At the top of Jon Gruden’s agenda during his post-practice press conference was thanking former NFL cornerback Everson Walls for attending Tuesday morning's practice and talking to the team. Walls spent most of the morning practice with former Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams.
“I would like to thank Everson Walls for coming,” Gruden said. “He’s been our guest the last few days. He was the cornerback from the Cowboys, Browns and Giants. He had 57 career interceptions. He should be in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion. He really helped us out. He went to the same high school that [rookie cornerback] Aqib Talib went to. He was an undrafted free agent. That’s one of the reasons why I’m a little sensitive to the 80-man roster. I think guys like Everson Walls might not be given the opportunity to make the team these days. He gave up his own kidney for Ron Springs. I would like to thank him for being here.”
Both Walls and Talib attended Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas.
GRUDEN COMMENTS ON DEPTH CHART The Buccaneers – like all 32 NFL teams – were mandated to release a depth chart by the league on Monday. As expected, head coach Jon Gruden dismissed the initial depth chart offered up by the team.
“We don’t have a depth chart," Gruden said. "We might change it at lunch, okay? Unfortunately, we have to send in something [to the league office]. There’s a long way to go, honestly. The depth chart right now is more for paper, people. We don’t know what to write in certain situations, but we have to write something. We have a long way to go to decide who’s No. 2, who’s No. 3, who’s making it and who’s not.”
A lot of the projections on the depth chart, such as Ike Hilliard lining up as a starting wide receiver and Marques Douglas lining up at right defensive end behind Gaines Adams, haven’t matched what is going on in practice at training camp. Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall have been getting the starts at wide receiver, while Jimmy Wilkerson has been the primary backup behind Adams.
DEFENSE DOMINATES (BECAUSE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO) Tampa Bay’s offense had trouble moving the ball in the third down period on Tuesday morning – but that’s by design. The Buccaneers weren’t practicing third-and-short situations, nor were they practicing third-and-5. Gruden and the offense were trying to convert third-and-12 situations, which is very difficult to do in the NFL.
“They should (dominate),” Gruden said about the play of the defense. “It’s third-and-12 and the NFL conversion rate is less than 10 percent in that situation. A lot of those conversions are garbage yards at the end of the game. (The defense) should dominate that situation – third-and-12. We dropped a slant that would have been a first down. Luke McCown scrambled for a first down against a Two Deep Man Under Zone. There were some good spots, but (the defense) should dominate that drill.”
If there was one area of the defense that was sloppy on Tuesday morning it was the dropped interceptions by cornerback Phillip Buchanon and middle linebacker Barrett Ruud.
“It’s as big as a dropped pass,” Gruden said of dropped interceptions. “Hell, we need to get more turnovers. We won the championship a few years ago because we generated turnovers and we scored touchdowns when we got the ball on defense. Our linebackers are dropping too many interceptions. I think we’ve dropped five now in this camp. We’ve got something to work on in our individuals today.”
Buchanon appeared a bit peeved about the drop when he spoke with the media after practice.
“I would like to rate my hands to be one of the best hands on the team, I always tell all of the players that,” Buchanon said. “When it comes to play like that, I like to make those plays. Sometimes I can’t, but I will keep working on it.”
SIMMS MAKING STRIDES Tampa Bay’s fourth-string quarterback, Chris Simms, has been the biggest beneficiary of Jeff Garcia’s injured calf, which has sidelined Garcia for about a week. Simms has been getting more reps as training camp rolls on and will see some action in Tampa Bay’s preseason opener at Miami on Saturday.
“He’s getting some more turns,” Gruden said. “He’s made a couple of nice throws in the team period. He missed a couple throws today, I think. We’ll keep working him in there and try to get him on the field against Miami, okay?
“A lot of people who have seen him play know why he is here. We have a lot invested (in him), too. He started in 2004, 2005 and 2006. We’ve invested a lot in him, too. We have a lot of confidence that he can come back and be a player. We’ll leave it at that.”
GRUDEN LOOKING FORWARD TO PRESEASON OPENER Not only are the Buccaneers looking forward to hitting players from another team, Gruden is also looking forward to squaring off against Miami, who is Tampa Bay’s opponent in the preseason opener this Saturday.
“I’m just looking forward to getting in a game situation, getting on the airplane and playing a team like Miami and seeing a different [3-4] front,” Gruden said. “We need to do that. It’s part of the education process. These preseason games allow our players to not only experience the live game situations, but a different front to block and a different route to see and those type of things. We’re going to look at a lot of guys.”
GRUDEN EXCITED ABOUT JACKSON Gruden was asked about the progress that wide receiver Dexter Jackson, Tampa Bay’s second-round pick, had made during training camp. Jackson has been recovering from a lingering hamstring injury that plagued him during the team’s rookie mini-camp back in May.
“He’s coming back to health,” Gruden said. “He ran a couple down-the-field routes. We didn’t throw him the ball because I think our quarterbacks realized that he was 100 percent back, but he was blazing down the field. We missed a couple of wide-open looks today in the team pass segment. It’s great to see him back out here. He’s going to give us some juice certainly. He and [Joey] Galloway are going to give us two guys that run like hell.”
ALLEN NOWHERE TO BE FOUND With trade rumors regarding Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre still swirling around Tampa Bay, Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen was conspicuously absent from Tuesday’s training camp practice. Pewter Report cannot remember a time since Allen’s arrival in Tampa Bay in 2004 where he has missed a training camp practice.
Team sources did not disclose Allen’s location, but they did tell Pewter Report that Allen is not in Green Bay, nor is he meeting with Favre’s agent, Bus Cook, and that he should be back in Orlando by Wednesday afternoon.
TUESDAY INJURY REPORT The following players missed Tuesday morning’s practice: QB Jeff Garcia (calf), FB B.J. Askew (ankle), WR Antonio Bryant (knee), WR Joey Galloway (groin), DT Jovan Haye (groin).
Cornerback Sammy Davis was added to the injury report today.
“He’s got a hip flexor (injury),” Gruden said. “He’s kind of day-to-day. We think he’ll be okay. Hopefully he’ll be out here this afternoon.”
BROOKS & DUNN ANNOUNCE GOLF TOURNAMENT Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and running back Warrick Dunn have joined forces in their efforts to give back to the community, announcing the “Brooks and Dunn Golf Classic,” which will be held January 29-30, 2009.
The Brooks and Dunn Inaugural Golf Classic, benefitting Derrick Brooks Charities and the Warrick Dunn Foundation, includes a pairings reception and celebrity golf tournament. The tournament will be held at Cypress Run, a private golf club in Tarpon Springs, Fla. at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, January 30.
"Our Foundations are working toward the common goal of helping less fortunate families succeed and pursue their dreams,” Dunn said. “It is our goal for this partnership to provide even greater benefits to the Tampa Bay community.”
More information can be found at www.derrickbrookscharities.org and www.warrickdunnfoundation.org.
SINGLE GAME TICKETS ON SALE A limited number of tickets for each of Tampa Bay’s eight regular season home games will be on sale to the public this Friday, August 8, starting at 10:00 a.m. There is a ticket limit of eight per person per game.
Tickets will only be sold through TicketMaster. Tickets will not be sold at the Bucs ticket office or at Raymond James Stadium. Fans wanting tickets may visit www.ticketmaster.com or call TicketMaster at 1-800-488-5252.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org