The Afternoon Blitz — July 27

It's the first edition of the "Afternoon Blitz," your source for practice news and inside information about Buccaneers training camp. Today features a look at Jon Gruden's comments about position competitions, the progress of quarterback Chris Simms, the defensive rotation on Day 1 and some acrobatic catches by the wide receivers. Now updated with afternoon notes.

Jon Gruden found himself presiding over some position battles on the first day of training camp.

Key among them was the battle at right defensive end, a position now vacated by the release of Simeon Rice.

On Friday the pair of Patrick Chukwurah and Gaines Adams took the bulk of the snaps.

They're each a far cry from Rice's production. He has 121 career sacks and is third on Tampa Bay's all-time sack list.

"We'll see what kind of progress Gaines Adams makes," Gruden said. "Patrick Chukwurah's been solid for us. We'll line up in any front that we need to line up in to get a pass rush, I know that."

Adams, the No. 4 pick in the draft, has never taken a NFL snap. Chukwurah, signed as a free agent in March, has five NFL starts to his credit.

The shoes they must fill are enormous.

"Gaines Adams wasn't brought in here to be a bench warmer," Gruden said. "He was brought in here to play and we're excited about having him on our football team, signed up and ready to go, and we think he can be a heck of a football player."

Whoever wins the job, they'll face Seattle left tackle Walter Jones in the season opener against Seattle. One of Jones' claims to fame is shutting Rice down completely in a past game.

"That will be a tough opener," Gruden said. "Welcome — meet Nolan Ryan. He's got a heck of a fastball."

There are other position battles, too. Gruden has his eye on center, where Dan Buenning worked out at fully for the first time this offseason. The third-year pro has been rehabbing torn ligaments in his knee and has lost his job at left guard.

John Wade, the incumbent, and free-agent signee Matt Lehr, are the other competitors. Gruden expects someone to shine soon.

"We're going to try and distribute the snaps as evenly as we can and hopefully within the next four or five days somebody will take the bull by the horns," Gruden said.

Mechanical issues behind Simms: Chris Simms appears to be over the mechanics issues that were holding him back during mini-camp.

Simms had a crisp practice on Friday morning. He threw the ball sharply and led receivers well. Those were issues that he had during June's offseason workouts.

Head coach Jon Gruden told reporters Thursday that Simms wasn't going to get any slack during training camp.

"His issues are over now," Gruden said. "He had a serious injury that takes time to heal. He's ready to go is my understanding. We're going to work hard with him. We expect him to compete and we expect him to return to his form two years ago."

Simms missed most of last season after rupturing his spleen against Carolina, which led to surgery.

The defensive depth chart?: Once again, it's difficult to sense much from the first day of practice. But the Bucs did establish a defensive rotation for 11-on-11 drills in the morning.

The big move was at right end, where Patrick Chukwurah — not Gaines Adams — worked with the first team in place of the released Simeon Rice.

The first group included Greg Spires at left end, Jovan Haye at under tackle, Chris Hovan at defensive tackle and Chukwurah; Derrick Brooks, Barrett Ruud and Cato June at linebacker; Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly at cornerbacks; and Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen at safeties.

The second group featured Adams and Kevin Carter at the ends, and Ellis Wyms and Ryan Sims at the tackles. Ryan Nece, who's been competing with June at strong side linebacker, lined up at middle linebacker, with Jamie Winborn on the strong side and Quincy Black on the weak side. Sammy Davis and Phillip Buchanon were the corners and Sabby Piscitelli and Donte Nicholson were the safeties.

The third group featured Jeremy Pittman and Julian Jenkins at the ends, and Greg Peterson and Darrell Campbell at the tackles. Antoine Cash was at middle linebacker, with Adam Hayward on the weak side and Evan Benjamin on the strong side. Marcus Hamilton and Alan Zemaitis were the corners and Kalvin Pearson and Tanard Jackson were the safeties.

The Buccaneers have not released an official depth chart.

Quarterback rotation: Simms took reps directly after Jeff Garcia in most team drills, leading one to believe that the Bucs have enough confidence in him now to pit him against Bruce Gradkowski for the No. 2 spot. Garcia and Simms could be seen throwing together at the beginning of the workout. Simms got plenty of work, as did Gradkowski and fourth-stringer Luke McCown.

Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms (AP)
Garcia showed off his arm with a 40-yard bomb to Joey Galloway that hit the veteran receiver in stride. It was a rather effortless-looking throw, too.

Offensive line braces for practice: At least three offensive linemen — including guards Dan Buenning and Davin Joseph — were wearing bulky knee braces on both knees during the workout.

Each has had knee problems within the last year, and Buenning had surgery for torn ligaments in 2006.

As for the rotation, the early drills had Joseph at right guard, Jeremy Trueblood at right tackle, John Wade at center, Anthony Davis at left guard and Luke Petitgout at left tackle. That came in a 9-on-9 drill with no cornerbacks or receivers.

The afternoon gave us a better look at the second and third group. Buenning worked at cener, with Lehr at left guard and Jabari Levey at left tackle. Enoka Lucas worked at right guard and Chris Denman worked at right tackle.

The third group consisted of Nick Milhauser at center, second-round pick Arron Sears at left guard, Donald Penn at left tackle, Jeb Terry at right guard and Dennis Roland at right tackle.

School's in session: Sears learned that first hand in a one-on-one drill with the defensive line.

Sears was matched up with tackle Ryan Sims, and on the first rep Sims ran straight ahead and Sears stuffed him. Seems Sims was toying with him a bit, because on the next play Sims gave Sears a head bob and a little juke and blew right by him.

Offensive line coach Bill Muir spent the next minute breaking down what Sears did wrong, flapping arms included.

Kicking report: Placekicker Matt Bryant missed one of his eight field goal attempts in the morning workout. The kicks ranged from 37 to 40 yards.

Catches of the day: Veteran Ike Hilliard had a great grab on a crossing route, tipping an underthrown pass from Garcia to himself before wrapping up the ball.

And second-year receiver Maurice Stovall exhibited the leaping ability, body control and good hands the Bucs are excited about on one play. Simms threw a pass high to Stovall's right side, and Stovall had to leap to make the grab. He towered over the corner in coverage and controlled his body well enough to stay inbounds.

Joey Galloway did the same thing on a pass that was tipped to him by cornerback Sammy Davis. Galloway caught the ball and appeared to have enough room to keep both feet inbounds for a legal catch.

Galloway sat out the afternoon workout.

Coaching report The coach I heard the most Friday morning was linebackers coach Gus Bradley, who had a perpetual smile on his face the entire workout. He yelled quite a bit, but most of it was encouragement. His linebackers performed pretty well on Friday and needed little correction.

Shotgun: The shotgun made one appearance in the morning, in a six-man receiving drill with no defense.

The first interception: Safety Will Allen made the first pickoff of camp in an 11-on-11 drill. Bruce Gradkowski was the offending quarterback, as he attempted to hit Galloway on an inside post. In a game, the pick would have been on Gradkowski because Allen had the play read from the start.

Guess he wants to hit: Piscitelli, out of Oregon State, nearly clotheslined receiver Mark Jones on a crossing route. It was accidental, but Piscitelli seems eager to dole out some punishment when the Bucs put on the pads in a few days.

Quotable: "Was that the A-Team?" — Cornerback Ronde Barber, after hearing a cell phone ring with the "A-Team" theme during his press conference.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. Included among his more than two dozen writing and editing awards are national awards from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors, and state awards from the Florida Press Club and the Florida Sports Writers Association, for his coverage of the Buccaneers since 2004.

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