QB Luke McCown threw some impressive touchdown passes Monday morning but had a few other reps that needed work
During the Monday morning practice, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Luke McCown threw two beautiful touchdown passes in a matter of three plays.
Sandwiched in between the two scores, however, was an interception, and McCown also fumbled two snaps during the morning session.
Such is the life of a talented – but still relatively inexperienced – young quarterback, Head Coach Jon Gruden admitted after practice. Those maddening ups and downs, great plays and youthful mistakes, come with the territory.
"I'll say this, the two [touchdowns] that he made were great throws, big time plays," Gruden said. "The interception that was thrown, it was a great play by the right corner. What we need to do with this young quarterback is continue to work with him. He has 10 or 12 outstanding plays a day, explosive plays. But he's got four or five times where lightning strikes too close to me.
"To be honest with you, that's part of being a young quarterback. That's also part of going against one hell of a defense every day. In tight red zone areas, he's got to learn from that. Luke McCown has got to learn to use his explosive athletic ability and create on the scramble once in a while when nobody's open. But he threw three or four touchdown passes right out of the chute that were awesome. He has a couple plays, a fumbled snap, an interception, he's got to eliminate and that's why we keep practicing."
McCown's assortment of great and not-so-great plays highlights the interesting double-edged sword that practicing against teammates: What is considered an outstanding play for one side of the ball – such as when the offense completes a long pass or when the defense snags an interception – is clearly a negative for the opposite unit.
"I saw some improvement [today]," Gruden said. "The guys are practicing hard. It's very competitive. Every time the defense stuffs the offense, you want to be mad if you're an offensive coach. When we get a big explosive play offensively, you want to be mad if you're a defensive coach.
"But when you go back to your room to look at the tape, there are some very good things that we can build off of. When you're playing your backup quarterbacks and some other backups at fullback and at wide receiver, it can be a difficult test. That's why we're out here. There are going to be some growing pains, but I really like the progress that we're making and I'll leave it at that." Even though McCown made a handful of mistakes on the day, Gruden was quick to point out how impressed he has been with the fifth-year veteran on the whole. He even took some of the blame on his own shoulders.
"I like the flash that Luke McCown has," Gruden said. "He's got some real flash playmaking ability, we've just got to harness it a little bit better. We've got to do a bit better job coaching."
The Bucs have been spending portions of their afternoons inside their air-conditioned tent, giving them a break from the heat as they continue to work toward the preseason opener Saturday.
On Monday afternoon, they'll still be enjoying air conditioning, but in a slightly different venue – a movie theater.
Continuing an annual tradition, Monday has been designated as "movie day." Instead of an afternoon practice, the entire team will head to the theater across the street from the Celebration Hotel to catch a flick and build some camaraderie.
After the Monday morning session, Gruden played coy when asked if the team would still have an afternoon practice.
"Oh, these guys will have an indoor walk-through and we'll see," Gruden said. "This mind is churning right now. It's churning."
But clearly it wasn't a very well-kept surprise. Even rookie wide receiver Dexter Jackson was already aware of the plan and was excited for the break, as the players will be treated to a showing off the hottest move in the land, The Dark Knight.
"Coach Gruden has us going to a movie today, so that's a little sugar," Jackson said. "We're going to see Batman."
Jackson Adds a Zero
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Jackson was looking forward to watching the adventures of Batman unfold on the big screen, as Bruce Wayne morphs into the "Dark Knight" to fight crime.
That's because Jackson went through a bit of a "costume change" of his own Monday morning, emerging from the locker room wearing a No. 10 jersey as opposed to the No. 1 he had been donning.
Maybe a number change isn't quite as dramatic as Wayne putting on the pointy-eared Batman mask, but Jackson said the reason behind the switch was so that he could line up as an eligible receiver, something players wearing single-digit uniform numbers aren't allowed to do by rule.
"In the preseason game [Sunday night], the Colts and the Redskins, there weren't really any single digits out there," Jackson said. "The equipment manager told me I was going to have to change before Saturday's game with Miami. I told him I'd like to get 10."
Jackson has been getting some reps at wide receiver but is expected to make his biggest impact, at least early on, in the return game. So is he reading anything into the suggestion to switch numbers considering it will now allow him to line up legally as a receiver?
"A little bit, but it's a new number so hopefully I can make some plays," Jackson said
As it turns out, 10 wasn't even the number Jackson would have preferred. A close teammate of his already lays claim to his digits of choice.
"I really wanted 11, but me and Josh [Johnson] are roommates so I'm going to let him have it. [The equipment manager] told me some numbers that were open. Out of 10 and 13, I called some friends up and 13 is a bad number, so they said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å"Go with 10.'"
As for Gruden, he paid little attention to the change. He said he's more interested in what kind of plays Jackson can make for him out on the field, not what number is printed on his jersey.
"Dexter Jackson I think changed his number," Gruden said. "I don't know where that came from. No. 10 I guess is better than one. Hopefully it's 10 times better."