Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin continued to throw several blitz packages at Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's troops, but the offense responded well for the most part.
Gruden is a big fan of exploiting defenses over the middle of the field. You'd be hard pressed to recall a time when former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy watched his team's offense consistently move the ball against the defense in practice, but Gruden's troops are doing it.
The offense has featured a lot of shifts, motion and movement. Gruden often motions a receiver toward the quarterback in order to clear coverage out of the middle of the field. Tampa Bay's offense has been able to exploit the middle of the defense during mini-camp with both receivers and tight ends. On Friday, there were a few occasions where a receiver or a tight end would be open by about 5-10 yards after they hauled in the pass from the quarterback. Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson found the most success of any receiver over the middle of the field on Friday.
Bucs QB Brad Johnson made some good reads in terms of recognizing blitzes. On one play, Brad Johnson read a blitz package and had the presence of mind to take the snap and roll to his right with the ball, but he just wasn't fast enough to elude the defender.
While Brad Johnson continued to take snaps with the first-team offense, QB Rob Johnson continued to play with the second-team offense. Rob Johnson responded well to the blitz packages, just as he had throughout the other two mini-camps. It's almost as though Rob Johnson prefers to throw on the run. He does it very well.
Bucs QB Rob Johnson led Tampa Bay's offense to the end zone during Friday afternoon's practice. Johnson drilled WR Karl Williams between the numbers and Williams sprinted into the end zone for the score.
Bucs QB Shaun King took snaps with the third-team offense during both of Friday's practices and he performed well. King overthrew some receivers on a few occasions, but for the most part, he demonstrated better arm strength, accuracy and mobility during 11-on-11 drills than he showed on Thursday.
Wide receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell were running with the first-team offense again on Friday. Bucs QB Brad Johnson is impressed with how quickly McCardell has picked up Tampa Bay's offensive system.
"He (McCardell) has pretty much picked up a lot of the system pretty quickly," said Brad Johnson. "A lot of the systems in this league are copycat systems, so it's just a matter of learning the terminology and pace."
Bucs WR Marquise Walker had two good practices on Friday. During 11-on-11 drills on the far field at One Buc Place, QB Rob Johnson thew a perfect strike to Walker, who was running a deep route. The play resulted in a touchdown. Walker was also the recipient of a reverse during a later 11-on-11 session. That play resulted in a 15-yard gain.
Speaking of wide receivers, Pewter Report has learned Joe Jurevicius, who was sharing jersey No. 85 with TE Ken Dilger, likely will sport jersey No. 83. Bucs WR Keith Poole also wears No. 83, but he has not participated in a mini-camp practice since the team's first under Gruden. He's been nursing a nagging hamstring injury and with the amount of playing time Poole has missed, don't expect Jurevicius to share that number long as the Bucs likely will cut Poole soon.
In other jersey number news, Bucs WR Keenan McCardell has purchased No. 87 from Frank Murphy. While Murphy still is wearing No. 87, he likely will select another jersey number between 80-89 as soon as one becomes available. The exact sales price has not been disclosed, but Pewter Report is working hard to get a hold of those numbers.
Bucs rookie WR Aaron Lockett actually lined up as a receiver during Friday afternoon's 11-on-11 session. This was the first look Pewter Report had gotten at Lockett in 11-on-11 drills. He's as fast as advertised, but one could see where getting off of the line against press coverage could be a serious problem for the 5-foot-7, 155-pound receiver.
One of the more interesting plays from Friday came during 11-on-11, when QB Brad Johnson took a snap from center and immediately threw to his left where rookie RB Travis Stephens awaited the pass on the line of scrimmage. As soon as Stephens caught the pass, he followed his blocks and exploded up the field for a big gain. This was a play the Bucs tried executing on occasion last year, but they didn't have the offensive personnel to block up the field for the ball carrier. Both Stephens' speed and the blocking from both the receivers and tight ends stood out on this play.
McCardell had an impressive catch during Friday's second practice. McCardell used just one hand to catch a ball thrown a little behind him during 11-on-11 drills. As if the catch wasn't impressive enough, McCardell then sprinted up the field for a touchdown.
Although the offense was able to move the ball on the defense, Kiffin's troops definitely put themselves in positions to make plays, but they didn't take advantage of all their opportunities.
Tampa Bay's defense recorded several sacks during 11-on-11 drills thanks to the blitz packages. But the fact that the Bucs' secondary dropped at least three interceptions was a bit disappointing.
Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly had great coverage throughout both of Friday's practices, but he had two interceptions fall in and out of his hands. If Kelly, who didn't record an interception last season, can capitalize on those types of opportunities during the season, he could be poised for a breakout and perhaps Pro Bowl-type year.
Bucs CB Corey Chamblin also dropped an interception during 11-on-11 drills. Chamblin has been impressive during the team's mini-camps, and creating turnovers could help him secure a roster spot as the Bucs' fourth cornerback.
Tampa Bay second-year CB Dwight Smith has arguably been the most impressive player of the Bucs' mini-camps this offseason. He continued to impress on Friday by breaking up a few passes.
Perhaps the most impressive defensive play on Friday came during 11-on-11 drills when Bucs DE Simeon Rice reached up for an airborne throw and tipped it to himself for an interception. Rice was close to returning the interception for a score before one of the offensive players came up behind him and knocked the ball loose.
They didn't have pads on, but Tampa Bay's defense played physical football on Friday. There were a lot more sounds of helmets colliding and hands slapping against each other than usual, especially during running plays. There was a scary moment during 11-on-11 drills when CB Ronde Barber and MLB Shelton Quarles accidentally leveled WR Darryl Daniel on the sideline, but Daniel appeared to be fine.
On special teams, Tampa Bay kicker Martin Gramatica practiced some fake field goals shortly before Friday's morning practice began. This unit also simulated coverage on kickoffs while WR Frank Murphy and CB Dwight Smith fielded the majority of kickoffs.
Gruden cut Friday's second practice short for the second consecutive day. Friday's practices might have been the most physical practices we've seen so far in these mini-camps. Tampa Bay will hold its fifth and final mini-camp practice on Saturday afternoon. After that practice, the players will have a little over one month off before they report to Orlando for training camp on July 28.
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