The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Wednesday morning training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex sporting shells, which includes jerseys, shoulder pads, helmets and shorts.
Weather conditions for this morning’s practice were hot and extremely humid.
Several players, including fullback Mike Alstott (soreness), tackle Luke Petitgout (back), linebacker Barrett Ruud (knee) and rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli (hamstring) were held out of the two-hour workout.
Tampa Bay linebackers Derrick Brooks, Ryan Nece, fullback Mike Alstott, guard Davin Joseph and defensive tackle Chris Hovan were the practice captains and led the Bucs in calisthenics to start the workout.
Once the stretching concluded, the players and coaches broke off into different parts of the fields to work on individual drills.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden attempted to keep this morning’s practice entertaining by having music play through the speakers out on the field during warm-ups.
The players warmed up to Run DMC’s “Walk This Way.”
Gruden also changed up the warm-up session for the wide receivers, running backs and tight ends by making them run through a drill that was similar to the one draft prospects are asked to run through at the NFL Combine.
The Bucs lined up several dummy bags for the receivers to run through while they caught passes from both sides of them. After they ran through the last dummy and caught the final pass, two assistant coaches were waiting to hit the receiver with blocking pads to test their ball security.
Some players fared better than others in this drill.
Bucs WR Joey Galloway ran through this drill effortlessly.
However, WR Ike Hilliard dropped a pass during this drill, which drew some boos from the crowd. Fullback Byron Storer also dropped a pass.
Bucs WR Michael Clayton made a nice one-handed catch near the sideline during warm-ups, but he would leave the morning practice about halfway through the workout with a pulled muscle.
With Tampa Bay preparing to play its first preseason game of the year against New England on Friday night, Gruden didn’t show much patience for mental errors on Wednesday morning.
Gruden jumped all over rookie running back Kenneth Darby for lining up wrong during the offensive installation period.
“Jesus Criminy,” Gruden yelled in disgust.
Darby had a rough outing this morning. In addition to lining up wrong on that particular play, Darby fumbled a handoff from QB Luke McCown during the final 11-on-11 session.
Gruden spent a significant amount of the installation period testing his players’ knowledge of the playbook and how they respond to different fronts and blitzes.
With the defensive players working on their own installation drills on the far field, Bucs running backs coach/assistant head coach Art Valero and Gruden attempted to impersonate defenders.
“He’s [safety] Rodney Harrison,” Gruden said, pointing over to Valero.
Not only did he test his players’ knowledge, Gruden also tested the thickness of his quarterbacks’ skin during this session.
“Okay, here’s a blitz against a young quarterback who doesn’t know what to do,” Gruden said as Luke McCown prepared to take a snap.
As he normally does, Gruden continued to emphasize the importance of getting the play called in the huddle and getting set at the line of scrimmage within 15 seconds in an effort to avoid delay of game penalties.
“Fifteen seconds. You’re on the clock. Hurry up,” Gruden shouted.
From there, the Bucs held a 9-on-7 running play session.
Bucs running back Cadillac Williams didn’t have much luck finding holes up the middle. Nose tackle Chris Hovan was a force to reckon. He did an excellent job of filling gabs and stuffing ball carriers. Hovan did have one gaffe, though. During the last part of the 9-on-7 drill, Bucs second-year QB Bruce Gradkowksi drew Hovan offsides with a hard count.
Bucs DT Darrell Campbell, who has been getting reps at under and nose tackle, was impressive against the run as well. During the 9-on-7 session, Campbell put a huge hit on tight end Alex Smith, who was attempting to wham block him on a running play designed to go up the gut of the defense.
Williams and Co. did, however, find some running room on the perimeter on Wednesday morning. Although a lot of their success came on the right side behind tackle Jeremy Trueblood and guard Davin Joseph, the left side of the line managed to do a good job as well thanks to G Arron Sears, T Anthony Davis and Joseph, who continues to be used effectively as pulling guard.
Rookie right defensive end Gaines Adams has struggled to defend the run in training camp. One of his biggest problems has been his inability to consistently shed blockers at the point of attack. That trend continued on Wednesday morning when Bucs guard Jeb Terry did a nice job of blocking Adams to open up a running lane for RB Lionel Gates during a 9-on-7 drill.
