Saturday’s practice was another hot one with temps in the low 90s on a hazy, humid afternoon at the new One Buccaneer Place.
The Buccaneers were wise to go back to North Dakota State to grab defensive quality control coach Todd Wash. Wash coached with Bucs linebackers coach Gus Bradley together at NDSU and the two have a good on-field chemistry despite the fact that Wash works primarily with new Tampa Bay defensive line coach Larry Coyer.
Although the hiring of defensive line coach Jethro Franklin and defensive backs coach Greg Burns didn’t work out last year, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has a knack for finding junior assistants who rise up the coaching ranks. Former defensive quality control coach Joe Woods, who is Minnesota’s linebackers coach, Raheem Morris, a former defensive quality control coach who is now Tampa Bay’s defensive backs coach, and Bradley, who was a defensive quality control coach and worked with Joe Barry last year, are prime examples of junior coaches who elevated themselves to full-fledged assistants under Kiffin. Assistant defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake is well thought of and well respected around One Buc Place and he and Wash could be the next in line to become position coaches in time.
The most interesting aspect of the 40 minutes of practice that Pewter Report got to watch might have been the fact that linebackers Quincy Black and Adam Hayward, Tampa Bay’s 2007 draft picks, took part in pass rush drills with the defensive linemen. Black and Hayward worked with the linebackers doing linebacker drills for the early part of practice, but broke away from that group to join the defensive line in bag drills and hoop drills, which is a task where defenders run around an oversized hula hoop to simulate turning the corner and getting to the quarterback. The drill works on body control and agility and all of Tampa Bay’s draft picks – Black, Hayward, defensive end Gaines Adams and defensive tackle Greg Peterson performed well.
The defensive line drills were led by defensive tackle Darrell Campbell, who was on Tampa Bay’s practice squad last year. His experience in running pro drills last year and under Coyer during the OTAs made him the perfect player to lead by example. Adams was generally next up in the drills and showed some good quickness off the whistle. Adams is not chiseled and ripped like Simeon Rice, so he does not appear to be overly impressive at first glance. But his feet and hands are as quick as advertised. He does look like he could stand to hit the weight room, though.
The most impressive thing about Adams is his wingspan. He does have long arms and pretty decent-sized hands. Those traits helped him excel in the bag drills today.
Peterson weighs 290 pounds, but looks like he weighs closer to 275 pounds. He carries his weight well and does not have a gut like Booger McFarland had. Of course, he’s five inches taller than McFarland was, too. You can see the rawness in Peterson’s game from the lack of quality coaching. But on the surface, his physical traits are apparent.
In keeping with yesterday’s theme of preaching about turnovers, the defensive linemen engaged in tackling form and stripping the ball from behind. The defensive linemen were taught to strip the ball with a hand coming over the top and to punch the ball with a hand coming down from below.
Pewter Report did not spend a great deal of time watching the defensive backs today as they were thoroughly covered in Friday’s PI article, but strong safety Sabby Piscitelli clearly established himself as a leader with the way he conducted himself in practice. He was a quick study to pick up the different techniques like the “Buzz” technique in practice.
A few defensive backs sat out of Saturday’s practice. Free agent signee Kenny Scott, a cornerback from Georgia Tech, and Northwest Mississippi corner Gabe Helms, a tryout player, did not take part in drills. Head coach Jon Gruden, who has spent an inordinate amount of time watching the defense over the past two days as quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett and offensive coordinator Bill Muir run the offense, gave Scott and Helms some razzing for missing the second day of rookie mini-camp.
Muir spent the first 30 minutes of Saturday afternoon’s practice working with the offensive linemen on the sleds. He focused a lot on teaching technique, especially on the two-man blocking sled. It was difficult to evaluate the linemen because Muir didn’t have them making much contact with the sleds except for when they practiced launching their shoulder into the pads.
Bucs second-round draft pick, guard Arron Sears, is listed at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds. After getting a good look at him in person, that height might be a bit inflated. Sears, who likely is around 320 pounds, seems to be around the same height as last year’s first-round pick, guard Davin Joseph, who has a 6-foot-3 frame. Regardless of what his actual height is, Sears used his frame to open up holes for the Tennessee Volunteers’ running game, and he seems to be a quick study in Tampa Bay.
One two-hour practice did a world of good for quarterbacks Zac Taylor and Pat Julmiste. Although Taylor still is the more polished quarterback, both signal callers were more accurate today during the 40 minutes that the media was permitted to watch.
The wide receivers also did a better job of catching passes. Unfortunately for gold medalist Justin Gatlin, he’s still having trouble catching the ball on a consistent basis. His speed is his obvious strength, but he can’t play receiver for the Bucs if he can’t catch the ball.
Bucs wide receivers coach Richard Mann spent several minutes working with Gatlin on his route running, which also needs work. The rookie mini-camp isn’t over yet, but the guess here is Gatlin, who has blazing speed, will be deemed too raw to sign to Tampa Bay’s active roster.
Bucs rookie running back Kenneth Darby, who was a seventh-round pick last weekend, is making a good impression thus far. He’s shown the ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and he appears to be faster than advertised. Keep an eye on Darby. He could sneak his way onto this team this year.
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