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Monday afternoon's practice was held in hot conditions under sunny skies. Temperatures were in the low 90s. A few Bucs players were not practicing on Monday afternoon. Wide receiver Antonio Bryant (knee), tight end Kellen Winslow (ankle), wide receiver Joel Filani (hamstring), and linebacker Angelo Crowell (hamstring) were not practicing. Most of them were observing practice from the sideline.
During the pre-practice warm-up period, several of the team's notable players voluntarily ran over to the sidelines to sign autographs for the fans in attendance. Among them were quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson, middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, cornerback Ronde Barber, defensive end Gaines Adams and defensive tackle Chris Hovan.
Every player was dressed in shells (helmets, shoulder pads, jerseys and shorts) except for centers Jeff Faine, Sean Mahan and Rob Bruggeman. Those three were in full pads and pants because head coach Raheem Morris wants the quarterbacks to have the same feel when taking the snap from under center.
During the individual period, the running backs were practicing making cuts and changing the ball from one hand to the other hand to simulate breaking the run down the sidelines and protecting the ball by putting it closest to the sidelines.
In warm-ups wide receiver Brian Clark and running back Earnest Graham dropped passes which caused some hissing from the crowd. Both players played back to fans.
The quarterbacks and wide receivers were working on their timing running deep and intermediate routes. The quarterbacks were really zipping the ball to the receivers, displaying a lot of velocity on their throws. The quarterbacks also worked on rolling out and throwing 40-yard passes into the end zone. The vast majority of the connections were made between the passers and the receivers.
During the first 11-on-11 period, the defense proved to be quite formidable in the passing game. In the running game, the offense proved its mettle. Guard Davin Joseph threw down defensive tackle Ryan Sims on an outside run.
In the first 11-on-11 possession, quarterback Byron Leftwich tried to connect with Clark on a deep play action pass along the sideline. Cornerback Kyle Arrington broke up the pass but was flagged for interference. If Leftwich had thrown the ball a little bit earlier Clark could have potentially broken away downfield. Leftwich continued to work the play action passing game, this time throwing a hard pass into wide receiver Michael Clayton for 15 yards.
Arrington wasn't the only guilty party on penalties during Monday afternoon's practice. Running back Derrick Ward had big run off the left side of the offensive line called back on a holding penalty. Ward had a run stuffed by defensive end Jarriett Buie, but on the play tight end John Gilmore was flagged for a false start as well.
The Bucs were forced to run a suicide spring across the football field.
"Penalty on Kelly Campbell to the sideline," yelled Raheem Morris.
Campbell was too close to the huddle despite being out of the play. Campbell and other players were standing along a yard line that is about 10 yards behind the pocket. Morris had warned the players and coaches to stay behind the yard line, and Campbell was chosen to help make the point. The players lined up on a sideline and ran spring and back across the field. Some of the coaches joined in the sprint, including running backs coach Steve Logan.
Quarterback Luke McCown called a nice audible and threw a nice underneath pass to Cortez Hankton against cornerback Elbert Mack. On the next play, McCown handed off to running back Derrick Ward on a draw, but offensive lineman Julius Wilson was flagged for holding on the play.
Cadillac Williams had a great run up the middle, dodging and weaving would-be tacklers for 20 yards.
During the 7-on-7 red zone period, McCown started off and was forced to throw an incompletion as no one was open. The red zone defense really tightened up and gave the offense fits. McCown almost threw his first pick of training camp when cornerback Aqib Talib cut in front of Clark in the end zone to break up the pass. On his next throw, Mack would accomplish that feat, stepping in front of Clark for the end zone INT.
Leftwich had his first two passes broken up. The first one was intended for Campbell and was batted away by cornerback Ronde Barber. The second throw was to running back Clifton Smith and was knocked down by linebacker Geno Hayes. Leftwich's third pass was incomplete as the defense was absolutely blanketing the receivers.
Leftwich finally broke the drought when he threw a touchdown pass to Maurice Stovall in the back of the end zone in front of safety C.J. Byrd.
McCown got into the act to make up for his interception, throwing an amazing pass to Ward in the corner of the end zone with middle linebacker Rod Wilson in coverage. Ward out-jumped Wilson for the fade pass in the left back corner.
Leftwich was interception-free once again in the afternoon, but had some close calls, including free safety Tanard Jackson swatting away one of his passes in the end zone. But Leftwich came back strong and threw a high touchdown pass that tight end Jason Pociask was able to come down with in the middle of the end zone.
