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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the fields of One Buc Place on Wednesday afternoon for the second practice of the day. With temperatures in the 90s and under sunny skies, the Bucs welcomed one player key player back to practice.
Tight end Kellen Winslow returned to practice after missing a few sessions with an ankle injury. Wide receiver Antonio Bryant (knee) returned to practice in a limited capacity, as did wide receiver Joel Filani. (hamstring). Wide receiver Michael Clayton observed practice with a hamstring pull. Linebacker Angelo Crowell (hamstring) was held out of the workout and isn't expected back until next week.
The players started out practice in shells (shorts, shoulder pads, jerseys, and helmets). After warming up, head coach Raheem Morris huddled the team up and told them they could take off their shoulder pads. The players welcomed that subtraction, and many seemed very happy to have a practice without hitting after this morning's physical workout.
To start the practice, the defensive ends worked on dropping into coverage. The ends worked on their zone drops and picking up receivers coming out of the backfield. They also practiced switching receivers to cover from one running straight downfield to a receiver crossing across the field. Defensive end Gaines Adams stood out well in this drill for his fluid movements and cutting.
Tampa Bay dedicated the first part of Thursday afternoon's practice to special teams work, specifically kickoff off returns and coverage. The Bucs also spent another part of practice working on kickoffs, and it was interesting to see rookie defensive tackle Roy Miller taking reps as a blocker on the first-team kickoff return team.
The amount of special teams work put in wasn't unusual, though, as the Bucs have been dedicating a lot of time to special teams in each practice as well as scheduling a few exclusive special teams practices during training camp.
Running backs Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham, Cadillac Williams, Clifton Smith, wide receivers Brian Clark and Maurice Stovall, and cornerbacks Elbert Mack and Torrie Cox took turns fielding kickoffs and did a good job of catching the ball cleanly.
Bucs rookie offensive lineman Marc Dile took some warm-up reps at center, which was a bit unusual. The other interesting observation Pewter Report made was second-year O-lineman Jeremy Zuttah was not taking reps at center during this session. Usually he does, but that was not the case this afternoon.
The one-on-one session of the offensive linemen against the defensive linemen was not as notable as when the players are wearing pads. During some of the reps the players stopped early and did not perform a complete rush. There were a few notable rushes.
Defensive end Stylez White beat left tackle Donald Penn on a hard jab to the outside and a quick cut in towards to the quarterback marker. Penn had been performing well against White. Adams beat Trueblood with a speed rush around the corner, and Trueblood and Adams had some draws in other attempts.
Defensive tackle Greg Peterson beat center Rob Bruggeman on a chop and speed rush up the middle. Bruggeman came back to anchor well and stop two bull rushes from defensive tackle Dre Moore.
Guard Davin Joseph did better against defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson than he had in previous sessions. Joseph held Wilkerson off for a while, but if the prospective quarterback held onto the ball for an extra second Wilkerson probably would have applied some pressure.
In the first 11-on-11 session, quarterback Luke McCown had a mixed outing. On his first rep McCown ran a bootleg and was pressured by defensive end Kyle Moore. McCown threw a pass before getting sacked and wide receiver Dexter Jackson dove for the pass, but it fell in front of him. Cornerback Torrie Cox had close coverage on Jackson.
On a play action fake, McCown threw a bomb downfield for wide receiver Kelly Campbell. Cornerback E.J. Biggers was a step behind Campbell, and safety Donte Nicholson was in pursuit as well. Campbell laid out for the ball but he came up short.
A few plays later McCown was sacked by backup defensive tackle Chris Bradwell. He had beaten Joseph and Trueblood. Tight end John Gilmore was in the vicinity as well. Joseph and Trueblood had some kind of miscommunication as to who was supposed to block Bradwell. After the play they were trying to figure it out.
One of the better plays of the session for McCown came when he hit tight end Ryan Purvis in stride downfield on a crossing route. Purvis was supposed to be covered by linebacker Geno Hayes, but Hayes left his mark to come up on a back coming out of the backfield. Purvis slipped in the middle of the defense and plenty of running room on the accurate pass from McCown.
Later, McCown had a nice completion to wide receiver Brian Clark. McCown scrambled out of the pocket to buy time for his receivers. Clark ran back towards McCown, cornerback Aqib Talib trailed Clark and McCown fired the ball into Clark for about a 15-yard gain. Talib pushed Clark out of bounds, but was upset with himself for letting Clark get open.
Quarterback Byron Leftwich had a nice completion in the session to tight end Jason Pociask. Leftwich gunned the ball into Pociask and safety Tanard Jackson flew up and would have delivered a big hit if the players were hitting.
