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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took to the fields of One Bucs Place for the final practice of 2009 training camp. The Bucs practiced in shells (shorts, jerseys, and helmets) under hot and humid conditions with temperatures in the 90s with plenty of sunshine.
The Bucs were without the following players: safety Will Allen (shoulder), wide receiver Antonio Bryant (knee), kicker Matt Bryant (hamstring), wide receiver Dexter Jackson (ankle), wide receiver Joel Filani (hamstring), right tackle Demar Dotson (knee), center Jeff Faine (groin) and wide receiver Kelly Campbell (quad). Tight end John Gilmore (unknown) was also held out of this afternoon's workout.
Linebacker Matt McCoy (leg), defensive end Stylez G. White (shoulder) and cornerback Kyle Arrington (groin) are back at practice. Defensive end Gaines Adams suffered a leg injury during practice, but participated fully in the workout. Adams was gimpy, and could have banged knees or turned an ankle. Adams did make a nice explosive play late in practice when he leaped in the air to smack down a pass from quarterback Josh Johnson. If the injury were even close to significant he would not have been allowed to finish the practice.
Tampa Bay spent a lot of practice getting ready for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The scout team offense and defense got a lot of work. The Buccaneers did do some 11-on-11 scrimmaging, but did not do any seven-on-seven periods or one-on-one period for the lines. The lines did some work with a half a line going against the half line of the other side of the ball.
In the 11-on-11 sessions quarterback Byron Leftwich got the first team reps. Leftwich will be starting against his old team the Jacksonville Jaguars in Saturday night's preseason game. Leftwich started out the scrimmage period with a nice completion to tight end Kellen Winslow down the middle seam of the field. The defense was in zone, and cornerback E.J. Biggers was the closest defender to Winslow.
The tight ends received a lot of work in Wednesday's practice with Winslow and tight end Jerramy Stevens being thrown the ball often. Overall the unit did a good job of getting open, and catching passes. Although they weren't perfect as Stevens had a false start soon after Winslow's completion. Leftwich completed a number of passes to both Stevens and Winslow, and some of the passes were the same play repeated. One of them was a short pass to Winslow running an out route to the flat that was designed for him to turn and run up field along the sideline.
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall should have made a reception on a low pass from Leftwich. Stovall was leaned over and had the ball in his hands at about waist level. As he was pulling the ball into his body cornerback E.J. Biggers slapped the ball out of his hands. Stovall has the size and strength to maintain possession of a reception like that. Leftwich also had a bad overthrow of wide receiver Mario Urrutia along the sideline.
Defensive end Stylez G. White had a sack on Leftwich coming from right defensive end. After White ran by Leftwich, the signal caller completed a pass downfield to Cortez Hankton who had gotten a step on cornerback Aqib Talib. White continued his instinctive play, and tipped a pass from quarterback Luke McCown intended for running back Derrick Ward later.
Otherwise McCown made a number of nice throws in practice. After the breakup by White, McCown came back to make a nice completion to Hankton downfield with cornerback Torrie Cox chasing Hankton from his landmark in zone coverage. McCown threw a bullet to wide receiver Michael Clayton over cornerback Torrie Cox for a big gain. He also had a 25-yard completion to Winslow who beat McDuffie on the play.
McCown made a few nice passes after scrambling out of the pocket to buy time. The first was a strike to wide receiver Sammie Stroughter who came back to McCown and got open against Cox. McCown and Stroughter attempted to repeat that gain a few plays later, but Stroughter dropped the pass along the sideline about 15 yards past the line of scrimmage.
In the middle of the field McCown had a completion to wide receiver Brian Clark who also got a few steps on Cox. The pass could have been called back as defensive tackle Dre Moore was held by guard/tackle James Lee. The referees did not call the penalty, but it was obvious.
McCown also had completion for nice gains to Hankton and tight end Jason Pociask. Hankton had gotten a step on Talib, and Pociask's reception went for about 15 yards before he went out of bounds.
Rookie quarterback Josh Freeman got a good amount of reps in Wednesday's practice and had perhaps his best practices of training camp. Freeman made better decisions, and did not lock onto one receiver as much as he had other days. Freeman did a good job of protecting the football and did not throw an interception. However, Freeman had a number of passes that were inaccurate.
