Eric Zeier and the other Buc QBs ran the Tampa Bay offense crisply on Tuesday
Memo to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense: You can't win them all.
That may not be a theory you want to advance within arm's length of Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks or John Lynch, but it is something the Buccaneers' offense is trying to prove. On Tuesday, in the 12th of 14 voluntary summer workouts, the 'O' finally made some headway against Tampa Bay's famed defense.
If practices have personalities, than Monday's was warm and fuzzy but Tuesday had an edge. From the moment full team drills started, the offensive and defensive units were practicing intensely, and each play was greeted with a cheer from one side or the other. For once, the offense had a chance to do a significant part of the cheering, as they repeatedly executed the designs from new Offensive Coordinator Les Steckel's playbook.
"Our offense was very sharp (on Tuesday)," conceded Head Coach Tony Dungy, who has insisted that these four weeks of workouts are primarily learning sessions. "The first three weeks that we've been here, we've been adding stuff and this week has been all review. That's helped those guys get a feel of what they're doing. They're gaining more confidence as they go along, and it was good to see them execute crisply today."
Among the early plays that gained approval from Steckel was a mid-range downfield pass from QB Eric Zeier to WR Jacquez Green and a run off right tackle by FB Mike Alstott. Though the lack of tackling in these non-contact drills makes offensive success a little difficult to determine, there was no doubt that the offense was sharper than it had been in earlier weeks, when the defense was predictably ahead of schedule. In response, the offensive players were also more vocal on Tuesday than usual.
"There's a newness with it that's exciting," said Dungy to explain the players' reaction to the newfound success. "They're having fun, and that's important."
And clearly, they are learning rapidly, which is also important. Steckel has used informal offseason gatherings, a post-draft mini-camp and this series of workouts to get a head start on installing his attack, which should be a noticeable departure from the Bucs' previous offense. That has meant some growing pains in practice, particularly against such a stalwart defense, but Steckel has not been concerned.
"Les is a teacher, number one," said Dungy, who feels the offense is on schedule. "He's very patient, he understands that you have to have guys learn what they're doing before you can get everything done the way you want it to. I think we're going to have a real good and effective offense, and I like the way he's going about it."
The offense had its fine outing despite the on-field absence of WR Keyshawn Johnson (he was on the sideline observing the proceedings). Johnson worked out on Monday for the first time since the previous Tuesday, as back spasms had kept him out of action. Though he felt just a little sore after Monday's session, the decision was made to give his back more rest. Dungy repeated once again on Tuesday that the injury was not serious and would not have kept him from working had this been an in-season week.
Also not returning to the field on Tuesday were DE Chidi Ahanotu, who is battling intestinal flu-like symptoms, and TE Patrick Hape, who did not finish his first practice in six weeks due to soreness in his right foot. Hape, who has a fracture in the base of that foot, was in Miami by the end of Monday to see Dr. John Zvijac.
Ahanotu could return to the field in time for Wednesday or Thursday's session, before the voluntary summer workouts draw to a close. His presence would be welcomed by the defense, as it seems they suddenly have their hands full with the Tampa Bay offense.