Fan interest continues to be high as a good crowd attended the practice tonight for the first open session since the Friday night scrimmage. They were treated to a session that started with the usual stretching and warming up, but it appeared that the coaching staff was not feeling a high enough energy level, so once they were done stretching, the ran 4 sets of wind sprints.
The only players that are still on the sideline with injury, but on the field during practice were Brian Smith and Jeremy Mincey.
Now, let's get to the details of the practice session.
11×11 (Part I):
The first session of 11×11 was begun without helmets. It was strictly a running back drill for the first portion. Once the helmets went on, the passing portion began.
Byron and Dennis Northcutt continue to develop a rapport that should serve the team well, connecting on the first pass on a 15 yard sideline pass that has become their bread and butter play on a quick rollout to the right side.
Leftwich connected again on two quick slants to Matt Jones, who has suddenly started to wake up and realize that he might actually need to do some extra work to become a better receiver. This might have been the result of yet another one-on-one session with his position coach, Todd Monken before the drills began tonight.
Byron tried to hit Marcedes Lewis on a deep crossing route. The pass was on target, and hit Lewis in the hands, but he dropped the ball instead of holding on to the pass. He was given a little thumb by Mike Peterson after the ball hit the ground.
Maurice Jones-Drew attempted to bounce a run to the outside when the defensive line clogged up the inside lanes. Unfortunately, he was greeted as he got back to the line of scrimmage by Paul Spicer.
Charles Sharon got back into the action with mixed results. Early in the session, he and David Garrard connected on a short crossing route that went for 7 yards.
Garrard hit Reggie Williams on an inside slant in double coverage. It was a nice pass and a good job by Williams to shield the ball from Scott Starks, who was in tight coverage.
Garrard rolled out on the next play looking for a receiver, but opted to pull the ball down and carry it himself for a short gain of less than 3 yards.
Byron connected with Mike Walker on a great sideline grab in front of Brian Williams. The cornerback had the inside track on the ball, but the pass was over the top where only Walker could get to the pass.
Ernest Wilford continues to show improvement in his performance coming off of a couple of solid practices last week. He caught every pass directed at him this evening, showing improved concentration and attention to hanging on to the passes thrown in his direction. If the pass was catchable, he hauled it in. The majority of the balls that came his way were on slants. The only two passes he did not pull down were on an underthrown pass by David Garrard, and one that was thrown behind him by Quinn Gray.
Jimmy Farris had some trouble hanging on to the football tonight, dropping a couple of passes, both on slants, but with enough separation to where the defender was not a factor. In both cases, the passes hit him in the hands, but rather than catching with his hands, he tried to bring the ball into his body to make the catch, and both bounced out and fell incomplete.
Mike Walker also came out trying to put the rough scrimmage performance behind him, making several nice grabs, and running the crisp routes that continue to be a real struggle for Brian Williams, who once again drew the short straw and had to cover the rookie receiver. Walker and David Garrard connected on a deep sideline pass over Brian Williams, who was stride for stride with the receiver in coverage, but Walker still made a nice play pulling the ball in for a long completion. He came back a few plays later and beat Williams on a quick slant from Byron Leftwich, shaking coverage on his cut, and then doing it again on the same play on a pass from Quinn Gray.
Quinn Gray struggled early on with his accuracy, overthrowing John Broussard on a short slant route, and then almost getting picked off by throwing slightly behind D'Juan Woods on a slant that was almost intercepted by Bruce Thornton. Woods was able to fight the ball away from Thornton, making a nice play to prevent the interception.
Gray tried to connect again with Woods on a deep sideline pass that was overthrown and out of bounds, missing the target badly. When he tried to connect with Charles Sharon on a slant pattern in front of Rashean Mathis, he under threw the ball, throwing an incomplete pass. As practice progressed, Gray did start to become more accurate on his passes.
Matt Jones showed that he was starting to learn a little something about route running, pulling off a double move to the outside, then back in, shaking Jamar Landrom and getting open over the middle on a nice pass from Byron Leftwich.
Leftwich tried to connect on a deep post route, but his pass fell incomplete over the top of his intended receiver. Williams showed surprising speed getting open in coverage, but when he realized that the ball was overthrown, he gave up his route. It did not seem likely that he could have made the play because the ball was about 5 yards beyond him.
11×11 (Part II – 2 minute drill):
Byron connected with Dennis Northcutt on a deep post pattern in front of Rashean Mathis, getting nice separation before the pass was delivered.
Leftwich came back and tried to hit Matt Jones on a deep out. Jones got a hand on the pass, but it was slightly overthrown and fell incomplete.
