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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took to the fields at One Buc Place in late morning on Monday for their fourth practice of training camp 2009. The conditions were hot and humid. Temperatures were in the 90’s under clear sunny skies. Sitting out the practice was wide receiver Antonio Bryant with a mild knee sprain. Tight end Kellen Winslow injured his ankle part way through practice. Linebacker Angelo Crowell and wide receiver Joel Filani were dealing with hamstring pulls as well.

The running backs started practice with their normal drills, including the oversized green balls being rolled laterally as the backs cut through the two levels. The halfbacks also worked on catching passes after running around a curved set of blocking dummies. The dummies were a few yards apart and blocked the sight line of the backs as they were looking towards a jugs machine that sent some hard passes at them.

Cadillac Williams had the most impressive session making some wonderful catches on passes that were high over his head or behind him. Clifton Smith had some good grabs as well. Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward took the first reps but the timing with the JUGGS machine operator made many of the passes uncatchable. The timing was figured out by the time Williams, Smith, and the other backs had their turns.

Bucs nose tackle Chris Hovan looks like he is carrying his added bulk well. At 310 pounds or so, Hovan has put on about 10-15 pounds this offseason to hold up in Jim Bates’ new defense, which is a gap-and-a-half scheme. Hovan isn’t the quickest guy in the world, but the extra muscle isn’t slowing him down.

On Monday, Greg Peterson returned to practice from his knee injury. He looked a little behind in terms of conditioning and football-readiness, which is to be expected as he not only missed the first two days of camp but he missed the team’s mandatory mini-camp.

Defensive coordinator Jim Bates was working closely with the defensive linemen this morning during the individual period as they were working on disengaging from offensive linemen and filling the gap against the run. Bates was telling his linemen to get a good pop in when they strike the offensive linemen as it makes it easier to shed their block.

Bates and defensive line coach Robert Nunn were working with Ryan Sims to stay low and maintain his proper pad level one he’s shed the block. Bates wanted Moore to fire his hands out harder and strike the breastplate of the lineman in front of him.

The defensive line and offensive line squared off for the first time early in practice in a run blocking/run defense session. Gaines Adams did a good job of quickly shedding Donald Penn’s block. Right guard Davin Joseph buried Ryan Sims with a run block, driving him to the ground. Hovan and left guard Jeremy Zuttah went toe-to-toe and had an intense stalemate.

Rookie defensive tackle Roy Miller showed off his strength by slinging fellow rookie Marc Dile to the ground. Rookie defensive end Jarriett Buie had a very good day and easily beat right tackle Anthony Alabi twice by shedding his block.

After taking on the offensive linemen, the defensive linemen worked on their pass rushing moves in another individual drill. Rookies Rashaad Duncan and Kyle Moore displayed a very good rip move. The most polished pass rusher on the team remains Jimmy Wilkerson, who could be poised for a very big year.

Black came over from the linebackers and worked on his pass rushing skills at left defensive end as Bates continued to spend time with the defensive linemen. Linebackers coach Joe Barry worked on throwing a wobbly ball up in the air and having his linebackers jump up and get the ball. This drill was to simulate a ball that was tipped at the line. The assistant coaches are trying to have their players practice every imaginable scenario, which is a very good sign.

During the first red zone period, which featured the run exclusively, quarterback Byron Leftwich got reps with the starters. Another notable starter at Sam (strongside) linebacker was Geno Hayes. Throughout camp he and Quincy Black have taken turns getting the first team reps at Sam. Jermaine Phillips has been the starter at Will (weakside) linebacker. Hayes had a good series and held up well. He did not shy away from engaging offensive linemen, and took on some big blocks and held his ground. Hayes and Penn had some good battles in this session.

With Hayes getting the first-string reps at strongside linebacker, Black got reps with the second string and had a great run fit against Cadillac Williams on an off-tackle run. Black has done a much better job of sticking his nose into the pile and making a tackle in a physical manner. New linebacker Jermaine Phillips needs to adopt the same style of play. Phillips has not been taking on blockers. Instead, he’s been trying to run around them a little too often.

Both Derrick Ward and Clifton Smith showed some great burst to the outside on touchdown runs from about 10-15 yards away. That prompted Bates to yell to his players, “They can’t open us up! They can’t slice us, guys!”

Dre Moore played some defensive tackle and left defensive end on Monday. When he was lined up at defensive end, Moore, Peterson and Duncan and Buie comprised the Bucs’ third-string defensive line. Moore held up well at left end and was instrumental in making a couple stops in the red zone drill.

