TAMPA — He got pretty much everything he wanted out of Wednesday’s joint workout with the Titans. For nearly two hours, Bucs coach Bruce Arians saw physicality, intensity, rigor and tons of situational work.
The only missing element: offensive crispness.
Dropped passes — and lots of them — were interspersed Wednesday throughout the first of the teams’ two workouts at AdventHealth Training Center. The Bucs and Titans practice against each other again Thursday, then square off in a preseason game Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
“We’ll grade the tape as far as who did what and who did anything, but I know one thing: We dropped way too many damn passes,” Arians said. “We’ve got to stop that.”
After some routine positional drills and one-on-one passing work pitting defensive backs against receivers, the teams engaged in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 reps, where things got interesting.
In one sequence deep in his own end zone, Tom Brady missed tight end Rob Gronkowski on a short throw, had a short completion to Chris Godwin, then had a throw well behind Gronkowski picked by cornerback Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins.
“We didn’t connect on much (Wednesday),” said Brady, who totaled at least three interceptions.
“They keep things moving, they blitz, they pick coverage, they have some disguises, they do what good defenses do — they challenge you to think. We’ve got to be much more on top of things (Thursday).”
Brady hit Antonio Brown over the middle for a touchdown in red-zone work late in the practice but also suffered from drops by Brown, rookie Jaelon Darden and tailbacks Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Ronald Jones.
“I didn’t think (Brady) was very sharp,” Arians said. “Our third-down percentage I think was really poor in that one. He took some shots downfield and got a first down, guys were open. He made some really good throws that were dropped, too. I’ll grade the tape, but I didn’t come off the field saying he wowed anybody.”
Defensively, the front seven got periodic pressure on the Titans quarterbacks, who were scrimmaging without dinged-up All-Pro receiver Julio Jones. Cornerback Jamel Dean intercepted a batted pass, while safety Ross Cockrell — a converted corner — dropped a sure interception.
In one two-play sequence, the defensive line pushed the pocket back for what likely would’ve been a sack of Ryan Tannehill (contact wasn’t allowed on QBs) before cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting broke up a pass.
“Really, really good practice,” Arians said. “You can’t get anything better than going against another team, putting in all the situations, looking at young players, veteran players. No better team to do it against than (Coach) Mike (Vrabel) and the Titans. I thought it was outstanding work.”
O-line depth still shaky
In terms of the offensive line, Arians’ desire not to use any starters in Saturday’s preseason game could be imperiled with one more injury.
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On Wednesday, John Molchon — the backup center out of necessity the last few days — exited with what appeared to be a leg injury. Third-round pick Robert Hainsey, being groomed as the heir to starter Ryan Jensen, suited up for the first time in two weeks for the joint workout, but Arians said his status is “iffy” for Saturday.
The Bucs on Wednesday added tackle Brandon Walton, a Seminole High alumnus, off waivers from the Steelers and waived injured safety Raven Greene.
If Hainsey and Molchon remain sidelined, the Bucs would have eight backup linemen for the game. They waived injured guard Donell Stanley and placed guard Sadarius Hutcherson (knee) on injured reserve earlier this week but signed former Wake Forest standout Jake Benzinger.
“We’ll see when we get through (Thursday),” Arians said. “We lost one today and we’ll see the numbers, but I’m hoping we’ll still have at least seven for the ballgame.”
In an intrasquad special-teams session at the end of practice, kicker Ryan Succop went 6-for-7 on field goals ranging from 33 to 47 yards. ... Arians, when asked if the wrist injury sustained by tight end Tanner Hudson in Saturday’s preseason loss to the Bengals could affect him in the regular season: “He’s still got to make the team to get to the regular season. ... He’s one of those bubble guys.” ... Thursday’s workout will be the last staged in front of fans. Roughly 2,000 season-ticket members, suite holders and other preferred guests have been permitted at most training camp workouts so far.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
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