Copyright 2009   

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held their third practice of training camp on Sunday afternoon at One Buc Place in Tampa. It was held in hot conditions with temperatures in the 90s and under sunny skies. The Bucs were in full pads for the second time in training camp.

The players started practice by warming up and stretching. Defensive end Louis Holmes was held out of the practice with a sprained ankle, and defensive tackle Greg Peterson observed another practice while recovering from a knee injury.

Early on in practice the Bucs running backs worked on zone reads. Parts of the beginning of every practice the halfbacks work on their cuts and decision-making in the ground game. Many days the coaches roll giant green balls at them, but today they had two coaches with blocking pads. The coaches were staggered a step apart to the right and left, and had five yards separating them. The coaches would lean the pads to the right or left and the halfback would have to veer the direction opposite of the pad. The drill tested the backs cutting ability, vision, and reaction speed.

As a unit, the running backs fared well. Earnest Graham earned praise from running backs coach Steve Logan. Derrick Ward was caught guessing on one play and ran towards the pad rather than cutting the appropriate direction. Running back Clifton Smith continues to get a lot of carries with the first team.

The Bucs defensive tackles were working on tying up guards and maintaining their gap integrity with defensive line coach Robert Nunn during the individual period. Nunn also had the defensive linemen work on fighting off double teams. Every tackle did a decent job in this regards, a clear sign that the defense was going to have a good day.

It’s easy to see that Dre Moore is in much better shape than he was in a year ago. Moore needs to develop some polish to his game and come up with something other than a bull rush, but the fact that he is better conditioned and stronger make his bull rush pretty effective right now.

Defensive line coach Todd Wash was working with the ends on turning their hips and getting around the corner and to the quarterback. The most polished pass rusher on the team is left end Jimmy Wilkerson, who is always focused and has really developed a great rip move with his right arm. Look for that in the preseason games.

Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia was doing a great job working with punter Josh Bidwell on how to handle errant snaps. Bisaccia flipped the ball to Bidwell as both a punter and a holder for placements. Some of his tosses were out in front, while others were high or behind him. Bidwell did a good job of reaching out, controlling the ball and then simulating the hold or the punt. Credit Bisaccia for leaving no stone unturned when it comes to preparing his players for their roles on special teams.

The offense worked on red zone passing during a play installation period. Quarterbacks Byron Leftwich, Josh Freeman, and Luke McCown all made some very good throws. McCown threw a nice fade pass to the deep corner of the end zone to tight end Kellen Winslow. Leftwich displayed nice accuracy on end zone sideline routes. Freeman had one throw get away from him and was vastly overthrown out of the end zone near the cross bar. Throwing passes into the end zone was an obvious point of emphasis.

During the scrimmage sessions of practice on Sunday, Leftwich started out as the quarterback. Unfortunately for head coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, the offense struggled mightily on Sunday. There were a number of interceptions and sacks. The backup offensive line made mistakes getting set up on multiple occasions. On one occasion, it was so screwed up that McCown called a timeout before the play clock expired. Offensive line coach Pete Mangurian got in the face of the unit after that showing.

The offense did fine in 7-on-7, but in 11-on-11 it had some real struggles, especially in pass protection. The offensive line was flagged a few times on a combination of false starts and holds.

During 7-on-7, McCown and Leftwich completed a decent amount of their pass attempts. Leftwich started it out with a nice completion downfield to wide receiver Antonio Bryant. It was a jump ball, and Aqib Talib blanketed Bryant in coverage. However Talib’s back was turned to the ball, and Bryant jumped and hauled in the pass against Talib’s back, and pulled the pass in as they landed on the ground. It was great coverage by Talib, but a better catch from Bryant and a smart throw by Leftwich to see that Talib was not looking.

Leftwich had Bryant again for what would have been sizable gain but the veteran receiver dropped the pass. Bryant had gotten good separation from cornerback Ronde Barber, and Bryant had plenty of room to run. Leftwich laced another nice pass to wide receiver Brian Clark between Talib and linebacker Barrett Ruud.