In that scrimmage portion right guard Davin Joseph and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood opened some big holes. Graham ripped off a sizeable run behind the right side, and Ward had a touchdown run off the left side of the offensive line. Tight end John Gilmore made a great block five yards downfield to seal the edge for Ward to veer inside the 10-yard line and into the end zone.

A few defenders showed well in this series other than Hayes. Middle linebackers Barrett Ruud and Rod Wilson performed well in stuffing a number of runs, and so did Moore. Moore wound up having a phenomenal practice, and put on a lot of pass pressure during the scrimmages later in practice.

The Bucs broke into field goal practice after the run scrimmage. The first attempt was a fake where Josh Bidwell had tight end Jerramy Stevens for a touchdown for a moment. Ruud closed the gap and Bidwell’s pass was poorly thrown and fell incomplete.

Kicker Mike Nugent had a mixed outing in his kick attempts. Nugent nailed kicks from 42, 44, and 54 yards. He missed a 52-yard field goal wide left, and had a 44-yard field goal blocked. The block looked to be more the fault of the second team offensive line allowing penetration. Nugent had plenty of leg on all of his kicks, including the 54-yarder. Kicker Matt Bryant did not kick on Monday morning.

The Buccaneers worked on kickoffs and punts as well. The starting kick return unit had Hayes, Black, safeties Will Allen, Donte Nicholson and Sabby Piscitelli as well as linebacker Niko Koutouvides on the front line. The second line of blockers comprised of linebacker Adam Hayward, fullback B.J. Askew, and Gilmore. Wide receiver Maurice Stovall was the lead blocker for kick returner Smith. Cornerback Elbert Mack subbed in for Stovall some.

During the special teams portion of practice Bucs Hall-of-Fame defensive end Lee Roy Selmon spent some time talking one-on-one with former Oklahoma defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson, and did the same with defensive end Gaines Adams.

The offensive line and defensive line went 1-on-1 in some interesting pass rush battles. Here is the scorecard with some noteworthy comments. There were a few draws from some of the backups including the two reps from Peterson, who was practicing for the first time in training camp.

The offensive line started out with four wins: Wilkerson was blocked effectively by Joseph, Trueblood held off Adams, Zuttah stonewalled Hovan, and Penn blocked Stylez White easily. Sims got the defense going with a superb rush where he blew by center Jeff Faine off the snap. Adams went against Trueblood again, and the right tackle pushed Adams to the ground violently. It could have been a pancake block if Trueblood dove on top of Adams.

Penn stopped White for a second time, but Hovan got revenge on Zuttah when he pushed the second-year guard back into the quarterback marker. Miller, whose mentor is Hovan, followed the teacher’s example by blowing by fellow rookie guard Rob Bruggeman. Miller put on a wicked spin move to fly by Bruggeman.

Buie had the surprise rush of the session when he used a lightning fast spin to fly by Penn and get to the marker. It was the most impressive rush of the one-on-ones. Buie also had success against James Lee and Alabi.

Dre Moore took guard Dile and pushed him straight back into quarterback marker. Offensive tackle Demar Dotson had a good showing as he beat rookie defensive end Kyle Moore twice. Guard Julius Wilson also made a victory over Chris Bradwell look easy.

While the offensive and defensive line were squaring off, two sets of 7-of-7 drills were taking place with Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich on the far field end of the field and Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson on the closer side. Between watching these drills and the O-line and D-line collide, Pewter Report was not able to chronicle every play. But here are some highlights.

McCown fared well in the 7-on-7’s, throwing a touchdown pass across the middle to Kelly Campbell for his second score. His first one went to Stevens after McCown scanned the whole field, slid to the left and saw the big tight end come open in the end zone.

Freeman also threw a touchdown pass to tight end Ryan Purvis, rifling a ball in between safeties C.J. Byrd and DeAngelo Willingham.

Johnson threw a pass to Filani, which hit him in the hands and fell incomplete. Filani, who later hurt his hamstring, has really opened some eyes in training camp and that was a rare drop. Still, assistant wide receivers coach Tim Berbenich said, “Too many balls on the ground, guys.”

In the first 11-on-11 scrimmage in the red zone, the defensive line had some consistent pass rush. The second-team offensive line struggled again to hold their blocks. The first play of the team scrimmage did not start well for the offense. Quarterback Byron Leftwich started out with the first series and on the first play he fumbled the ball as he reached back to throw. The ball could have been knocked out by Hovan, who had come around behind Leftwich, but either way the ball was a clear fumble.

