locks to make the team this year and neither can afford mistakes at this juncture of the preseason. Gruden wasn’t pleased.

During the Bucs’ field goal portion of practice, Matt Bryant made his first three field goals from between 42-45 yards, but then missed two in a row – hitting the left upright and then the right upright on the next kick.

Backup kicker Xavier Beitia missed his only attempt to the left. After Beitia’s miss, Bryant made another field goal to end the period. After a strong start to camp, Bryant has been a bit shaky lately.

Pittman would make up for his earlier penalty gaffe later in the 11-on-11 session when he made a one-handed catch on the run from rookie Bruce Gradkowski, who was rolling out. The throw was behind Pittman, but he was still able to reach back and make the difficult catch.

In goal line drills, safety Donte Nicholson forced a fumble by poking the ball out of fullback Carey Davis’ arms at the 1-yard line. Nicholson is in danger of not making the roster and needs to make more plays.

Another player in danger of losing his roster spot is tight end/long snapper Mark Anelli, who had a false start during a 7-on-7 session on Wednesday morning. The Bucs worked out several safeties and tight ends before practice on Wednesday morning because the team has some real concerns about the depth at both of those positions.

The Bucs practiced some situational punting today, including having Josh Bidwell punt out of his own end zone. Tampa Bay’s punt returners were Shepherd, Mark Jones, Justin Phinisee and Joey Galloway.

During the final 11-on-11 session, cornerback Ronde Barber made a great pass breakup in front of Jones. A few plays later, Cox jumped a route and picked off quarterback Chris Simms, which prompted jokester Juran Bolden to shout from the sidelines, “We’ve got a jumper! We’ve got a jumper!”

Bolden got in on the action during a 7-on-7 drill by jumping a pass thrown to the left sideline by Gradkowski and intercepting it.

Bucs quarterback Chris Simms once again had to throw into the Bucs defense and over the PVC Pile dummy that Gruden wants out on the field to help Simms overcome the passes he had batted down at the line of scrimmage last season. No opposing team’s jersey was on the dummy. Instead, the moving dummy sported a Bucs jersey. However, the dummy might have made its case for securing a roster spot when Simms threw a pass that got batted down by it during the 7-on-7 session.

Tampa Bay is scheduled to hold a two-hour practice on Wednesday afternoon.

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 Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for 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:
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