TAMPA, Fla. — Some notes and observations from my visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week:
- Buccaneers defensive backs have developed an appreciation for QB Byron Leftwich‘s deep ball. Leftwich told me he will get five or six shots a game to go deep in this offense and he’s looking for them all the time.
- Rookie QB Josh Freeman is clearly running with the second- and third-team offense as he patiently learns the offense. He does not have to make the protection calls in this offense, which helps his growth — but there still is a lot to learn. Freeman said he loves the pro hashmarks because “there are two wide sides of the field,” and he has the arm to easily reach both boundaries.
- Rookie coach Raheem Morris already has declared that third-round pick Roy Miller is in the rotation at defensive tackle. Some of the defensive players say he plays like a veteran and has the instincts to contribute early.
- There is clearly a battle for the third-down running back spot. Cadillac Williams thinks second-year pro Clifton Smith has the upper hand because of the things he can do as a receiver. But none of the other backs is surrendering the fight.
- Linebacker Barrett Ruud said there will be less Tampa 2 coverage in the Jim Bates‘ scheme and a lot more matchup coverages. Ruud will be great in the new scheme. Based on his film study, he will have the leeway to rush the quarterback or drop and help out other defenders.
- There is genuine excitement about seventh-round WR Sammie Stroughter, who has demonstrated the ability to be a good slot receiver. He separates on his breaks and has some YAC (yards after catch) skills. All three quarterbacks mentioned how impressed they were with Stroughter.
- Veteran DT Chris Hovan has changed his body for the new defensive scheme. He played at 290 pounds last year; after seven months of heavy lifting, Hovan has his weight up closer to 320. The changes are in his shoulders and upper body.
— Pat Kirwan
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