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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field at One Buccaneer Place for one of two practices Saturday, the first of which was held this morning.
The weekend workout was witnessed by thousands of fans that were in attendance. This morning’s practice might have been the hottest one of training camp thus far. The practice was held under sunny skies and in hot and humid conditions, with temperatures in the 90s. Tampa Bay was decked out in full pads, which has been the standard garb for the 2009 training camp.
Several players were held out of Saturday morning’s workout, including right tackle Jeremy Trueblood (back), running back Derrick Ward (foot), linebacker Angelo Crowell (hamstring), running back Clifton Smith (hamstring), wide receiver Michael Clayton (hamstring), WR Kelly Campbell (quad), center Jeff Faine (groin), WR Joel Filani (hamstring) and DT Greg Peterson (knee).
The Bucs also held cornerback Ronde Barber out of practice. Head coach Raheem Morris jokingly told the media after practice that Barber, 34, simply “needed an oil change,” meaning some rest.
Bucs tight end John Gilmore and kicker Matt Bryant returned to practice this morning. Bryant attempted several kicks off to the side of the practice fields, but was only kicking at 60 percent leg strength.
Tampa Bay dedicated a lot of time to special teams work this morning, and that included field goals. However, when the Bucs lined up to kick field goals, Bryant didn’t actually kick, which suggests his leg isn’t 100 percent healthy yet.
During the field goal session, the Bucs practiced fake field goals. Bryant was the kicker on the field and he did not attempt a single field goal due to the fact that his leg is not 100 percent yet. Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia was not only working on fake field goals with holder Josh Bidwell rolling out and throwing the ball, but he also was working hard on his team defending fake field goals.
Bryant’s only kicks of the day were two pooch kicks. His first one went out into the end zone by a yard or so. His second pooch kick was fielded by cornerback Aqib Talib.
Bisaccia was also working on having Bidwell punt out of the end zone with the regular protection as well as max protection.
During the individual period, the defensive linemen were practicing with a real light tempo, just going against run-stuffing technique. One thing that is clear is how defensive end Gaines Adams’ lower body looks considerably bigger. He really hit the squat rack in the weight room hard this offseason for the first time in his career. Now Adams has a much bigger base and has more power to hold up against the run. Gone are the lanky legs he had last year.
The offensive and defensive linemen squared off in some run blocking drills. One of the notable things was the play of 6-foot-9, 315-pound Demar Dotson, who was splitting first-team reps today with Anthony Alabi due to Trueblood’s absence. Dotson needs to get proper leverage and knee bend in his run blocking and pass sets.
Dotson had a few nice blocks during Tampa Bay’s first 9-on-7 period of the practice, ceiling off the perimeter for long runs by running back Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams on consecutive plays.
What is amazing about this big, physical specimen is that he has only played one year of organized football and that was last year as a defensive tackle at Southern Miss. Dotson played basketball for the Golden Eagles and only played hoops in high school. The fact that he is not only surviving at the NFL level, but somewhat thriving is an amazing feat. Dotson, who had his helmet pushed off twice by defensive Kyle Moore, is a physical player with quick feet. He’s just really raw and still learning how to play football and all of the intricacies that come with being an offensive lineman.
Defensive end Kyle Moore and defensive tackle Dre Moore aren’t related, but both Moores excelled today during the run-stuffing period. Kyle Moore, the Bucs’ fourth-round pick, has essentially made the team and things are looking good for Dre Moore, too.
During the run period, Graham showed some nice speed and determination getting to the corner. So did first-year player Kareem Huggins, who has a lot of quickness and acceleration. Huggins, whom Pewter Report identified as a training camp sleeper in its July issue, has lived up to his billing. Huggins won’t make the 53-man roster with Graham, Williams, Smith and Ward ahead of him on the depth chart, but don’t be surprised if he isn’t on the practice squad. With his build, he’s basically a Smith clone, and being from Morris’ alma mater, Hofstra, and hometown of Irvington, N.J. doesn’t hurt, either.
Huggins has great hands and will get a chance to return punts and kicks in the preseason, too. The Bucs hope he does well this August, but not too well for other teams to claim him off the waiver wire.
Complicating matters regarding Faine’s absence was the calf injury Sean Mahan sustained during warm-ups. The Bucs decided to leave second-year offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah at left guard, and instead moved rookie Robert Bruggeman in at center with the first-team offense.