He came back and hit Ernst Wilford on two quick passes, one a slant, and the other a quick out in front of Brian Williams.
He connected with Greg Estandia on a quick out that went for about 5 yards.
None of the receivers were able to shake coverage in order to get open, so Byron wisely threw the pass away before taking a sack.
Maurice Jones-Drew attempted to run the ball up the middle, but was stopped by Rob Meier and John Henderson for a short loss.
Josh Scobee stepped in and kicked a 25 yard field goal.
On his first play of the two minute drills, David Garrard was sacked for a loss by James Wyche.
He connected on the next play with John Broussard on a dump pass that got back the sack yardage, and advanced the ball for an extra yard.
Garrard then hit Marcedes Lewis for a 9 yard gain, getting the first down to continue the drive.
Garrard then hit Mike Walker, who had found a hole in the secondary on the left sideline between Nick Sorensen and Dee Webb, hauling the pass in for a nice gain.
Garrard connected with Jimmy Farris on a short out pattern, and then was forced to spike the ball after Farris was tackled in bounds in order to stop the clock.
Josh Scobee kicked a 37 yard field goal to end the drive.
During this drill, Byron Leftwich and Reggie Williams connected on what would be the highlight of the session when Leftwich dropped a 40 yard bomb over the top of a very well covered Reggie Williams. Rashean Mathis was right on him in coverage, and even got a hand up to try to distract Williams, or deflect the pass. Williams showed great concentration in staying with the pass, pulling the pass in for the big completion of the night.
Dennis Northcutt managed to top this grab by streaking down the sideline and hauling in a pass from David Garrard. He was double covered, and then bobbled the ball, appearing to lose it, but then managing to come away with it despite a great effort by Bruce Thornton and Nick Sorensen in coverage. The circus catch was a real crowd pleaser.
Garrard went to John Broussard twice. On a deep post pattern, he managed to pull it in without any trouble. But, on the next play, a crossing route in front of Bruce Thornton, the ball bounced right through his hands, drawing the ire of Todd Monken.
George Wrighster got his first action of training camp, hauling in a nicely delivered pass by Quinn Gray on a deep cross that went for about 15 yards.
Quinn Gray went right back to hit D'Juan Woods who came streaking through the secondary on a post route. He was in double coverage, and Gray hit him with an absolute rocket that almost took him off his feet when he pulled it in for a completion of 20 yards.
Gray tried to connect with Jimmy Farris on a deep sideline pass, dropping the pass perfection over the top and into his hands. Farris unfortunately allowed the ball to bounce off of his hands.
Gray connected on a deep post pattern in front of Rashod Moulton, slowing down to make the catch, but then taking the ball for a touchdown.
The only action of the night for Tim Couch came on two very short pass plays, one a short crossing route to Mike Walker, and the other a quick slant to the same receiver before the session ended.
11×11 (Part III):
Greg Jones showed some nice burst and cutting ability, hauling in a dump off from Byron, then taking it around the corner and turning up field for a big gain. On the play, it appeared that Brent Hawkins had gotten to Leftwich for a sack, but the officials that were in attendance did not stop the play to indicate that a sack had occurred.
Gerald Sensabaugh made a great diving stab to knock a pass away delivered by Leftwich, intended for Charles Sharon. Sensabaugh came flying in to make the play on the corner route, just getting a hand in to knock the pass down.
On defense, Jorge Cordova managed to get into the backfield and chase Garrard out of the pocket, forcing him to thrown an incomplete pass, while Brian Iwuh managed to contain, and then sack Quinn Gray.
Practice ended when Greg Jones was stuffed in the backfield by Jorge Cordova, who had burst through the line and met Jones as he was taking the handoff from David Garrard.
The offense continues to click, and the mistakes are starting to become less and less common. There are still some struggles by the big three quarterbacks with accuracy at times, but overall, their performances are improving as camp rolls along. Leftwich continues to be in the lead, only missing on a handful of passes.
Garrard is improving, but there are still those occasional passes where he will throw it to where nobody is, and he is not trying to throw the ball away. He usually runs into this when he is rolling out and trying to throw on the move.
Gray looked great at times, and rusty at others, but clearly he holds the advantage on the field over Tim Couch, who has yet to be really pushed to throw a ball any deeper than a long of 10-15 yards.
The return of the injured players indicates that the competition in camp has been ratcheted up a notch, with the positions at Defensive End, Tight End, Wide Receiver, and backup Quarterback starting to heat up. It should make the preseason and the remainder of training camp interesting to follow.
Camping with FBT: 08/06/07 - PM Session
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