First-year WR Gerald Harris, who just joined the team on Monday, works on getting off the line against fellow receiver Khori Ivy
Here's an exclusive scouting report on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new quarterback in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: good arm on short passes, decent accuracy, passes tended to sail a bit, generally tight spiral, good poise in pocket but limited mobility, may be too short to see over the offensive line.
Is he a raw talent for Quarterbacks Coach Jim Caldwell to mold into an NFL player? Is he a threat to Buc QBs Joe Hamilton, Brad Johnson, Shaun King and Ryan Leaf?
Well, put it this way…Coach Caldwell wasn't scouring extra tape of practice on Friday afternoon. The decent arm in practice the past three mornings belonged to Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen, who was pressed into service as the primary passer during the voluntary pre-camp workouts for rookies and first-year players. None of the Bucs' quarterbacks was new enough to have to attend the pre-camp which, on the other hand, was running over with receivers.
(There was also one veteran receiver on the field Friday, as Reidel Anthony continued his recovery from a sprained left ankle. Click here for an update on Anthony's progress.)
"Coach Caldwell…it was a real tough three days on him," said Head Coach Tony Dungy with a laugh. "It was back to his head coaching days at Wake Forest where he's just walking around trying to observe everything."
The lack of a quarterback was a mere blip that Christensen and some very focused rookies were able to easily overcome. "It would have been great to have a rookie quarterback here, but we were able to get a lot of individual things done – drill work and mental work," said Dungy. "I think we still had a good week without a quarterback. Last year we had Joe Hamilton by himself and we kind of wore him out, so it was probably better this way."
After NFLEL performer Gerald Harris was signed on Monday, the team had seven rookie or first-year receivers to which to give some extra attention this week, so a great portion of each practice was devoted to route-running drills. In addition, a large section early in the roughly 100-minute practice each day was devoted to special teams. On Friday, the team spent most of that special teams portion on punt coverage. This is significant, as the quickest way onto the field for many rookies is through special teams prowess.
"We wanted to use these three days as a time to really focus in on the rookies, on their questions, on the little details they need to know," said Dungy. "We wanted to get them comfortable coming into camp, and I think we were able to accomplish that."
Before the field work, the assistant coaches also held meetings and video sessions, with a greater level of instructor-student exchange. Just as it would in school, the smaller class sizes of the rookie pre-camp allowed for quicker progress from those in attendance.
"It's more relaxed," said Dungy. "There are only two or three guys in the meeting room and you can ask the coach very specific questions. You can ask questions that you may feel like are slowing down the group when you have all the veterans there, so I think guys are more open to asking and getting down what they have to."
And, of course, they were pleased to have a less crowded field on which to display their skills for the coaching staff. That opportunity to learn and impress should outweigh any added fatigue the three pre-camp practices might bring. Dungy doesn't believe the extra work will have any adverse physical effect come the first of two-a-days on Monday.
"No, not really," said Dungy to the thought that the rookies might get worn out. "Now they've got the rest of this day off and all day Saturday, all day Sunday. They really have two-and-half days to relax and get ready."