Morris talked about Bruggeman after practice, saying he had an ugly body, but that he looked like a football player with the pads on. With Faine and Mahan out not only did Bruggeman get a ton of work with the starting offensive line, so did fellow rookie Marc Dile. Morris raved about the fact that there weren’t any center-quarterback exchange issues with Bruggeman and Dile getting extensive work with all four quarterbacks – not just Freeman and Johnson. Morris highlighted Dile’s versatility. Both Bruggeman and Dile, who did have a false start penalty in the 11-on-11 period, have a shot of at least making the practice squad with a good preseason. There is a slight chance one of those players could sneak on the roster with Arron Sears’ absence with continued solid play.
Trainer Todd Toriscelli was working with Clayton and Campbell during practice. Campbell is nursing a quad strain, while Clayton is making some real progress in recovering from a hamstring pull. Clayton was seen jogging backwards and side to side and may be back to practice real soon.
While the Bucs were working on field goals, quarterbacks coach Greg Olson was working with his quartet of passers on looking off safeties and throwing check downs, in addition to pump-faking.
Gilmore appeared to have some rust to shake off this morning, evidenced by the dropped pass he had near the left sideline from quarterback Luke McCown during a play install period.
That mishap was soon forgotten, though, thanks to fellow tight end Kellen Winslow, who took the next rep.
Once the ball was snapped, Winslow began to run a slant route but tripped over his own feet in the process. Not only did he manage to stay up, Winslow somehow balanced himself enough to put his right hand in the air for the incoming throw. The on-looking fans erupted in cheers when Winslow miraculously palmed the pass from quarterback Byron Leftwich with one hand for the reception.
That play reeked of athleticism, and Winslow’s one-handed reception was arguably “the catch” of training camp thus far.
Leftwich wasn’t as sharp this morning as he was the past three days of practice. During a one-on-one (receiver vs. defensive back) drill, Leftwich’s pass attempt to wide receiver Cortez Hankton was tipped and intercepted by cornerback Marshall McDuffie.
However, Leftwich quickly rebounded when he threw a nice fade into the corner of the end zone for rookie receiver Sammie Stroughter, who hauled in the pass for a touchdown with cornerback Kyle Arrington in coverage. Stroughter had another great day is really making an impression. After practice, Morris singled Stroughter out and said he was a seventh-round steal.
McCown started off his 11-on-11 session with Winslow dropping a catchable ball in the end zone with safety Will Allen in coverage. McCown’s next pass was also incomplete, but this one was the QB’s fault as he missed receiver Brian Clark.
On McCown’s next series, defensive tackle Chris Hovan shoved his way past right guard Davin Joseph to sack McCown. McCown continued to scramble downfield and Winslow turned to block linebacker Adam Hayward. Both players started pushing and shoving after the whistle and had to be separated by Morris, who kept blowing the whistle in Winslow’s face to make a point.
McCown came back and threw a great touchdown pass to Cortez Hankton across the middle on his next play and followed that up with a fantastic throw to Winslow in the right corner of the end zone over DeAngelo Willingham. There have been a lot of great throws in camp with Leftwich owning most of them, but this Saturday morning pass by McCown was not just his best it might be the best touchdown toss of the week due to its touch, timing and velocity.
On his final pass of the first 11-on-11 period, McCown didn’t get much help from Maurice Stovall, who allowed cornerback Elbert Mack to knife in front of him to break up the pass in the end zone. Stovall out-sizes Mack by seven inches and nearly 40 pounds and has to play bigger. Stovall should have used his wingspan and his elbow to box out Mack and create some separation.
In the final 11-on-11, McCown once again hooked up with Winslow for a great catch. On the next snap, Bruggeman got blown up by defensive tackle Ryan Sims, who sacked McCown.
Hovan got into the action on the next play, disrupting a running play and slamming Williams down to the ground. The Bucs stuck to running the football on the next play with Stovall getting the ball on an end around and picking up a first down.
McCown’s final play was a scramble in which he struggled to find any open receivers and was indecisive with the football.
During the first 11-on-11 period, Leftwich threw a perfect pass to Winslow for a 20-yard touchdown. There appeared to be a blown assignment on defense since Winslow was wide open on the play.
Leftwich continued to shine in this red zone drill, throwing a beautiful pass down the right sideline to Williams, who fully extended his arms and used his hands to haul in the 20-yard pass in the end zone for a touchdown.