Ruud also got beat by running back Cadillac Williams on a short crossing route for a 5-yard gain and third down conversion on a third-and-3 situation. Williams has come a long way catching the ball over the past two years and is now an effortless receiver.

Clark also made a smart play in 7-on-7 when McCown scrambled and Clark broke off his route to catch a fastball from McCown between safety Tanard Jackson and Cox.

McCown had a couple of good throws in the 7-on-7 session. He hooked up with Cortez Hankton for a nice gain on the sideline in tight coverage. Hankton dove and held onto the ball as he hit the ground a foot away from being out of bounds. Cornerback Elbert Mack had good coverage on the play, but it was beat by McCown and Hankton.

One of the best passes of the practice came on a corner post into the end zone. McCown lofted a perfect deep ball into the front of the end zone that Kelly Campbell came down with after beating Cox.

During the 7-on-7 period, the backup squad got a lot of high-powered attention as both general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris were looking on, checking out their first-round draft pick and gauging his progress. Freeman’s 7-on-7 session was quite up-and-down as he and fellow quarterback Josh Johnson worked with receivers Dexter Jackson, Joel Filani, Sammie Stroughter and Pat Carter, tight ends Jason Pociask and Ryan Purvis and running backs Vaughan and Kareem Huggins. The squared off against linebackers Niko Koutouvides, Matt McCoy and Crowell, in addition to defensive backs C.J. Byrd, E.J. Biggers, DeAngelo Willingham, Marshall McDuffie, Kyle Arrington and Donte Nicholson.

On the first play, Freeman hit Filani down the right sidelines for a big gain in between Byrd and Biggers.  McDuffie made a nice play on Freeman’s next pass, breaking up a throw intended for Carter.

Byrd picked off Freeman’s pass attempt to Jackson by timing his jump perfectly in the left corner of the field. Freeman came right back on the next play and threw a TD strike to Filani and put the ball out of Willingham’s reach.

Johnson took over for the next four reps and was 4-of-4 through the air, but didn’t generate many big plays. He hit Purvis for a short out in front of McCoy, and followed that up with a short out to Jackson in front of Arrington. But on his second throw, Johnson missed a wide-open Vaughan in the left flat as Koutouvides was late getting over.

Johnson found Filani, who has been impressive in camp, for a big gain down to the 2-yard line before Willingham came over from his safety spot. Johnson’s final throw was a beautiful strike to Jackson over Biggers for a nice gain.

Biggers bounced back on the next play, picking off Freeman after he threw late to Stroughter. Freeman telegraphed his throw and Biggers literally had to fight off Nicholson for the pick as either defender could have come away with the ball.

Freeman shrugged off that pick and hit Jackson in stride down the left sidelines on one play before hitting Filani down the right sidelines on his final throw.

In the 11-on-11 session, none of the quarterbacks had an impressive practice in large part because the defensive line had huge day. McCown used his mobility to escape sacks, but couldn’t make much happen with his arm, while Leftwich and Freeman took a number of sacks from the defensive line.

Leftwich showed some of the big arm and downfield playmaking ability that he demonstrated in Saturday nights’ practice. On play action, Leftwich rolled out slightly and launched a bomb to wide receiver Michael Clayton who had beaten cornerback Torrie Cox. Clayton hauled in the pass and coasted 10 yards in the end zone for what was about a 60-yard touchdown pass.

McCown’s first pass attempt was incomplete as he had to throw the ball away as he was being pressured outside the pocket by both Wilkerson and linebacker Adam Hayward.

Williams squirted free up the middle for a nice run through a small crease created by center Jeff Faine. One thing that quarterbacks coach Greg Olson has his signal callers do is execute play-action fakes every time the Bucs run the ball. The play-action fakes are carried out in the manner that the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos would carry them out under Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan, respectively.

