First, touching on the injured players and their current status, Reggie Hayward and Marcus Stroud participated in practice and appeared to be fine. Greg Jones was out there, but he did not participate in any drills. Paul Spicer continues to nurse the back spasms that have been keeping him out of practice most of this week, and Jeremy Mincey had his left leg bagged in ice and spent the evening with the training staff. George Wrighster and Brian Smith also sat out the practice session, along with Quinn Gray and Charles Sharon.
The clippers were alive and well at 1 Stadium Place as the barber shop claimed the first victims of the 2007 season. Both Chad Nkang and Justin Durant were sporting a lovely monk cut, bald on the top and bushy on the sides and back. Derek Landri was allowed to retain his bangs and sideburns, which gave him the halo effect, but anything behind that was shaved clean. John Broussard was half bald, half hair, and D.D. Terry had a cut that left the top of his head clean, then an additional stripe for that sporty look on the back of his head. Even Adam Podlesh fell victim, having 1/3 of his head shaved, leaving the rest there. It is a really nice look for a kicker. The rest of the rookies had a variation of the same cuts, but Uche Nwaneri had the most unique, with the top of his head shaved, and a little circle of hair left on the back of his head. Oddly, Reggie Nelson appeared to avoid the trials of the trimmer, keeping his dreadlocks and his eyebrows in place…for now.
Now, let's dive right into the practice session.
11×11 (Part I):
Byron started off with some erratic passing, missing on his first couple of passes before with Maurice Jones-Drew on a little dump off pass that went for a short gain.
On the next play, he went outside on a pass to Marcedes Lewis in front of Brian Williams. Lewis made a nice jumping grab, getting both feet down just as Williams was working him out of bounds on the play.
Maurice Drew continues to have a good camp, showing mid-season burst as he ran off the right tackle in a two tight end set, taking the ball for a big gain after a hole big enough to drive a dump truck through opened up in front of him courtesy of Tony Pashos and Greg Estandia.
David Garrard stepped in and delivered a strike to Mike Walker on a post pattern that went for a nice gain. Walker made a nice play with Scott Starks right there in coverage, picking the ball up before Starks could get a hand on it to tip it away.
Garrard attempted to throw a little dump pass to Alvin Pearman, but missed him high and behind him as he tried to throw the ball over Pat Thomas who had come free when they loaded up the left side.
Dennis Northcutt caught Brian Williams off guard on a curl route, cutting so crisply into his curl that Williams almost hit the ground making it an easy catch for the veteran receiver.
Ernest Wilford stepped up his game tonight making quite a few nice plays and limiting his mistakes. His first big play was a nice touchdown reception on a deep corner route with Dee Webb in tight coverage. The ball was dropped over the top allowing Wilford to pull the ball in full stride.
Garrard one-hopped a pass to D'Juan Woods on a quick out with Scott Starks in coverage.
Reggie Williams showed that he has the ability to use his body to shield the ball, doing it several times during the 1×2 drills. He made life very difficult for Bruce Thornton by preventing him from getting to the ball, then using his size to muscle forward for a few extra yards.
The Mike Walker vs. Brian Williams match up continues to be an entertaining one as the wide receiver repeatedly has shown that his route running skill is tough for the veteran corner to handle. Twice when running curl routes, Walker was so precise that Williams was 4 yards off the play when he caught the ball.
Dennis Northcutt was targeted on a deep corner route with Dee Webb in tow. Leftwich put the ball on target in the end zone, but Northcutt slowed up when he went to find the ball. Because he slowed up, the ball fell just out of reach incomplete.
David Garrard connected with D'Juan Woods on a deep out with Rashean Mathis in coverage. Woods made a nice move on the wet turf, and Mathis slipped, giving him the gap required to make the catch and turn it up field for a touchdown.
Leftwich connected on a nice deep sideline pass to Ernest Wilford. The ball was dropped over the top of Gerald Sensabaugh in tight coverage before Sensabaugh was able to push Wilford out of bounds.
Byron attempted to go deep again to Reggie Williams in the end zone. Jamar Landrom was right on Williams in coverage, and the pass was catchable, but Williams was only able to get one hand up to try to catch the ball cleanly, and he could not haul it in.
