The word for today is TIRED!
Well, real life kicked in on Monday and my arrival to 1 Buc Place was delayed by a side track to Daycare for my boy. I figured this would be no big deal as with it being Monday, most folks probably had to go to work or do whatever people do on Mondays. I expected, let’s be fair, ‘light’ attendance at the AM practice.
I was wrong.
Upon arrival (about an hour early), it was explained to me that practice would be taking place on the middle and eastern most field instead of the other way around as it had been at all other practices. On that side of the field, there were two large bleacher groupings that were roped off for “Real VIP’s” (Not pseudo VIP’s like me…which, by the way, started paying dividends as now I do get some dope parking!) Coincidental (or not?) with my arrival at practice (and my really over the top greeting by the Cheerleaders…this is for you Tundra)
Mark Dominik showed up and issued the order to open up the extra seating for the diehard fans and to hell with VIP’s! This was a strong move which enabled my pictures of the AM practice, and a brief meeting with MR. Dominik who turns out to be quite friendly. When he was checking in over at the corner he opened up to make sure people got seated and were happy, I asked if I could get a picture of him. He replied, “Nope. But I will take one with you.”
After this brush with greatness and another attempt to lure Mr. Dominik onto the show (I think we may be making headway, Bones is putting in work!), the morning drills started. It appears that despite my desire to be over with the linemen today (it is mildly easier for me to blend in there), I am in the middle of the red zone receiving area. A normal human would have seen the end zone as a tip to that fact, but not this intrepid reporter.
Coach Mann and the rest of the crew were working aggressively with the receivers to get them to focus on specifics of a few key, red zone routes. Receivers should have the advantage on the DB most times as they know where they want to go. So, in a short field, the offense should be able to capitalize on this. By being aggressive in the red zone, the offense forces DB’s to guess and ‘jump’ routes. The offenses that force those DB’s into those plays score touchdowns. The ones that simply watch that action happen and are surprised, turn the ball over in the red zone or walk away with a FG. Slants, Posts, Post Corners and Fades were the menu and the receivers listened intently to the coach. They also looked COMPLETELY beat! This is a crew of tired football players folks. The pad practices seem to be taking their toll. I know we had a couple of minor dings thus far, but Coach Morris *might* want to slow up a little as based on the pace of practice; the fellas are starting to wear down a little.
After wandering around to the other field, I was able to watch the Defensive linemen work on their drills. Jimmy Wilkerson looks excellent. He is explosive and really turning heads out there. (Here is where I would normally insert the amazing footage I have of him working, but like an idiot, I deleted it, so instead I will make fun of myself.) All kidding aside, his effort level is impressive. Gaines was putting in good work as well and Quincy Black was getting reps at the end rush drills as well.
At this point in practice, the units were combined and some running plays were run with light contact. The offensive line did a nice job in this section opening up nice lanes and the RB making nice gains. The LB and Secondary crew is still struggling (it seems) with filling the gaps properly (against the run) as was demonstrated on one particular play when 98, Ryan Simms got unfiled like he was heading to an old Ryan’s buffet (that is a compliment folks, it was great penetration) while 97, Jimmy Wilkerson sealed the edge well (no crafty simile), but 22, Clifton Smith still darted through the good line play to find plenty of light around the edge and into the end zone.
Now, on the 11 on 11 drills that were mixed or pass focused, the defensive line took a more aggressive approach. Good days were turned in by 95 (Chris Hovan), 98 (Ryan Simms), 97 (Jimmy Wilkerson) and 90 (Gaines Adams). Much noise has been made about Coach Morris “Calling out,” Gaines in his conference. Coaches use different tactics and despite the shotgun delivery of Coach Morris’s statements, he seems to currently have the trust of the team so these comments should motivate.
The first string line one seems to be the set mentioned above. We have an interesting and sequential line that showed up regularly yesterday featuring 91 (Stylez G. White), 92 (Dre Moore), 93 (Roy Miller) and 94 (Kyle Moore). This line, while numerically interesting, was not actually interesting on the field yesterday. Stylez still shows spurts, but I will need to see him consistently get pressure against another team before I jump solidly behind him again after contract meltdown 08.
The practice ended with some 11 on 11 drills into the south end zone f field 3 which showed some nice decision making by our Number 1 and Number 2 QB’s (I find it funny that Leftwich is our “Number 2” QB, but maybe that is just me). Some of the drills that were hammered in fist thing in the AM practice came out as 12, Luke McCown (or McCowan as seemingly every Floridian calls him) hit 85, Maurice Stovall on a quick slant for six. Mo’s size advantage is usually referred to when discussing a fade route int eh red zone, but a guy his size on a slant is hard to get around for the average DB. If they cheat over with a LB and our QB pays attention, we get to build a new wing on the Winslow mansion as a check to the TE on the seam will be wide open (no, it is nto REALLY that simple, but you get my over the top point I hope).
- The team looks really tired.
- Practice pace is slow. Camp Gruden moved at a high pace, but ti did so with no pads and a lot of breaks. Camp Morris does not *appear* to be as well choreographed nor as crisp in and out of segments.
- Leftwich seemed to have a better day, but I was not watching the QB’s. I felt bad that the first day I didn’t, he seemed to have success. Maybe I am the bad luck charm my wife accuses me of being.
- Clayton is still letting the ball get to his pads, unlike K2 who could give a course on how to catch the ball away from his body. Nice work by K2 when he was out there today.
- The backs all look to have a lot of ‘pep’ in their step.
- I cannot WAIT for the Special Teams practice today. FG unit looked bad (yes, I am being sarcastic about being excited about the ST practice. I am not being sarcastic about the FG team looking bad.)
- I still think we should have no veteran backup QB this year (figure it out)
- If D. Jack cannot get off the bump, he will be in D. Crap (Ya like that?)
- Jameel Cook has looked solid which makes me feel less concerned about what is the seemingly inevitable BJ Askew injury (Reverse mojo ON)
- The team finished off the session with a brief chat by Bucs HOF’er, Lee Roy Selmon.
I had to leave the evening practice as, for some reason, my three year old boy was not nearly as interested as watching this stuff as I was. He made it to Ray Jay the other night, but did not have the endurance to hang with myself, Dan (from The Captains Deck), Capitan Bones and Spent for 2 hours of fun in the evening heat. Sorry folks. Dan wrote up a nice article and posted it on most of the boards.
Thursday night, after a debate spawned on BucsChat.com where someone insinuated I may be full of crap on my QB assessment due to what was perceived as a significant divergence from the opinion of Scott Reynolds, I spoke to Scott and he will be on the show this Thursday to discuss what are actually a subtle set of differences in our take (which I think is healthy). Scott is a great and informed guy and as always, was amazingly hospitable and open to coming on the show Thursday to compare notes for a while even though it is his day off!