The injury list for those players that did not participate in practice during the morning session is a little long, but not surprising. Players that were working with the training staff this morning included Marcus Stroud, Bobby McCray, George Wrighster, Andrew Carnahan, Mike Walker, and Reggie Hayward. Also, Paul Spicer did not participate in the morning practice because of the ankle injury reported last night.
Now, let's dive right into the practice session.
11×11 (Part I):
Once again, the offense is working hard on moving the pocket, rolling the quarterbacks out on passing plays. Byron seems to be doing fairly well in this environment, showing no signs of an issue based on the scare at practice last night. He moved fine in the pocket, stepping up and sliding on the rollouts.
Another note is that they are continuing to incorporate a lot of Tight End play into the offense. It seems as if every third pass goes to one of the Tight Ends during a set. Leftwich has been targeting Marcedes Lewis and Jermaine Wiggins quite regularly as they have become the outlet receivers if the other guys are not open.
Byron did struggle to hit his receivers on a couple of plays, including the very first one of the drill on a quick out route intended for Marcedes Lewis. Lewis was clearly expecting the pass to be to the outside, but the ball was thrown inside. He made a nice adjustment just to knock the ball down to prevent an interception.
During the drill, David Garrard delivered a deep sideline pass to John Broussard. The rookie is really doing a nice job of making the catches, then getting as much as he can on the play. On this particular one, after the catch was made, Broussard made a cut to the inside and got an additional chunk of yardage.
Lester Ricard struggled badly with his accuracy today, and was almost intercepted by Jamaal Fudge on a pass intended for Roosevelt Kiser. The ball was badly overthrown. Fudge got a hand on it but was unable to pull it in on a diving effort.
Matt Jones showed some signs of life during the practice session, although he did have a couple of drops in individual drills. During the first 11×11 drill, Jones showed some nice effort on a pass from Byron, going up to get it, fighting the defender to make the catch along the sideline for a nice gain.
Ernest Wilford made a few nice catches during practice today, with the best effort being on a deep sideline pass from Byron Leftwich. Wilford stretched out and made a strong diving effort to make the catch.
Dennis Northcutt continues to impress with his route running ability. He has knack of being able to really make his adjustments quickly to gain separation. On one curl route along the sideline, he completely shed his coverage when he made his move back to the line of scrimmage, hauling in a perfectly timed pass from Byron in double coverage.
There was a stretch during this particular drill where David Garrard almost appeared to be suffering a relapse of his 2006 season ending. He missed a couple of receivers badly, and had one pass batted away by Scott Starks that was intended for Ernest Wilford. Garrard did rebound with a couple of nice passes to John Broussard, and his inconsistency can be attributed to having to still scrape off some of that off season rust. Garrard has traditionally struggled with his accuracy during training camp.
Byron connected with Matt Jones in a territory rarely traveled by the third year wide receiver: over the middle. Jones made a nice jumping catch and generated significant yardage after the play.
David Garrard connected again with John Broussard, who they are clearly using as a guy that will stretch the field, on a deep seam route. Broussard was running out of the slot on this particular play. He made the grab in stride and then did a nifty spin move to shake his would-be tackler to gain a few extra yards. He shows good speed and a willingness to make the difficult grabs. If he can avoid taking too much of a beating when he is out there, he could be a real difference maker for this team.
Greg Estandia showed decent athleticism by making a jumping catch in front of Nick Sorensen on a high pass from David Garrard on the near sideline. Estandia, Wiggins, and Lewis all showed nice pass catching ability during the practice session, but this was the Tight End highlight of the day. Marcedes Lewis did come close, making a nice diving grab on a pass in the seam from Byron in traffic.
Dennis Northcutt did have a rare drop during this session, as he attempted to turn up field too quickly on a deep post that Leftwich delivered on target in traffic.
11×11 (Part II):
Byron attempted to go deep to John Broussard in the seam, but Rashean Mathis made a nice physical move, diving in to bat the pass away. The ball was slightly under thrown as Broussard had to slow up on the play, allowing Mathis to stay with him.
David Garrard made nice deep completions to both Greg Estandia and Marcedes Lewis. On the Lewis completion, it could have been defended, but Josh Gattis tried to go for the interception by diving for the ball instead of just getting a hand out there and knocking it down.
Garrard attempted to go to Richard Angulo on a rollout to the right side, but he missed his mark badly and was nearly picked off on the play as a result.
This was a shorter session than the previous two practices, so there was not a lot of action to report on. The team seemed a little sluggish this morning, but I somewhat expected that as this is normally the case on the second day of training camp as the players are still trying to get acclimated to the environment and rigors of practices and meetings.
The running backs, Taylor, Drew, and Toefield, all looked solid in practice, but again, without contact, there is no way of knowing if it is their skill, or the hands-off policy that made them look as effective as they appeared to be during practice. We will see soon enough. Taylor is clearly running as smoothly and efficiently as ever. Drew is still showing great burst and maneuverability. Even Toefield is looking solid out there. What little we did see of D.D. Terry today makes him somewhat of an interesting prospect. The kid can fly, and he has good size. We need to see more of him, which I suspect that we will once we get to the scrimmage and preseason games.
Finally, Mike Shula has been working extremely hard with Byron Leftwich on improving his footwork, continuing to improve his drops and rollouts as well as delivering the pass accurately while on the run. This is something that we did not see with Ken Anderson in the past with such one-on-one attention. It is encouraging to see him out there, in terrific shape, and showing better agility than we had grown accustomed to.