David Garrard also attempted to go deep to Roosevelt Kiser, overthrowing his intended target in the corner of the end zone.
Matt Jones dropped a pass on a quick out from Byron. The ball was thrown slightly behind Jones, but still hit him in the torso. He tried to one arm the ball, and failed to pull it in. After the play, he spent some quality time with Todd Monken, who walked out to greet him, then proceeded to follow him back to the sideline talking to him all the way.
Jimmy Farris made a great adjustment on a deep sideline pass from David Garrard with Rashod Moulton in coverage. The ball was thrown short of the intended target, but Farris picked up that it was going to be short, stopped on a dime, and pulled the pass in as Moulton ran right by him. It would not have worked any better if it was designed that way.
They switched to a red zone drill during the session, giving Leftwich, Garrard, and Tim Couch an opportunity to try to score.
Byron tried to connect with Matt Jones in the end zone on a post route, but the ball was delivered too high for Jones and he was unable to pull it down. Gerald Sensabaugh made sure that it was incomplete, timing his hit to coincide with the reception.
Byron came back and dropped a pass down the sideline for Maurice Jones-Drew. Drew caught the pass, turned up field and finished his run in the end zone.
David Garrard connected with John Broussard, but the play was stopped short of the goal line when Dee Webb and Nick Sorenson cut him off on the way for a sure touchdown.
Garrard came back to Broussard two plays later with similar results as Clint Ingram stuffed him short of the goal line.
Tim Couch made a nice pass to D'Juan Woods who had run a deep crossing route in the middle of the end zone. Unfortunately, as the pass was delivered, Woods came out of the end zone to make the catch, and came up short of the goal line as Bruce Thornton forced him out of bounds.
D.D. Terry tried to punch it into the end zone with a nice spin move, then a bounce outside. He showed nice burst out of the backfield, but was forced out by Pat Thomas.
David Garrard tired to connect again with Matt Jones in the end zone, but Bruce Thornton almost intercepted the pass, forcing the ball to the ground.
Matt Jones managed to catch heat from Todd Monken again. On a play where he was not the intended target, but the motion receiver, when the ball was snapped, Jones stood there for a second, and then took off. After the play finished (A quick out to Maurice Drew out of the back field that went for a short gain), Jones was greeted by an unhappy receivers coach who was not pleased with his lack of hustle. He seemed to play with a little more energy after that discussion.
Reggie Williams split Rashean Mathis and Gerald Sensabaugh on the sideline taking a pass from Byron Leftwich for a nice gain. Williams had to go up after the pass, with the two defenders in tow.
David Garrard did his best late career Mark Brunell impersonation by looking right, locking in on Richard Angulo on the far sideline, then putting the ball ten yards over his head, landing safely on the middle practice field.
David Garrard hit Marcedes Lewis on a deep seam pass with Josh Gattis in tight coverage. Lewis made a great catch as Gattis tried to force the ball out, showing great concentration.
11×11 (Part II):
Fred Taylor showed that he is ready to roll taking a pass in stride from Byron coming out of the backfield and taking it for a big gain.
Tim Couch had a pass tipped by Walter Curry. A heads up play by Maurice Drew to catch the ball and take it for a long reception was a crowd pleaser.
Byron Leftwich and Dennis Northcutt connected on a beautifully thrown deep pass down the near sideline. However, Daryl Smith had gotten by Khalif Barnes and more than likely would have had a sack on the play had contact been allowed.
David Garrard tried to connect with Jimmy Farris on a deep pass down the far sideline. Rashean Mathis disrupted the route enough to break the timing, and the ball was overthrown as a result.
The practice ended on two near interceptions for David Garrard. On the first, Garrard tried to force a pass in to John Broussard on a slant, but Bruce Thornton jumped the route and almost picked off the pass. On the next play, he tried to go to D'Juan Woods on another deep pass, but Justin Durant was in coverage, and almost intercepted the pass in a great defensive effort.
Matt Jones had a rough night. He started the practice working one-on-one with Todd Monken, and ended up having to spend a lot more quality time with him as practice proceeded. This is never a good thing.