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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Wednesday morning training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex sporting full pads.
The Bucs expected to see a physical practice on Wednesday morning since head coach Jon Gruden decided to give the players the afternoon off to go see a movie.
Although a good portion of the morning practice was held under plenty of cloud cover, temperatures were hot and humid for Wednesday 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.
Several players were held out of Wednesday morning’s practice, including left tackle Luke Petitgout, defensive tackles Ellis Wyms and Ryan Sims and cornerback Phillip Buchanon.
Petitgout has missed three straight practices, but Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said after practice that the 31-year-old veteran just has a “sore body.”
Gruden has been trying to keep some of the older veterans fresh and healthy by giving them some practices off. But usually the players that are given one practice off return for the next. That has not been the case with Petitgout, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Anthony Davis on Wednesday. Gruden said he expects Petitgout to return to practice on Thursday.
Rookie defensive end Gaines Adams missed Wednesday’s practice with a triceps strain. Gruden listed him as day-to-day.
Although he participated in Wednesday’s practice, quarterback Chris Simms did not throw during 7-on-7, 9-on-7 or full team drills again this morning. He did take reps during some of the team’s running plays. It’s important to note that all of Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks, not just Simms, were limited from a throwing standpoint on Wednesday.
After stretching concluded, players and coaches broke off into their individual groups.
The wide receivers and defensive backs worked on route-running drills during the warm-up session. Bucs wide receivers Joey Galloway, Maurice Stovall, Ike Hilliard and David Boston ran crisp routes.
The cornerbacks and safeties ran coverage drills with the running backs. Tampa Bay rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli was the star of this particular drill with two pass breakups and one interception, which drew applause and cheering from the crowd.
After throwing that interception, Bucs QB Luke McCown missed RB Michael Pittman down the sideline after he had beaten S Donte Nicholson.
Second-year CB Alan Zemaitis, who has struggled in camp, displayed good coverage ability by breaking up two passes. His first pass defensed came on a fade pass intended for WR Mark Jones. The second one came after WR Michael Clayton ran a buttonhook and nearly hauled in the pass, but Zemaitis stripped the ball out of Clayton’s hands to force the incompletion.
Another player who has struggled in pass coverage through camp – S Tanard Jackson – showed that he does possess cover skills by defending a fade thrown to Galloway during a 7-on-7 red zone drill.
Cornerbacks Torrie Cox and Ronde Barber and safety Kalvin Pearson each came up big in the passing game during a 7-on-7 drill by breaking up passes for the intended receivers.
Tight end Alex Smith had a decent practice. He looked impressive in the passing game, beating S Will Allen on a comeback route. During a 7-on-7 red zone drill, Smith got open in the back of the end zone thanks to QB Jeff Garcia’s pump fake. That allowed the veteran signal caller to fire a pass to him for a score.
Bucs defensive line coach/assistant head coach Larry Coyer spent the early part of practice working with his players on the far field. This drill featured two offensive linemen going up against two defensive linemen.
Although he’s received a lot of reps during the offseason and training camp, DT Darrell Campbell did not play with good leverage this morning. Needless to say, this irked Coyer.
“Come on. You’re not ready to go,” Coyer yelled. “Get your ass down.”
When Campbell went through his next set of reps during this drill, Coyer had to lay into him again. However, to his credit, Campbell finished strong by winning his final one-on-one matchup, which pleased Coyer.
“There you go, Darrell,” Coyer said.
After giving his players the afternoon off, Gruden expected to see a sharp practice from all three units on Wednesday. Gruden didn’t have much patience for mistakes this morning. He even jumped on wide receiver Maurice Stovall, who has been one of the more impressive training camp players.
“Don’t loaf on me,” Gruden said to Stovall.
During route running drills inside the red zone, Gruden was very hands on. He also used his voice, which he had lost two days ago, to get his message across by yelling quite a bit.
When the Tampa Bay offense was working from inside the 5-yard line, Gruden, whose offense scored just 20 touchdowns in 2006, emphasized the importance of striking quickly.
“Don’t give them all day to adjust,” Gruden said to the receivers. “Score now dammit.”
Bucs WR David Boston, who had a rough outing during Tuesday morning’s workout, was much better today. He was on the receiving end of a beautiful sideline pass thrown by second-year QB Bruce Gradkowski.
On the last play of a 9-on-7 session held just before this morning’s cool down period, Boston did a nice job of beating CB Sammy Davis down the left sideline and hauling in a perfectly thrown pass from McCown for a touchdown.
That play was impressive, but perhaps the most impressive play of practice for the Tampa Bay offense came during an 11-on-11 drill when Garcia took a snap from center, handed the ball off to Galloway, who gave the ball to Boston on a double reverse. Boston received a great block on the back end from Joseph en route to picking up some big yardage and a first down.