The first pass from Freeman was an overthrow of wide receiver Brian Clark. Clark had only run about 15 yards downfield, but the field was completely open in front of him. Cornerbacks Marshall McDuffie and DeAngelo Willingham were chasing Clark. If Freeman threw the pass accurately Clark would have raced away for a touchdown. Freeman also had an overthrow of tight end Ryan Purvis along the sideline, and a pass to low across the middle of the field for Urrutia. The later should have been caught as the big wide out got his hands on it at about knee high but was unable to corral the pass in.
Freeman came back to hit Stovall down the left seam for a 15-yard gain with Biggers in coverage. The young signal caller stayed in the middle of the field completing a slant to Stevens who got open in zone coverage between cornerback Ronde Barber and linebacker Jermaine Phillips. On a slant to Clark, Freeman threw a bullet by the hands of White who almost made the interception.
A pass to Stovall on the sideline netted about a 20-yard gain for Freeman. Cornerback Kyle Arrington was late coming over, and Freeman found Stovall after looking at his other receivers first. Freeman hooked up again with Stovall for another 20-yard completion later in practice with Biggers close to Stovall.
The 21-year old quarterback followed that up with one of his best passes of training camp. He lofted a perfect ball over downfield to running back Cadillac Williams. The halfback had beat defensive end Louis Holmes on a wheel route and was running free downfield. Safety Tanard Jackson was coming over the top towards Williams, and Freeman dropped the ball in perfectly over Williams shoulder a moment before Jackson got there for a gain of over 20 yards.
Freeman nailed a strike to Stroughter on his next pass. A few defenders tightly covered Stroughter, and Freeman threw the ball accurately to where Stroughter could catch the ball and get down to avoid defenders. The pass was where only his receiver could catch it, and if he didn't it would have fallen incomplete. If he threw the ball too high it would have been a potential interception.
Johnson's first pass was dozy on a slant to Winslow who turned up the seam for a big gain. Johnson's pass was a perfect strike that hit the tight end in stride with plenty of room to run downfield. The next pass from Johnson was another big gainer when he hit Clayton on a 20-yard out route.
Like Freeman, Johnson had some accuracy problems as well. Johnson threw a poorly underthrown pass to wide receiver Marcus Maxwell. The wide out adjusted to the pass and came back to the ball to haul it in. Talib was behind Maxwell and was upset with himself for allowing the completion. It was a pass that would have been an easy interception for the second-year cornerback if he had turned around. Johnson followed that with a bad overthrow of Winslow.
Johnson completed a number of passes late in practice in a hurry-up offense session. He started out with a completion to Purvis, and followed up by throwing a duck that Stroughter saved him on. The rookie receiver made a great catch along the sideline on a poorly thrown pass, and was closely covered by cornerback Elbert Mack. Johnson made a quality throw along the sideline to Clark for a good gain, and a stoppage of the clock as Clark was able to get out of bounds.
Johnson had a pass downfield to wide receiver Pat Carter go incomplete as cornerback Kyle Arrington broke up the play. Carter was called for a penalty as he shoved Arrington to try and get space to catch the pass, but Arrington still reached the ball with a hand slap it away.
Defensively the Bucs played superb run defense in Wednesday's practice. The scout team defense defended the run well also. Safety Sabby Piscitelli was active flying up to the line of scrimmage and getting to the ball carriers. Cornerback Elbert Mack and linebacker Angelo Crowell showed some solid run defense snuffing out a few outside runs at the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Barrett Ruud had a phenomenal practice getting to the halfbacks at the line of scrimmage and being in position to make tackles for no gain, or a loss of yards.
Phillips was at linebacker throughout practice, and had one of his better practices of the year. He had a lightning blitz on Johnson to hurry an incompletion and he was very active in run defense. Phillips did a good job of covering Winslow on one play, and the veteran defender was yelling in excitement after the play. Running with passing targets has been a challenge for Phillips, and staying with the athletic Winslow was impressive. Winslow smiled and high-fived Phillips after the pass sailed way over their heads and out of bounds.