"Both guys, and I'm not discounting Shaun King, need to make an impression," Gruden stated. "The big thing is, when you play a game, you have to play the spontaneous game. It's one thing to go to a nickel blitz. It's one thing to get underneath the center when it looks like a full blitz and ends up being a zone. And playing instinctive, spontaneous football, recognizing pressure fronts, audibling when you have to and only when you have to and limiting wasted plays. We ran a play into a blitz today that was an inexcusable error. The play has no chance. The decision-making, the positions that they put our system in are so important, and that's what we're looking for."
Starter Brad Johnson didn't throw a bad pass all day. He had one picked off in the afternoon session but his reads were impeccable and his throws were on the money. When the coverage dictated that the ball be thrown away to avert a sack No. 14 did it without hesitation but it only happened a handful of times. Johnson was extremely accurate against the Dolphins but he wasn't surprised by his play.
"I felt like we been completing a high percentage of our passes all during training camp," Johnson declared. "There are times, though, where things don't go well. That's where you have to get better as a team and get better as a quarterback. When something bad happens you have to bounce back on the very next play. You don't want to make two bad plays in a row. I think we did do some good things this morning and we'll come back this afternoon with our red zone packages along with the two-minute drill process. It's good to play some other teams. We need some different looks and different coverages. For that there isn't a better team to scrimmage than Miami."
It seems that No. 14 is starting to draw a beeline to wide receiver Joe Jurevicius. With defensives concentrating on stopping Keyshawn Johnson on one side and Keenan McCardell on the other, the 6-foot-5 five-year veteran has been able to draw single coverage and has taken advantage of that situation. He is a huge target coming across the middle and he is very adept at shielding the defender from the ball with his body. His ability to get open and catch the football as well as the propensity of the starting quarterback to find No. 83 in a crowd has allowed head coach Jon Gruden to put him into the mix when trying to create mismatches for opposing defenses.
"We were able to spring some crossing routes," Gruden said. "We thought that Keyshawn got on top of one of their safeties for a big play today. I don't know if he came up with it but we are going to take our chances down the field. Certainly, we have some guys that can create matchups in our favor. But you have to work long and hard to find them against Miami because they are one heck of a defensive team."
The experiment to move tackle Kenyatta Walker from the left side to the right side is over. The former Florida Gator is now entrenched as the starting right tackle and Roman Oben has moved up the depth chart to be the starting left tackle. Six-year veteran tackle Jerry Wunsch seems to be the odd man out and could be a training camp casualty. Don't be surprised if No. 71 or backup tackle Lomis Brown is released before the beginning of the season. Wunsch just doesn't fit the mold of an offensive tackle in Gruden's Gulf Shore offense and that's pass protect first instead of drive blocking. Offensive line coach Bill Muir believes that moving Walker and promoting Oben will strengthen his line for the time being.
"We wanted to get the best five guys that we have on the field," Muir said. "Nothing is written in stone but what we have is what we have on the offensive line. Now we'll see how they play because we're still thinking about how many linemen we'll dress on game day. It will really depend on the makeup of the roster. It will be eight or seven. It's not unusual to go with seven. It will just depend upon what the exchange is whether you get a better special teams player or you need a skilled position because somebody is hurt. That will always be a flexible thing that we look at from week to week."
The defense had an extremely productive afternoon.
"It's something that we hope the defense will double me," Johnson stated. "So I'm basically being used up. I know my assignment and my job is to get used up. I want to get doubled by the defensive backs. They both ran with me and Pittman just went down the sidelines. I guess that's the benefit of having a 6-foot-4 wide receiver that can catch the football."
Everyone has wanted to ask No. 19 since the beginning of training camp his opinion on the state of the talent at wide receiver from last year to this year with the Bucs. With that opening I jumped right in to see if Johnson had an opinion and, of course, he did.
"It will happen that are other receivers will eat up some double teams," Johnson stressed. "Now a lot of times a day that does happen but, because of the Dolphins players and schemes, there still leaning toward me. I think I only caught one ball today and that's because, every time you look up, all the defensive backs were running my way. We're still learning the system but I though that's no problem because now we can hit the other guy. That's fine and what will happen later on is that the defense will start to adjust to them. Then I'll start to have some fun."
The defense had an excellent afternoon even though practice was just in helmets and shorts. The Pewter Pirates, during the 20 play red zone period, held the Miami offense to only one touchdown and an 8-for-20 completion percentage. Only a circus catch in the right corner of the end zone by tight end Randy McMichael against the second team Buccaneers defensive squad got the Dolphins on the scoreboard. Strong safety John Lynch felt that the small changes that defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin made between practices were critical in the Bucs dominating performance in the second practice session.
"We had a real good afternoon," Lynch said. "We made some minor adjustments from the first practice and had a real good effort. We are playing a lot more man coverage right now. Our corners have really developed in that facet. We worked on that a lot in the off season and it's one of the great things about have Jon Gruden as a coach. He asks for certain things and, as a result, we have to play them. I think we'll always stick to our fundamentals and one of things that has always made us good is that we don't try to do a thousand things. We're adding a little wrinkle here and there that, I think, will help us out. Really, it's just Monte being the mad scientist."
The Buccaneers had two interceptions during the two-minute drill at the end of practice. One was by rookie defensive back Markese Fitzgerald on the last play of the scrimmage and the other was by eight-year veteran Derrick Brooks. A healthy No. 55 is critical to the Bucs success and the former Florida State Seminole is well aware of the fact that the defense needs to be more consistent if they want to return to the top echelon in the National Football League.
"We want to go out there and dominate no matter if its practice or exhibition," Brooks stressed. "I think we have to establish a certain attitude when we hit the field as a defense. That is how detailed we want to be. We want to dominate every drill, every practice against another team, and every game because when you are part of this defense, you want to dominate. These are some details we are harping on and that is the attitude we want to start the season with."
Everyone that knows football knows that a good defense has to start with the front four. They are responsible for not only stopping the run but have to also rush the passer. The Bucs pass rush was back with Simeon Rice and Marcus Jones both getting to Dolphin quarterbacks during the controlled scrimmage. The rush off the edge has been better because teams have to concentrate on the Bucs excellent pair of defensive tackles. Warren Sapp knows that his sack total has been enhanced by the emergence of fellow tackle Anthony McFarland making them a twin force to be reckoned with.
"It puts you in a dilemma," Sapp explained. "Do you want to be stabbed to death or do you want to be shot to death? Both of us are deadly. We are both on our game. Which one do you go after? That's what me and Brad Culpepper used to try to do when he was hot. Since McFarland has been with me, I've averaged 11.5 sacks per season. So it isn't bad."
Overall, a good day for Tampa Bay. The defense looked like the dominating group that we are used to seeing and the offense is continuing to impress especially in the passing game. The big test is Monday night when the bullets fly for real against the same Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium.
Click here to discuss this topic and more with other Bucs fans on the Red Message Boards.
All PewterReport.com photos are courtesy of Pewter Report director of photography Cliff Welch unless noted otherwise. Click here to visit Welch's web site.
Become an insider today with a subscription to Pewter Report or by becoming a Club Insider. You can also become a subscriber to Pewter Report by calling 1-800-881-BUCS(2827).
Looking for the largest selection of Bucs merchandise on the internet? Check out BucGear.com.