Stovall, who felt the wrath of Gruden earlier in practice, ran a nice slant route and hauled in a pass from Gradkowski against Allen for a touchdown. He proceeded by racing into the back of the end zone and dunking the football over the field goal post.
Michael Clayton didn’t have a bad practice, but he did have a bad moment when he dropped a pass against rookie CB Marcus Hamilton.
Tampa Bay’s defense had an impressive outing this morning. The Bucs emphasized the run on both sides of the ball throughout most of the practice, and the defense responded.
Nose tackle Chris Hovan is quietly putting together a great camp. During a 9-on-7 run drill, Hovan got off the ball and broke into the backfield to stuff running back Earnest Graham for a 3-yard loss. During the same drill, Hovan worked his way into the backfield and stuffed RB Cadillac Williams for a loss.
Linebackers Derrick Brooks, Cato June and Jamie Winborn each stood out during this 9-on-7 run drill.
With the defense dominating this particular drill, it didn’t take Gruden long to start losing his patience with the offense.
“Let’s go, tight ends. Let’s go,” Gruden yelled after watching the Bucs struggle with their perimeter blocking.
Tight end Anthony Becht responded to Gruden’s challenge by pancaking DE Greg Spires on one play. The only problem was his block too place about 8 yards away from the play.
Unfortunately, the tight ends didn’t really follow Becht’s lead throughout the rest of practice. During a 7-on-7 red zone drill, Jerramy Stevens and Keith Heinrich were guilty of false starts on consecutive plays. It was so bad that some of the defensive players actually started taunting the tight ends.
But not everything went the defense’s way in this drill. Bucs guard Davin Joseph continues to open up some nice holes in the running game. During the 9-on-7 drill, Joseph blew rookie defensive lineman Greg Peterson off the ball, which paved the way for RB Michael Pittman. Coach Coyer gave Peterson hell for allowing that to happen.
For the most part, holes were tough to come by for the offense during the second 9-on-7 drill, though. Brooks set the tone for the defense by shooting through a gap and drilling Williams head on, which laid the third-year tailback out. The hit was one of the most impressive in camp thus far. By the way, since coming back from the minor hamstring injury Brooks has looked fresh, fast and reenergized.
On the next play, Brooks teamed up with DE Patrick Chukwurah to stuff Graham at the line of scrimmage. Not only did he help stop him, Chukwurah stripped Graham of the ball, which allowed the defense to recover.
Graham needs to do a better job of holding onto the football. This wasn’t his first fumble of camp, and he’s struggled to hold onto the ball in previous camps. If Graham continues to be a liability carrying the football, rookie RB Kenneth Darby and/or RB Lionel Gates could sneak their way onto the 53-man roster.
Of course, Gates didn’t help his cause during the 9-on-7 drill when he put the ball on the ground as well.
During the final 11-on-11 session, Gradkowski and center Nick Mihlhauser were involved in a botched quarterback/center exchange.
Several defensive players impressed en route to shutting down Tampa Bay’s ground attack for the most part, including DE Kevin Carter.
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Carter has put some impressive pass rush moves on display in camp, but this morning he showed great athleticism during the 9-on-7 session by leaving the line of scrimmage and dropping 15 yards into coverage near the right sideline to defend a pass intended for Graham.
The Bucs dedicated several minutes to field goal work. Bucs K Matt Bryant was impressive, drilling all six of his field goal attempts.
Tampa Bay also got some kickoff return work in. Wide receivers Mark Jones, David Boston, Chad Owens and Chad Lucas were fielding kickoffs.
Unfortunately for Lucas, he muffed a kickoff during this drill, which doesn’t bode well for his chances of making the team. Even Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia suggested as much after Lucas muffed the kickoff.
“You can’t drop the ball, Lucas,” said Bisaccia. “You don’t get many reps. You can’t drop the ball.”
Gates helped make up for his fumble earlier in the practice by putting a stiff shoulder into the chest of fullback Byron Storer and putting him flat on his back.
On the same play, Piscitelli was seen talking to WR Chas Gessner about his assignment, which provoked Bisaccia to yell, “Sabby, I will [expletive] coach you. Do you know who your man is?”
One of the more interesting parts about the kickoff return drills was the fact that two of Tampa Bay’s more physical wide receivers – Clayton and Stovall – took several reps as lead blockers on kickoff returns.
Tampa Bay cancelled its afternoon practice so it could go to the movies to see “Rescue Dawn.” The Bucs are scheduled to conduct two practices on Thursday at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.
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