The defense kept up the momentum with a couple of quick sacks from Dre Moore. Moore sacked McCown on one of his first reps, and added another sack a few plays later beating Alabi to sack Leftwich. McCown took another sack this time coming from defensive ends Kyle Moore and White, who closed quickly from both sides.

McCown bounced back with a touchdown pass to Stovall. McCown made that touchdown happen as he looked a safety off a few steps in the middle of the field, and then came back to Stovall who was running down the seam and being trailed by Wilson.

He also threw a laser touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Clayton who ran a slant over the middle of the field into the end zone. Hayes had close coverage, but the throw from McCown was perfect, and Clayton held onto the bullet. McCown celebrated his touchdown passes with a fist pump and yell, along with yelling accolades at his offensive teammates.

In a similar play, Leftwich threw a fastball towards the goal line to tight end Jason Pociask between a few defenders. Pociask did not reward his quarterback by dropping the pass in what would have been a nice touchdown pass. Leftwich continued to throw into the end zone and almost laced a touchdown into wide receiver Brian Clark, but cornerback Ronde Barber slapped the pass away at the last second.

Leftwich was the victim of another drop this time by Stovall. Along the sideline at the one-yard line Stovall dove and had the ball in his hands but dropped the pass. While it wasn’t an easy catch, it was a catch he should have made, and Stovall pounded the ground in frustration.

Leftwich was rewarded with a touchdown pass to fullback B.J. Askew in the right flat.

In the second 11-on-11 scrimmage, the running backs produced some nice plays. Ward caught a pass in the flat from Leftwich and was pursued by Ruud, Ward spun away from Ruud and raced down the sideline for a sizeable gain before being pushed out of bounds.

McCown fumbled his first snap of the 11-on-11 session, which drew some groans from head coach Raheem Morris. McCown was accountable and told Morris that the fumble was his fault, not the center’s.

Williams ripped off a great run in this session. Running behind Joseph and Trueblood on a draw, Williams scatted his way by a few defenders and got up field for over a 10-yard gain. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates brought his safeties together after that play and gave them some instruction on recognizing the draws, and coming up quickly to tackle the ball carrier. The offense tried another draw this time with Ward, the defense was ready for it that time as it was snuffed out quickly by linebacker Adam Hayward. 

Williams made a great catch on a screen pass that was thrown way too high by Leftwich. That allowed cornerback Elbert Mack to close on the play and make the tackle at the line of scrimmage.

McCown took the most sacks today of the four practices he’s had in camp, but it wasn’t due to him holding on to the ball too long all the time. McCown was working with the second-string offensive line, which got shredded for the second day in a row as defensive tackle Chris Bradwell shot threw the line to sack McCown.

Leftwich ended the day on a positive note, throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jameel Cook, who had a step on Phillips.

The final play of the practice had McCown dropping back to pass. Adams was blocked well by rookie Xavier Fulton, who had neutralized Adams on the play before, but the veteran defensive end read McCown’s eyes and batted down the pass for an incompletion.

Freeman received a lot less reps in the morning practice on Monday. Perhaps it was due to the three interceptions he threw on Sunday, but Freeman got no more than a rep or two in the team scrimmages outside of the 7-on-7’s.

PEWTER REPORT QB SCORECARD
The biggest knock on McCown thus far in practice is the lack of touchdown passes he’s thrown. But today McCown threw four TDs – two in 7-on-7’s and one in the 11-on-11 session to Clayton. He also remains the only quarterback that hasn’t thrown an interception through four practices. But he did have a fumble and took more sacks than he normally does. Perhaps that was because he was mostly playing with the second-string offensive line.

While McCown had a great day, Leftwich stayed away from interceptions, which had been his biggest detriment through the first three practices. Like McCown, Leftwich had a fumble, so that was a draw. Although Leftwich wasn’t a mad bomber today and throwing touchdown passes downfield, he did a better job of getting rid of the ball quicker than he had and finished the practice strong. The opposite was true for McCown, who started off hot and cooled a bit. The quarterback play was fairly even today, but Leftwich definitely gets the nod for improving his accuracy and staying away from interceptions.

Freeman and Johnson were relegated to 7-on-7 work.

McCown 2, Leftwich 1, Freeman 0

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