The Bucs have been throwing the ball to Williams more this year, and his hands appear to be improved. His great catch from Leftwich is just one example of that.
Williams is also showing toughness coming off two major knee injuries in as many seasons. During an 11-on-11 period, Williams made a nice cut with the ball to hit a hole that opened up in the middle of the field just to be met by hard-hitting linebacker Barrett Ruud. Despite the hard hit, Williams didn’t appear to mind the contact.
One of Williams’ best runs of camp came during the final 11-on-11 period when the offense was practicing the four-minute offense and attempting to run the clock out versus the defense at the end of the game. Williams took a pitch from the quarterback and broke off some big yardage down the right sideline. This was one of the few instances where the offensive line didn’t appear to be deploying the zone-blocking scheme.
But Leftwich’s momentum was temporarily stopped when he bobbled a snap from center and then threw an errant pass to the flat for Clark, who dove but still couldn’t get close enough to the pass to catch it.
Leftwich rebounded on the next play, firing a strike in the end zone to Stroughter, who beat Mack on the play to haul in the pass for the score.
Winslow continued to put his impressive hands and playmaking ability on display during one of the final drills of practice, which required the offense to pick up a first down in its attempt to run out the clock at the end of a game.
Leftwich threw a nice pass to Winslow, who made a great catch with linebacker Adam Hayward tight in coverage. That play picked up a first down, but Morris huddled the team together to point out the fact that Winslow went out of bounds, which is not what the team wanted to do in the four-minute offense. Morris told Winslow that he has to fall backwards to somehow stay in bounds to keep the clock running.
After that play, Winslow and Hayward continued their jawing, but didn’t come to blows or pushing and shoving.
One of the more interesting plays of practice came during a full-team drill when Leftwich took the snap and rolled out to his right, firing a pass down the right sideline to receiver Pat Carter. Arrington tipped the pass, but Carter managed to get his hands on the ball and haul it in. The only problem was Carter was out of bounds at that point, but it was a nice effort.
The problem with Leftwich’s throw on that particular pass play to Carter was he missed Stroughter, who was running wide open down the middle of the field and would have scored a touchdown had No. 7 seen him and thrown him the ball.
After having a short pass attempt to Huggins broken up by linebacker Rod Wilson, Leftwich missed Stroughter running wide open down the right seam again, but it wasn’t a terrible mistake as the veteran signal caller still connected with receiver Antonio Bryant across the middle of the field for a decent gain.
The second-to-last throw Leftwich made this morning was overthrown and intended for Winslow, who was running down the right seam. It appeared defensive tackle Rashad Duncan would have sacked Leftwich on the play had it been a live game.
The practice appeared to end on a good note for Leftwich, who completed a pass to Bryant across the middle of the field against rookie cornerback E.J. Biggers. Although he had been beaten on the play, Biggers showed great hustle by chasing Bryant down and punching the ball out of his arms to cause a fumble, which was recovered by safety Sabby Piscitelli.
Rookie quarterback Josh Freeman saw most of his playing time during the beginning of practice, including the 1-on-1 sessions. He had a few nice completions to Clark, including one against cornerback Torrie Cox that went for a 20-yard touchdown during the 1-on-1 period.
But Freeman was far from perfect as his next pass attempt to Winslow was defended by Mack, who had great coverage on the play.
One of Freeman’s final throws of practice was completed to tight end Jason Pociask, who managed to run out of bounds once he caught the ball.
Second-year quarterback Josh Johnson didn’t see much playing time, and the few reps he took came mostly in a 2-on-2 period. Despite having two receivers running routes, Johnson waited too long to pull the trigger on a throw to Stroughter, and when he put up the ball he overthrew the receiver. On his next rep, Johnson never even threw the ball after rolling out to his right while looking upfield for a receiver to throw to.
The Bucs will hold a two-hour practice on Saturday afternoon. The players are scheduled to be off on Sunday.
PEWTER REPORT QB SCORECARD The quarterback battle was pretty tight on Saturday morning as both quarterbacks made some great touchdown passes. Leftwich was a bit more consistent and decisive with the football with McCown was and gets the edge in the morning practice. Leftwich was also pretty careful with the football and has done a much better job avoiding turnovers than he did a week ago at the start of camp.
It's fair to say that Leftwich has a lead over McCown after the first week of camp, but the Bucs' brass keeps reiterating that the QB battle will really come down to what happens in the preseason games.