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The Buccaneers were hoping to get some healthy bodies back in practice after a day and a half layoff, but that wasn’t the case as Monday’s practice, which began at 2:30 p.m., featured several injured players relegated to bystander status. Running backs Derrick Ward (foot) and Clifton Smith (hamstring), center Jeff Faine (groin), right tackle Jeremy Trueblood (back), linebacker Angelo Crowell (hamstring), defensive tackle Greg Peterson (knee), center Sean Mahan (calf) and receivers Michael Clayton (hamstring), Anthony Bryant (undisclosed), Joel Filani (hamstring) and Kelly Campbell (quad) did not participate due to injury.
The Bucs practiced in shells (helmets, jerseys, shoulder pads and shorts) today at One Buccaneer Place under sunny and hot conditions with temps in the mid-90’s.
Tampa Bay’s individual period was largely uneventful except for the gauntlet drill the receivers were running. The notable play was wide receiver Dexter Jackson getting knocked down by a teammate who walloped him with a blocking shield. During the gauntlet drill, players will run through a line of their teammates who are trying to knock the ball out of their hands by hitting them with a blocking shield. The bad news is that Jackson got knocked down, which rarely happens in the drill. The good news is that he didn’t fumble the ball.
With Faine and Mahan out, rookie Rob Bruggeman got a lot of reps today at center. The same was true for rookie Demar Dotson, who split reps with Anthony Alabi in place of Trueblood on Monday afternoon. Both rookies aren’t playing starter-caliber football, but they have improved and these snaps are very meaningful in their progression.
The Bucs spent much of the practice in 11-on-11 periods, foregoing the usual 7-on-7 drills. Except for Josh Johnson, all three of the top quarterbacks on the depth chart struggled. Byron Leftwich kicked off the drill and completed his first pass to tight end Kellen Winslow. Cornerback Aqib Talib should have had an interception on play, but pulled up early for some reason.
Running back Cadillac Williams had two great runs on the next couple plays. His first dash was up the middle as he read a great block by Bruggeman, followed by a jaunt off right tackle behind Dotson.
Luke McCown’s first pass was a beautiful dart to tight end Jerramy Stevens, who ran an out route and made a great catch over cornerback Torrie Cox. After a nice run off left tackle by Earnest Graham, McCown threw a screen pass to Winslow behind the right side of the line.
But McCown’s drive would stall after Bruggeman was flagged for holding defensive tackle Chris Hovan on one play and an unidentified lineman was flagged for holding on the ensuing play.
One interesting note after the second holding call was left tackle Donald Penn getting helped to his feet by Talib. You’ll remember that Penn and Talib got into an altercation during the offseason that led to Talib swinging his helmet and cutting Cox’s face. After helping Penn to his feet, Talib and Penn shook hands.
After two consecutive penalties, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris made the entire team run a suicide gasser. McCown was the first player to finish as he sprinted the entire gasser. Penn was the last player to finish and jogged the entire 106 feet.
Josh Freeman took over and threw a 50-yard bomb to Dexter Jackson on the play. Jackson had beaten safety DeAngelo Willingham and cornerback E.J. Biggers downfield, but dropped the pass as it bounced off his fingertips. For a player like Jackson, whose roster spot is precarious this year, that’s a catch he has to absolutely sell out for. Jackson should have dove for the ball and come down with it.
Freeman only got one more rep, which was a handoff to Kareem Huggins, who ran between the tackles.
The next round of 11-on-11’s started immediately with Leftwich throwing a laser to wide receiver Brian Clark with free safety Will Allen in coverage. New Bucs defensive backs coach Joe Baker loves Allen and thinks that Tampa Bay has three starting-caliber safeties in Allen, Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson.
Leftwich’s next throw went to Stevens, who had a great practice, just outside the outstretched hands of Piscitelli. But Leftwich probably would not have gotten that pass off as defensive lineman Stylez G. White beat left guard Jeremy Zuttah for a sack up the middle.
McCown came in and threw an out to Jackson on his first pass, and an incompletion on his second while getting pressured from defensive end Gaines Adams. Adams was rushing from the left side and used a strong, rip move to get inside Dotson and into McCown’s face.
Leftwich completed two short passes to Huggins and Maurice Stovall with Cox and Biggers covering, respectively.
McCown hit his next two completions to Stevens and Clark for modest gains against linebacker Quincy Black and Talib, respectively.
Rookie receiver Sammie Stroughter made the catch of the day when he dove for a Leftwich low ball near the left sidelines in front of Piscitelli.
McCown came back with a nice throw to Jackson after a pump fake and a scramble.
Johnson got his chance to get into the mix in 11-on-11, but has his only pass in this session get swatted down by defensive tackle Dre Moore, who got great penetration against backup guard Ryan Schmidt. Biggers had a great jam at new receiver Mario Urrutia on the play.
Tampa Bay then spent time working an 11-on-11 drill with the offense operating from inside its own 10-yard line. The team played piped in crowd noise and the session featured many uneventful running plays, except for a couple of runs by Williams in which he showed great cutting ability and burst.
On McCown’s only pass during this series, Stevens dove for the ball and almost made a great catch with Allen trailing down the right sidelines.