McCown’s only completion in the run-heavy 11-on-11 session was a slant to Campbell, who immediately got hit by Crowell.

Freeman made a nice read and found rookie running back Vaughan open in the right flat. Crowell closed quickly, but Vaughan slammed the breaks on and allowed Crowell to whiz right by as the Richmond product raced up the right sidelines for extra yardage.

Later in the second dose of 11-on-11, linebacker Quincy Black showed how effective the Go package can be with the rushes he made from left defensive end on Sunday. His first sack came when he beat right tackle Jeremy Trueblood off the snap with a speed rush around the outside, Black then knifed through to the inside and was in Leftwich’s face in an instant. Black got to Leftwich for another sack that had defensive end Gaines Adams there at the same time.

Black beat right tackle Anthony Alabi for another sack. This time he got Freeman. After Black stopped in the face of Freeman, the rookie quarterback scrambled and threw downfield. The pass was intended for wide receiver Joel Filani, but was intercepted by safety Donte Nicholson. By Pewter Report’s count Black had about 2.5 sacks in Sunday’s practice, including the one he shared with Adams.

Adams shared a sack of Leftwich with defensive tackles Ryan Sims and Chris Hovan. The three converged on the veteran at about the same time. Sims helped cause another sack of Leftwich with some good pressure up the middle. Leftwich escaped to his right but linebacker Jermaine Phillips flew into the backfield and tagged Leftwich for the sack. Lefwitch also was sacked by defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson.

At one point, Leftwich was sacked on three straight plays.

Leftwich did help produce one of the best plays that the offense had on Sunday. The starting offensive line set up a beautiful screen that Leftwich executed perfectly. The veteran quarterbacks drew the defensive line to him before tossing a pass into the flat to Smith. Center Jeff Faine and guard Jeremy Zuttah cleared the path for Smith. Faine put a massive block on linebacker Adam Hayward, and Zuttah contributed to the pancake shot that Hayward took. Smith raced downfield for a gain of around 20 yards.

That play was one of the final six plays of practice, which were live. Morris, who was disgusted with his offensive linemen and quarterbacks on Sunday due to all the sacks and interceptions, called his entire team together to voice his displeasure and then told them that the last six plays were going to be full speed, tackle plays.

One of Leftwich’s final passes was a slant to Hankton that was on the numbers but was slapped away by cornerback Ronde Barber.

Defensive tackle Roy Miller beat guard Davin Joseph for a nice pressure that forced McCown to run out of the pocket and throw the ball away. Adams had a good practice rushing the passer, but feasted mainly on the backup offensive linemen. Left tackle Donald Penn did a good job of neutralizing Adams.

Leftwich really struggled on Sunday afternoon by holding onto the ball too long and not showing any mobility to elude defenders. McCown didn’t make the fatal mistakes that Leftwich made, but once again did not rise to the occasion and make many big plays. He just played safe, efficient football while working largely with the second-string offense on Sunday.

Freeman threw three picks on Sunday and was late on some throws, but did have some bright moments in a limited number of snaps during 11-on-11, including two great throws to Campbell in between defenders, and a nice throw to Clark against Biggers on the final play of practice.

After the whipping that the offensive line took in practice, the coaching staff made it a point to discuss it. After Morris spoke to the entire team, the offensive line had to stay after practice where Morris and other coaches spoke to the unit about their rough showing.

Morris was not pleased with the quarterback play on Sunday, which was below average. All three primary quarterbacks – McCown, Leftwich and Freeman – had their worst outings of camp, so no winner will be awarded. Once again, Johnson was limited to reps in 7-on-7 and did not look exceptionally sharp there, either.

McCown 2, Leftwich 0, Freeman 0

Tickets to both of Tampa Bay's training camp practices at One Buc Place on Monday are still available. It was previously announced that the tickets for Monday's practices had sold out, but the Bucs have made more tickets available.

To secure tickets to Bucs training camp visit One Buc Club. Tickets can also be obtained at One Buc Place as long as they are available.

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