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MOBILE, Ala. – With so much success in procuring five draft picks from last year’s Senior Bowl, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hit Mobile, Ala. hard with virtually a full staff, which consisted of coaches Jon Gruden, Monte Kiffin (defensive coordinator), Art Valero (running backs), Richard Bisaccia (special teams), Joe Barry (linebackers), Aaron Kromer (senior assistant – offensive line); general manager Bruce Allen, director of player personnel Ruston Webster, director of pro personnel Mark Dominik, director of college scouting Dennis Hickey, scouts Doug Williams, Jim Gruden, Reggie Cobb, Mike Martin, Seth Turner, Brian Gardner, Jim Abrams; and football administration/support staffers Mark Arteaga and Paul Kelly.
Gruden and Kiffin spent most of the day interviewing prospective candidates for the team’s vacant defensive line and defensive coordinator positions and did not attend the afternoon Senior Bowl practices on Monday.
The Buccaneers split up their staff to cover both the North and South practices in the afternoon after the Senior Bowl weigh-in. Pewter Report went to the South practice, which took place at Fairhope Municipal Stadium. Last year, Allen told Pewter Report that the thing that separated the Buccaneers from other teams in the league is the quality of the coaching staff and the way the team practiced. After watching the speed, precision and tempo with which the Bucs coaching staff coached the Senior Bowl last year, viewing the San Francisco staff coaching the South squad was painful. The practice was sluggish, sloppy and lacked the “juice” that Tampa Bay’s coaches bring to the table. The players followed the lead of the coaches and seemed bored and their play was a bit sloppy. Word has it that the North practice, which was coached by the Tennessee staff, was almost as bad.
The player who jumped out immediately was UCLA’s monster tight end Marcedes Lewis, who seems bigger than the 6-foot-5, 254 pounds he measured at the Senior Bowl weigh-in. Lewis made a spectacular, one-handed coach in practice today and showed some real physical play while running after the catch. He had a real strong day catching the ball and is on his way to solidifying his status as a late first-round/early second-round guy. The Buccaneers were looking on intently and he is definitely on their radar screen.
Conversely, North Carolina State tight end T.J. Williams looked clumsy while dropping passes and losing his footing. He looked slow-footed and really struggled catching the ball.
Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil struggled mightily in practice and there is virtually no way he’ll get selected in the first round of the NFL Draft as some early mock drafts have suggested. Dumervil checked in at 5-foot-11, 258 pounds and was not very cut at the weigh in. He lacks the quick-twitch movements and suddenness of other undersized defensive ends who have prospered in the league, such as Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Dumervil got manhandled all practice and his stock will slip this week unless he can turn up the intensity.
North Carolina State defensive end Manny Lawson is an impressive physical specimen who looks bigger than his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame. Lawson is a speed rusher who is built in the Simeon Rice mold, but he also has surprising upper body strength and power for a player who weighs less than 250 pounds. He fared well in the pass rush drills opportunities today and is an aggressive, up-field player. Lawson has the build to add 10-15 pounds, too.
Three running backs stood out for the South today. Mississippi State’s Jerious Norwood and Memphis’ DeAngelo Williams showed great speed to the outside and instant acceleration. LSU’s Joseph Addai displayed a nice blend of power and speed, and really caught the Bucs’ attention. Addai figures to be a third-round pick and could be targeted by the Buccaneers because he can run, catch and pass protect.
UTEP linebacker Thomas Howard is a workout warrior, but as Pewter Report has stated before, he seems to lack the necessary instincts to excel at the next level. Howard has all of the measurables, but has a lot of hesitation in his game and he doesn’t flow to the ball that well.
One player who seemed to disappoint was Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who didn’t look as fast as advertised. Once thought to be a top 10 pick, Ryans might slip unless he shows more speed and a quicker reaction time throughout the rest of the week.