The Bucs practiced their special teams next, working on onside kick execution and onside kick recovery. The Bucs’ heavy hands team consisted off Allen, Stevens, linebacker Adam Hayward, safety Donte Nicholson, linebacker Quincy Black, fullback B.J. Askew, linebacker Niko Koutouvides, defensive tackle Roy Miller, tight end John Gilmore and wide receiver Maurice Stovall with Matt Bryant kicking.
Morris had the Bucs practice some quick-change drills during the next 11-on-11 period in the red zone. This is where the quarterback play began to deteriorate and defensive coordinator Jim Bates’ defense picked up the tempo with some serious blitzing.
Leftwich forced a pass into the end zone for Stovall, but the pass was broken up by Piscitelli and almost intercepted by middle linebacker Barrett Ruud.
His next pass went to Winslow for an 8-yard gain, followed by a 3-yard toss to Stevens, which picked up a first down. Leftwich then heaved a pass downfield to Clark, who made an amazing catch against Talib and Jackson, but was unable to come down in bounds as the ball was thrown out too far.
A 9-yard pass to Stovall set up a third-and-1, but Leftwich’s completion on the next down fell incomplete. On fourth-and-1, Stevens picked up the first down, but that was negated by an illegal procedure penalty on Winslow. Stovall moved the chains on another fourth down completion for Leftwich to put the Bucs into field goal range.
Leftwich and the offense backed up past midfield for another drive because Morris was simulating being down by 10 points at the end of the game. After an off-tackle run by Williams, Leftwich made his worst throw of camp and threw a terrible pass intended for Williams, who was running a wheel route down the left sidelines. Leftwich was late on the throw and cornerback Elbert Mack was able to peel off Williams and come back for the interception, which was his fourth of training camp.
McCown got his shot with the second-string skill position players and his first pass to tight end Ryan Purvis was broken up by Hayward, who was flagged for pass interference on the play. McCown came back to Purvis on the next play and threw a great pass his way for a reception against Hayward. After a screen pass to Kareem Huggins, McCown was victimized by an interception by Hayward, who had better coverage on Purvis this time. Had this been a real game, McCown would have never gotten the pass off as Black beat Alabi and would have sacked the quarterback before the throw.
Freeman got a turn next and had a disastrous series. After a running play, Freeman’s pass was deflected at the line and picked off by Piscitelli. His next pass was also swatted at the line, this time by defensive tackle Dre Moore, who knocked the ball down. After that, Freeman had back-to-back delay of game calls that upset the coaching staff.
The main reason why Freeman took the delay of game penalties was because Bates’ defense was showing some very exotic blitz looks and confusing the rookie’s pre-snap reads.
"We got to do some new things," Ruud said. "It was a good period today. I don't think the offense had seen some of that stuff so we had a little bit of an advantage. Blitzing is always a gamble. You have to step up because if you miss them, it's a big play going the other way. If we do everything right, it's a big play for us."
Johnson stepped in next and threw a rocket down the middle of the field for Purvis, who made a nice catch. Johnson’s next throw was to Stroughter, who beat Cox in coverage, but in reality, Miller beat guard Julius Wilson and would have sacked the QB.
Johnson then handed the ball off three straight times to Graham and Huggins (twice). Huggins had a great run, trucking Koutouvides on his second carry to finish off the play.
Johnson’s last pass was a slant to Pat Carter, who caught the ball in front of Kyle Arrington for a nice play across the middle.
On the final 11-on-11 session, quarterbacks coach Greg Olson was getting the play from offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and relaying it to the quarterback through a walkie talkie.
Leftwich’s first pass featured a slow, wind-up delivery and should have been picked off by cornerback Ronde Barber, who dropped an easy interception in front of Cortez Hankton. Then on the next play, Leftwich threw a second pick to Mack, who stepped in front of Hankton.
He came back with a short pass to Clark, who was wide open in the right flat as Bates called a jailbreak blitz. Clark motored 40 yards down the sidelines, but was eventually tracked down by Talib, who saved a touchdown.
Leftwich then threw a short pass to Stovall in front of Cox, but threw a bad ball to Winslow downfield that was way outside. Truth be told, Allen was coming on a safety blitz and would have sacked Winslow before he had the chance to throw the ball.
Leftwich had a rough day with two bad picks and two more passes that should have been intercepted. Missing were the trademark downfield throws and big plays in the passing game today.
McCown took a blindside sack from Cox, who came on a well-executed blitz. His next three passes fell incomplete, but on one of those throws, Mack was flagged for pass interference on Stovall.
The defense clearly won the 11-on-11 periods, especially the final two thanks to interceptions and sacks and the offense was forced to run a gasser at the end of practice while the defense was dismissed.
PEWTER REPORT QB REPORT CARD Johnson clearly had the best practice out of any of the four signal callers, but only had a handful of reps. Freeman was horrible in limited work, but didn’t get much help from his offensive linemen.
Because the starting quarterback duties will fall to Leftwich or McCown, Johnson isn’t going to get a point today. In fact, no quarterback is.
Leftwich was not his play-making self today, and should have thrown four picks as two of them were dropped. McCown didn’t fare much better, throwing only one pick, but several incompletions.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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