The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Wednesday afternoon training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex wearing helmets, jerseys and shorts.
Weather conditions for this afternoon’s practice were extremely hot and humid. At the beginning of practice, the thermometer underneath a nearby scoreboard read 111 degrees.
Several players were held out of this afternoon’s practice, including fullback Mike Alstott (soreness), tackle Luke Petitgout (back), linebacker Barrett Ruud (knee), rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli (hamstring) and wide receiver Michael Clayton (hamstring strain).
In addition to those players being held out due to their respective ailments, the Bucs withheld several players from the afternoon workout in an effort to rest them. The list included offensive linemen Arron Sears and Dan Buenning, cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly, defensive tackle Chris Hovan, running backs Michael Pittman and Cadillac Williams and defensive ends Kevin Carter and Greg Spires.
After calisthenics, the Bucs broke off into different parts of the fields to work on individual drills.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden worked on moving around quarterback Luke McCown inside and outside of the pocket. McCown is a mobile quarterback, and this afternoon he showed that he can be an accurate passer while on the run.
Tampa Bay dedicated most of the afternoon practice to full team scout drills since it is preparing for its first preseason game of the year against the New England Patriots on Friday night.
With Sears held out of the afternoon practice, Anthony Davis moved inside to start at left guard while Donald Penn started at left tackle. Penn struggled a bit this afternoon, especially during the 11-on-11 session when he faced defensive end Patrick Chukwurah, who beat him around the corner and sacked QB Bruce Gradkowski.
Center Matt Lehr and Davis helped to clear some running lanes when they handled 325-pound nose tackle Ryan Sims on a double team.
During a 9-on-7 scout team defense red zone drill, Bucs QB Jeff Garcia displayed more accuracy than he did this morning. He put nice touch on a pass over the middle of the end zone to WR Mark Jones for a touchdown. Jones was covered by cornerback Carlos Hendricks. This play was big, especially for Jones, who had dropped a pass thrown by McCown during warm-ups.
Just like he was this morning, Gruden was extremely vocal during the afternoon practice. After a sloppy morning practice, Gruden pushed the offense to perform well this afternoon.
“Come on, Moe. Use your big size,” Gruden said to 6-foot-5, 225-pound Maurice Stovall.
Tampa Bay’s offense started off sloppy in the red zone drill when WR Paris Warren beat CB Torrie Cox on a slant but dropped a pass thrown by Garcia in the end zone.
However, the offense rebounded when Garcia threw a nice pass down the seam to tight end Alex Smith, who got himself open against the zone coverage and left rookie linebacker Adam Hayward trailing in the end zone.
From there, McCown entered the lineup. The offense did not get off to a good start, though. That’s because fullback B.J. Askew lined up wrong on the first play. That irked Gruden.
“Come on, B.J.,” Gruden yelled. “You [expletive] up everyday.”
Gruden was itching for his offense to make a play, especially after this morning’s poor outing. Just as Gruden had requested earlier in the workout, Stovall stepped up and used his size to beat rookie cornerback Marcus Hamilton and haul in a fade pass from McCown with one hand in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
The mobility plays the Bucs installed earlier in the practice were put to good use during the 11-on-11 session when McCown ran a bootleg to his right and scrambled into the end zone for a 15-yard score.
But not all of McCown’s plays went for touchdowns during this particular session. To his credit, Bucs second-year CB Alan Zemaitis really stepped up his play and made several pass breakups this afternoon.
During the 11-on-11 red zone drill, Zemaitis stepped in front of a pass thrown from McCown to Warren in the end zone to cause the incompletion.
After that incomplete pass, Gruden challenged Warren on the next play.
“You’re begging for this coverage,” Gruden said. “You’re begging for this look, flanker.”
Warren responded by hauling in a pass on a slant pattern from McCown. Zemaitis had good coverage on the play, but Warren did a nice job of hauling in the pass and holding onto it.
Once the defense played scout team, it was time for the offense to impersonate the Patriots during an 11-on-11 session.
Chris Simms took the majority of the snaps again for the scout team offense, and he once again struggled.
Simms’ first pass was nearly intercepted by linebacker Cato June.
To his credit, Simms completed a couple of nice passes to Warren, who got himself open in zone coverage, and Stovall on a slant.
But during the next 11-on-11 session, Simms continued to struggle. He threw a floater down the middle of the field for tight end Keith Heinrich, but it was intercepted by middle linebacker Ryan Nece.
To end the 11-on-11 session, Simms was nearly intercepted by safety Donte Nicholson, was intercepted by S Kalvin Pearson and had a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage by rookie under tackle Greg Peterson, who batted down one of Gradkowski’s pass attempts a few plays later.
Right guard Enoka Lucas struggled to help open running lanes, especially when he faced off against defensive tackle Darrell Campbell, who turned in a great practice this afternoon. During the same 11-on-11 session, Campbell batted down a pass from Simms at the line of scrimmage.
McCown, on the other hand, had an impressive outing during the second 11-on-11 drill. Unfortunately, he fell victim to a few dropped passes. On one play, McCown displayed good mobility by scrambling out of the pocket and firing a perfect pass to WR Kyle Smith in-between safeties Will Allen and Jermaine Phillips. But Smith couldn’t hold onto the ball as he fell to the turf in the back of the end zone.
A few plays later, McCown threw a pass to TE C.J. Leak, who dropped the ball in the flat.
With Cadillac Williams resting this afternoon, running back Earnest Graham received quite a few reps. He ran the ball well, especially during the scout team offense’s session.
Gruden was cheering on his defense and urging them to shore up the run defense during this particular drill.
“I’m seeing too many holes,” said Gruden. “Let’s go, defense.”
On the next play, nose tackle Ryan Sims batted down another one of Simms’ pass attempts.
Gruden continued to give the defense grief when the scout team offense moved the ball on them. Rookie LB Quincy Black caught Gruden’s attention on one play, but for the wrong reason.
“Come on, Quincy,” Gruden yelled after Black appeared to blow an assignment. “Let’s get back in the game. No, that’s okay. You go back to the sideline and hide behind Coach Kiff. Go hide behind Coach Kiff.”
As usual, Tampa Bay dedicated a portion of the afternoon practice to special teams.
Wide receiver Mark Jones and cornerback Phillip Buchanon and each took turns fielding kickoffs. Running back Earnest Graham and Stovall each took some reps as the lead blockers on those kickoff returns.
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