There’s a presence and a physical toughness that has been shown by a rookie in training camp, but it isn’t from first-round selection defensive end Gaines Adams. The presence gleaming from Bucs training camp is that of rookie left guard Arron Sears – a second-round selection out of the University of Tennessee.
Sears has made a name for himself during his opportunity in training camp to show what he can do as a professional football player. At 6-foot-3 and 319 pounds, Sears brings size and strength to an offensive line that badly needs a lineman with a mean streak. Sears has shown tremendous strides with his run-blocking ability and offensive line coach Bill Muir is excited about Sears’ potential.
“I just like Arron’s presence,” Muir said. “He’s not at all intimidated by the environment and the one thing he has demonstrated to us is that he is a tough son-of-a-gun and he’s going to be a physical player. Now does he have everything down that he needs to have down, of course not. He’s going to be a work in progress, but it’s going to fun to watch him work.”
Sears experienced his first snaps in the NFL against the New England Patriots last Friday in the Bucs’ pre-season opener. Despite playing just 18 snaps, Sears was excited to play his first game for the Bucs and to be able to lay the wood to someone other than his teammates.
“It was good to get back out there and hit someone other than my teammates,” Sears said. “I only played 18 plays and that’s a small amount of plays to get in to a groove, but I have a lot of room for improvement.”
Head coach Jon Gruden was pleased with what he saw out of his rookie left guard and believes that this is just the beginning of what Sears can do.
“I like him a lot, he did a good job,” Gruden said. “He did have a couple of plays that you would like to clean up, but his presence, his look in his eyes, his performance was solid and he’s going to be a real good player I don’t think there is any doubt about that.”
Sears is battling with Anthony Davis for the starting left guard position, and as of Monday’s practice, was working exclusively with the first team offense. With up-and-coming stars Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood manning the right side of the line and Sears making progress on the left side, the Bucs are putting together a young and talented offensive line.
Even though Sears is getting accolades from his coaches and impressing his teammates with his play, he has remained grounded during his first training camp. He realized after the New England game that there is more work left to be done before the regular season begins and that he still has a long way to go.
“I learned myself that I have a good ways to go,” Sears said “I’m in good shape right now, but I have a ways to go. This is the professional game and that was my first one so it was a good spot to draw line and not go back passed it.”
PETITGOUT READY, SIMMS NOT SO MUCH Left tackle Luke Petitgout practiced for the second consecutive day after missing more than a week and sitting out the preseason opener against the New England Patriots last Friday night. Petitgout got some work with the first team offense on Monday morning.
Although he sat out of the afternoon practice, Petitgout seems ready to go against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night.
“It’s good to have him back out. I think his spirits are high and he’s upbeat,” Gruden said. “I think he know his body better than we all do, and I think he feels good. He’s planning on getting ready to go. I’d like to play him, yes. We would like to do that.”
Quarterback Chris Simms, however, is a different story. Simms saw little practice time on Monday morning and afternoon and didn’t get one snap against the Patriots. Simms has worked mainly on the scout team offense in practice and is seeing minimal reps during any of the passing drills in practice.
Gruden has no timetable on when Simms will see game-action and didn’t commit to Simms seeing any playing time against Jacksonville.
“I don’t know that,” Gruden said. “We’ll wait and see on that.”
Several players were held out of the afternoon practice on Monday, including Petitgout, centers John Wade and Dan Buenning, running back Cadillac Williams, wide receiver Joey Galloway, defensive tackle Ellis Wyms, defensive ends Kevin Carter and Greg Spires and cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly.
Rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli, who missed Friday night's game with a hamstring injury, participated in the beginning of practice before leaving the workout early. He was seen icing his right hamstring from the sideline during the afternoon workout.
FULLBACK BY COMMITTEE With the loss of fullback Mike Alstott, who was placed on injured reserve last week, the Bucs will use several players at the fullback position during the season. Running back Michael Pittman served as the starting fullback against New England and Gruden plans on using Pittman even more as the season progresses.
Pittman, however, won’t be the only player to see time at fullback. Fullback B.J. Askew, running back Earnest Graham and even tight end Alex Smith could see time at the fullback position. Gruden has also used Pittman and running back Cadillac Williams in the backfield at the same time, which is known as the “Rocket” backfield.
“He’s played some fullback in the past here, and he’ll continue to do that and his role may expand,” Gruden said of Pittman. “We’re excited about the opportunity to get him on the field hopefully in some two-back sets. Where we go, we’ll see. Earnest Graham – same thing there. B.J. Askew is doing some really good things – so those three guys. Alex Smith is a guy who’s functioned as a fullback before – so we have a number of guys who will contribute.”
Askew and Pittman seem to be the front-runners to grab the starting fullback position because of their versatility. Both players can catch the ball out of the backfield, which is something Gruden looks for at the position, and can also run the ball in certain situations.
“I like our fullbacks,” Gruden said. “I really do. I like our guys. As a matter of fact, I like them a lot. I miss Mike Alstott, certainly. I can’t overstate that enough.”
KICKING UP A STORM After a shaky start at the open of training camp, place kicker Matt Bryant has found his rhythm as of late. After converting two field goals in the Bucs’ 13-10 victory over the New England Patriots last Friday night, including the game-winning field goal as time expired, Bryant made 5-of-6 field goals during special teams in Monday morning’s practice.
After hitting one from 35 yards out, Bryant kept moving farther back on the next four attempts. Bryant split the uprights on his final attempt of the day, nailing the 50-yard attempt. Bryant showed the strength that he has in his leg last season after nailing a game-winning 62-yard field goal against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6.
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bill Muir, offensive line coach, on playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars’ front four.
“The New England preseason game with a very experienced front, excluding [Richard] Seymour, it was a good measuring stick for where we were at. Now I don’t know what to call this, but we are going up there [Jacksonville] and there are some bad son-of-a-guns on the other side of that ball, so this won’t be the place for the timid. So we have to make our presence felt and quite frankly we haven’t done that in the past. Again, this is another test. Different kind of defense, different kind of animal, but it’s another progression in what we are trying to develop here.”
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