Jackson earned the praise of defensive coordinator Jim Bates on one play when he chased down running back Kareem Huggins and would have forced him out of bounds.
"There is no substitute for precision," yelled Bates as he ran in to high-five Jackson. "That's an excellent job."
Tanard Jackson would earn more praise from his teammates and coaches later in the practice.
Bucs rookie wide receiver Sammie Stroughter was impressive in warm-ups while others dropped passes. Stroughter's most impressive catch came on a deep ball thrown by McCown. Stroughter hauled it in one-handed. A few plays later, Stroughter made another impressive grab from McCown, drawing cheers from the fans in attendance.
In the meantime, tight end Jason Pociask dropped a pass from McCown, fullback B.J. Askew dropped a swing pass from rookie QB Josh Freeman, WR Pat Carter dropped a pass from McCown and RB Cadillac Williams dropped a ball.
While he was the victim of some dropped passes during warm-ups, McCown wasn't particularly sharp this afternoon. One of his passes for Pociask was a little high and sailed over the tight end's hands across the middle of the field towards the beginning of the workout.
McCown has been very consistent from a play-action standpoint. He executes these play fakes quite well. During the team's 11-on-11 period, McCown took the snap from center, faked tossed to rookie RB Kareem Huggins, rolled out to his right and completed a pass to wide receiver Dexter Jackson near the sideline. Cox was in coverage.
That was one of McCown's better throws and plays this afternoon. He struggled with accuracy and decision-making during the workout. During the same 11-on-11 session, McCown overthrew WR Kelly Campbell down the left sideline.
A few plays later, McCown would have been sacked by rookie defensive end Kyle Moore, who beat tackle Demar Dotson around the corner. But the sack didn't actually occur since the pads weren't on.
During play-install, Leftwich threw several screen passes, including well-executed ones to Graham and Williams.
Leftwich completed a pass from Pociask during an 11-on-11 drill. His throw was a good one made down the right seam. However, on the next play Leftwich was flagged by an official for delay of game.
During an 7-on-7 session, Leftwich was nearly intercepted by Bucs safety Tanard Jackson, who dropped the pick across the middle of the field. He punished himself by doing push-ups.
But Tanard Jackson sought redemption and capitalized on his next pick opportunity, intercepting McCown on a pass thrown to Stroughter down the right seam. Jackson made a great read and got a great jump on the play.
"I've had a lot of opportunities to make plays on the ball this camp, and I finally got my hands on one today for the first time," Jackson said. "I wanted to take it to the house and get used to that, too. That's what we're trying to do with this defense – get the ball back and score."
One play later, McCown threw his best pass of the practice, launching a perfectly thrown deep ball to Carter in the back of the end zone, but Carter couldn't hold onto the ball, which hit him directly in the hands after he had beaten CB E.J. Biggers to the end zone.
From there, Leftwich was victimized by a rare dropped pass by WR Brian Clark. One play later, Leftwich put his cannon arm on display, but overthrew Stroughter down the right side of the field in the end zone. The rookie receiver had beaten CB Kyle Arrington and S Donte Nicholson on the play.
Several of the offensive plays run this afternoon were the same ones as this morning, including an end-around to Dexter Jackson, but this time Jackson ran it to the right side of the field.
Dexter Jackson showed some toughness this afternoon, going over the middle and hauling in a rocket pass thrown by McCown in-between Arrington and Nicholson.
Linebacker Quincy Black picked up where he left off this morning, sniffing out a swing pass from Leftwich to TE John Gilmore, who would have been blown up had the pads been on.
Bucs second-year CB Elbert Mack showed similar coverage ability during the final 11-on-11 session of practice, but was flagged for pass interference on a pass thrown by Leftwich to Stovall, which fell incomplete.
The Bucs are scheduled to hold one practice Thursday. The afternoon workout likely will be in full pads.
PEWTER REPORT QB SCORECARD Leftwich won this afternoon’s quarterback battle, which bodes well for his chances of winning the starting job in preseason since he’s starting to be more consistent. He still has room for improvement, especially when it comes to getting rid of the ball quicker.
McCown has struggled the last few practices, and this afternoon might have been his worst outing from an accuracy standpoint even though there appeared to be fewer reps.
At this point, Freeman is being removed from the QB Scorecard since he’s not receiving enough reps to realistically compete for the starting job. Second-year QB Josh Johnson appears to be the odd man out unless there is an injury since he's not getting a lot of work, either.