Working against the Dolphins defensive backs gives Tampa Bay a gauge.
Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer used to talk a lot about the speed of his young receivers. Now he is only concerned with how quickly they develop.
Tampa Bay's passing game appears to be off to a fast start after two workouts against the Miami Dolphins on Friday.
Second-year pro Jacquez Green was particularly effective in getting loose on quick slants and crossing routes, producing several scores in team and individual passing drills.
"I was encouraged. Just looking at the drills, the thing that really stands out is our speed," Dilfer said. "And it did last year at times, too. But I think the young guys are really learning how to use their speed. They're tough to cover and our offense kind of suits their speed a little bit better this year. And we should be able to get them the ball in the open field as much as possible."
Heading into Friday's workout, coach Tony Dungy said he was interested in determining how his receivers would fare against the Dolphins' bump-and-run coverage.
Miami also boasts some of the NFL's top corners in All-Pro Sam Madison, Terrell Buckley and Patrick Surtain.
Despite playing without starter Bert Emanuel, who did not accompany the team because of a concussion he received Wednesday, Dilfer looked sharp in completing passes for long gains to Green, Reidel Anthony and seventh-round pick Darnell McDonald.
"I think they really know how to capitalize on their speed and get open regardless of the technique," Dilfer said. "If they're able to do that continually, they're going to be very tough to stop throughout the year."
That's an encouraging sign for the Bucs, who finished 27th in the NFL in passing offense last season. Miami was sixth in the league against the pass a year ago.
"They play a different style of defensive play in the secondary, but our receivers did a good job of adjusting to the bump coverage and getting off the jam," Dungy said. "That was real pleasing to see. I thought we were a B- (on offense). I thought we did some good things but we didn't finish some plays. We had some plays down the field (but) couldn't make the completion, we weren't able to finish our runs."
Among the players who stood out _ perhaps because he is 6 feet 3 _ was McDonald.
The seventh-round pick from Kansas State struggled early in training camp going against the Bucs' zone coverage. But he deftly utilized his size to gain separation from Miami defensive backs Friday.
"It helps me out to see if I'm good enough to play in this league," McDonald said. "I think I might be able to play. I don't know about starting, but I think I'm good enough to be out there."
With no returning receivers taller than 6 feet, McDonald provides the biggest target for Dilfer.
"Darnell has a lot of potential," Dilfer said. "Like every young guy goes through, he's just kind of learning what this thing is all about. So he's got a lot in his cabeza right now."
Overall, the Bucs were satisfied with the results of their four hours of practice with the Dolphins. Two years ago, the Bucs had similar workouts with Miami, the Washington Redskins and Jacksonville Jaguars before beginning the regular season 5-0.
Last year, they played five preseason games and did not have a scrimmage against another NFL team. The Bucs slumped to a 1-3 start.
Dilfer, at least, says there is a correlation.
"I love it. I'm probably the biggest fan of it," Dilfer said of Friday's workout. "You get so locked in to practicing against your own defense that you start to become an offense that plays best against your own defense, and we don't do that for 16 weeks.
"I really thought it was one of the biggest reasons we started slow last year. It was so much work against our own defense and not enough work against other teams."