McCown almost threw a touchdown following that play, but free safety Will Allen ripped it out of tight end Ryan Purvis' grasp in the end zone.
During the second 11-on-11 period, which simulated a third-and-5 situation, McCown threw an incompletion to Michael Clayton, who was running a crossing route. McCown made up for that errant throw with the pass of the day, a fade down the right sidelines to Hankton, who grabbed the ball before Talib could make a play on the ball. The pass was reminiscent of the throw that Josh Freeman made to Jordy Nelson against Talib back in 2006 when Freeman was at Kansas State and Talib was at Kansas, which is a popular YouTube clip. Hankton raced down the field for a touchdown.
After hitting Cadillac Williams in the flat for a short gain, McCown loaded up and threw another fade, this time down the left sidelines to Campbell, who made a great diving catch against Mack for a gain of 40 yards.
It should be noted that while Hayes was the starting strongside linebacker this morning, Quincy Black was the starter this afternoon.
In the one-on-one between the defensive and offensive line, the offense had the upper hand in Monday's afternoon practice. The highlights of the one-on-ones included right tackle Jeremy Trueblood stonewalling defensive end Gaines Adams like he did in the morning practice on the first rep. Adams finally beat Trueblood in the rematch, and did so by employing a new move. He went outside and then came back to the middle by doing a rip move.
"That's it Gaines," yelled defensive line coach Todd Wash. Wash went on to say to Adams that was exactly what the coaches had been teaching him.
Guard Jeremy Zuttah had a strong showing and was unfazed by defensive end Kyle Moore's spin move. Defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson beat right guard Davin Joseph badly on two tries. Wilkerson used a speed rush both times. Defensive tackles Ryan and Dre Moore had a lot of success in the one-on-ones with bull rushes. Moore won all three of his attempts and showed a nice rip move on one of them. Moore also rushed from left defensive end some. Defensive end Jarriett Buie had a nice rush as well. Offensive lineman Demar Dotson had to run a lap around the field for punishment after committing a false start.
During the special teams portion of practice, the Bucs practiced different punt coverages. The starting punt blocking unit featured safety Will Allen, Mack, Clark, linebacker Niko Koutouvides, safety Sabby Piscitelli, wide receiver Maurice Stovall, Black, and safety Donte Nicholson. The gunner blockers were Talib, and safety Tanard Jackson. Returning the punts was running back Clifton Smith.
In the second 11-on-11 session there were some near turnovers for the offense. Leftwich had a couple of near interceptions. His first was on an out route that was jumped by Mack. The second-year corner dove in and slapped the ball away and was close to hauling it in.
The next near interception was a clear drop by the defender. Cornerback E.J. Biggers stepped in front of a telegraphed Leftwich pass intended for Jackson again. Biggers had the ball hit him square in the chest before falling incomplete. The read that Biggers made to get in position on that play caused the coaches and teammates to high five and praise him.
Leftwich threw wide of wideout Michael Clayton who was covered by Arrington, but Leftwich may have been sacked by defensive end Stylez White on a live play. The veteran signal caller came back and made a nice read and decision on a jailbreak blitz. With Jackson leaping to block the pass, he lofted the ball into Smith who raced up field with open grass due to all the blitzing defenders.
Leftwich finished the practice with a couple of incompletions that were off the mark. One was a near touchdown, but Clayton came down out of bounds in the back end of the end zone. Leftwich tried to throw a fade to Stovall, but the duo was not on the same page as Stovall stopped running in the front of the end zone, and the pass went towards the rear pylon.
Rookie quarterback Josh Freeman had his second straight practice of not a lot of reps. He threw two incompletions, but one of them would have been a sack. Safety C.J. Byrd and Buie were standing in front of Freeman while he threw the incompletion.
In the final 11-on-11 period, McCown threw a nice pass to Clark, who made a nice catch across the middle for a first down. McCown's second play was thwarted when Gilmore was flagged for lining up offsides.
McCown's final play was a dropped touchdown pass by rookie receiver Sammie Stroughter in the back of the end zone.
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If it weren't for the interception McCown would have won the practice. Leftwich came close to throwing a few interceptions, but did not turn the ball over. McCown had more touchdown passes than Leftwich, and completed a high percentage of his passes than the former Jaguars top-10 pick, but he turned the ball over. Thus, Monday's afternoon practice was a draw.
Freeman and Josh Johnson observed mostly.
McCown 2, Leftwich 1, Freeman 0