The 9-on-7 period ended with Gradkowski pulling off a great play-action pass and throwing over to Storer in the flat. Unfortunately for Gradkowski, Storer dropped the pass.
Quarterback Jeff Garcia has seen better practices than the one he turned in on Wednesday morning.
Garcia’s first pass attempt of a 7-on-7 drill came up short of WR Ike Hilliard, who received a lot of work with the first-team offense today. To his credit, Hilliard slid to make a great catch on a poorly thrown ball from Garcia.
During the same 7-on-7 session, Garcia threw a high pass over the middle to Hilliard, who tipped the ball up and watched it land in cornerback Ronde Barber’s hands as he dove to bring in the interception.
Speaking of Barber, he turned in a fantastic practice. In addition to his interception during the 7-on-7 drill, Barber jumped in front of a pass thrown from Garcia to Smith to cause the incompletion. During another 7-on-7 drill, Barber nearly picked off Gradkowski’s pass intended for WR Maurice Stovall.
Even when the ball wasn’t being defended by Barber, Garcia and Tampa Bay’s offense continued to struggle this morning. Garcia’s deep pass down the left sideline was a bit off for WR Joey Galloway, who couldn’t haul it in.
And when Garcia and Galloway did connect down the left sideline during 11-on-11 offense vs. scout team defense drills, the speedy receiver dropped the perfectly thrown ball.
Tampa Bay’s offense looked lethargic this morning. The players appeared to have tired legs and feet, and Gruden apparently saw the same thing based on some of his comments on the field during the workout.
“Come on. Move your feet, men,” Gruden yelled to the receivers and running backs during a 7-on-7 drill.
During the 7-on-7 session, Gruden lost his patience once again after the players appeared to be mentally and physically fatigued.
“Are you saving your energy for Friday night?” Gruden yelled. “Huddle up.”
After a poor showing, perhaps Tampa Bay’s offense was determined to finish the 7-on-7 session on a good note. That might help explain why Gruden called a quarterback draw near the goal line during the 7-on-7 session, which features no offensive or defensive linemen.
Needless to say, Garcia scored a touchdown on the play, and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris was left perplexed by the play call.
“Hey, Pewter Report. Maybe you can tell me how to stop a quarterback draw on 7-on-7,” Morris said as Pewter Report observed from the sideline. “I don’t know if that’s possible.”
Gruden realized his players, particularly the offense, were tired, evidenced by the fact that he had them take off their pads after the cool down period.
Tampa Bay’s offense had a little success running and throwing the ball after the cool down period. That’s because the Bucs were running a scout team defense, which did its best imitation of New England’s 3-4 defense.
But the Bucs’ first-team defense continued to dominate the practice after the cool down when it dominated the scout team offense, which was once again led by QB Chris Simms.
Simms’ first pass of the 11-on-11 session was wobbly and nearly intercepted by safety Jermaine Phillips. His next pass, which was intended for tight end Keith Heinrich, was off the mark and intercepted by Barber. Two plays later, Simms had another pass intercepted, this time by safety Kalvin Pearson. Defensive end Jeremy Pittman got in the mix when he batted down one of Simms’ pass attempts at the line of scrimmage.
Simms continued to struggle when his deep pass to WR Chad Lucas was nearly intercepted again by Phillips. His next two pass attempts fell incomplete. Simms’ final throw of the 11-on-11 session, which was intended for WR Chas Gessner, was intercepted by CB Carlos Hendricks.
After practice, Pewter Report inquired about Simms’ poor performance in scout team offense drills. After talking with some assistant coaches, it’s important to note that Simms is often times asked to throw the ball to a particular receiver or spot during these drills. That might help explain why so many of his passes have been falling incomplete or in to the hands of defenders.
However, it’s also Simms’ job to challenge the defense, and he hasn’t been doing that at all. He’s still struggling to throw the ball, and his passing woes have taken a toll on his confidence.
After practice concluded, Simms worked with quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett on throwing. Simms worked with tight end T.J. Leak, WR Paris Warren and WR Chad Lucas.
Tampa Bay dedicated a portion of the morning practice to special teams work.
Wide receivers Chad Owens, Kyle Smith and Mark Jones each took turns fielding punts.
The Bucs used guard Jeb Terry to snap for punter Josh Bidwell, who looked good this morning. Bidwell got off a 66-yard punt during the special teams workout.
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