If you are looking for a Senior Bowl sleeper, look no farther than Alabama defensive end Mark Anderson. The 6-foot-4, 254-pound Anderson was full of fire and quickness on Monday. He showed his toughness by getting into a fight with Miami left tackle Eric Winston and didn’t back down from anyone. Anderson had a great burst around the corner and was pretty physical in battling Winston and Auburn left tackle Marcus McNeill. He’s one guy who Pewter Report will continue to keep an eye on.
Winston and McNeill did okay on Monday, but had their lapses in pass protection. McNeill’s body looks awkward. He has good size at 6-foot-8, 339 pounds, but looks like he lacks strength. His forearms are downright skinny and he’ll need to hit the weight room at the next level. There was word at the Senior Bowl that McNeill still has some lingering back problems from earlier in the season, which could lower his stock.
Although Winston was 6-foot-6, 303 pounds at the weigh-in, there was some concern that his shorter than ideal arms could force him inside to guard at the next level. Winston may not be big enough to play right tackle at the next level and may not have the elite athleticism to play left tackle.
While Winston and McNeill failed to dazzle at the South practice, Texas offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, who checked in at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, was pretty dominant on the right side. Scott is an evenly proportioned big man with good strength and quickness. The Buccaneers were keeping tabs on Scott, who figures to be a second-round pick.
Aside from Lewis, Anderson, Norwood and Williams, the other stud from Monday’s South practice was Florida State defensive tackle Broderick Bunkley, who is a Tampa native. Bunkley has a weightlifter’s physique and is a muscular, 6-foot-2, 300 pounds. That powerful frame was on display as he blew past Texas guard Will Allen and New Mexico center Ryan Cook on several plays. Bunkley is a powerful player with great quickness and handwork. He’s capable of playing the one or three technique at the next level. Expect the Buccaneers to be interested in this second-round prospect.
Miami wide receiver Sinorice Moss was the most polished wide receiver for the South on Monday. He is exceptionally quick in and out of his cuts and has the speed to separate downfield. However, Moss checked in at under 5-foot-8 and weighed just 183 pounds. Despite his speed and polish, he’s too small to play for the Buccaneers.
The word from the North practice on Monday night was that Virginia left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson had a dominant practice, and did a marvelous job against Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. Kiwanuka’s stock has been slipping a bit due to inconsistent play, and he actually might be there when the Buccaneers pick at number 23. Although Kiwanuka’s game somewhat resembles that of Simeon Rice, the Bucs actually prefer shorter, more compact defensive ends, such as Penn State’s Tamba Hali and Virginia Tech’s Darryl Tapp. Tapp, Hali and Tennessee’s Parys Haralson resemble Tampa Bay players like Dewayne White, Greg Spires and Andrew Williams.
Another stud from the North squad was USC Deuce Lutui. The Bucs have really grown fond of him this year and the 6-foot-3, 338-pounder shined in practice this afternoon. Lutui was much smaller than the 6-foot-5, 375 pounds that he was listed at on the Senior Bowl roster before the weigh-in, which is a good thing. One of the reasons why the Bucs passed on Virginia guard Elton Brown last year was because the team didn’t think that an offensive lineman that heavy could survive the heat and humidity of Florida. The fact that Lutui is not as massive as he was listed on the roster ups his stock with Tampa Bay.
Although it was only the first day, the Buccaneers had already done interviews with Miami (Ohio) wide receiver Martin Nance, Penn State cornerback Anwar Phillips and Lawson.
One interesting note from Monday night was a high-powered meeting between head coach Jon Gruden, general manager Bruce Allen and big-time agent Tom Condon of IMG. Although it was not clear which specific player or players Gruden, Allen and Condon were discussing, Condon does represent some key Buccaneers, whose contract status must be visited this offseason. Condon’s Tampa Bay clients include nose tackle Chris Hovan, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2006, right tackle Kenyatta Walker, who will also be a UFA in March, defensive end Simeon Rice, who may be asked to restructure his contract and second-year wide receiver Michael Clayton.
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