TAMPA — For the first time under new coach Lovie Smith, the Buccaneers went “live’’ Sunday.
That’s football speak for practicing at game speed, for tackling players to the ground the way you would in a game — and the 15-minute goal-line period was all but owned by the defense.
At this stage of camp, that’s to be expected, and with DT Gerald McCoy leading the way with two run stuffs and S Mark Barron making a run stop just in front of the goal line, the defense didn’t disappoint.
“It was good to see the defense pick up the pace there,’’ Smith said. “When your defense holds (the offense) out like that (in a game), it shifts momentum quite a bit.
“But once you get down into the red zone, offensively you’ve got to get touchdowns. The ball is on the 2-yard line, and offensively you have to get touchdowns every time in that situation.’’
The first-team offense did score one touchdown, that coming on a Josh McCown fade pass to rookie TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the right corner of the end zone. But most of the first-team running efforts fell short.
Smith said he chose to hold the first “live’’ period during a goal-line drill because that situation brings out the best in players, even when it’s at the end of a long, hot practice, as it was Sunday.
“You can hide a little bit when you’re (just wrapping guys up or tagging off),’’ Smith said. “But down on the goal line, you can’t hide. You show your true colors down there, and I liked some of the things I saw.’’
Second-year S Bradley McDougald developed a reputation for being strong in coverage during his college career at Kansas. He spent part of Sunday trying to expand his reputation and took two big steps in the right direction.
McDougald attacked the line of scrimmage on two occasions during 11-on-11 team drills. On the first, he dropped RB Bobby Rainey for a loss in the backfield. On the second, he stopped RB Jeff Demps for no gain at the line.
“I’m just trying to do my best to get the system down and play fast and show them that not only can I cover, I can play down in the run box as well and make plays there,’’ McDougald said.
McDougald achieved his objective, but he didn’t necessarily earn as much praise as he was hoping for. The reason? McDougald took Rainey and Demps to the ground during a period when tackling wasn’t being called for.
“You tend to look a little better when you’re doing something you’re not supposed to,’’ Smith said. “But he’s been around the ball quite a bit, and he’s made plays throughout and so we’ve taken notice of him.
“He’s shown a lot of improvement and that’s what we wanted from him. We normally don’t get rid of good football players, so if you can continue to make plays like that, we will find a way to (keep you around).’’
A lot of the details in coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense remain under wraps. What is known about the scheme is that it will be a mostly up-tempo attack, much like the one the Eagles are running under coach Chip Kelly.
That’s a scheme the likes of which WR Vincent Jackson has seldom — if ever — been a part of during his 10 years in the league, but he says he’s excited to be a part of it in Tampa.
“It is a little unique to me, but doing the up-tempo thing, switching the pace and dictating to the defense a little bit, I like it,’’ Jackson said. “It’s fun. It changes the rhythm of the game and I think it’s an advantage.’’
Jackson said the pace of the scheme isn’t the only thing that’s new for him. He said the amount in which he’s being moved around in this scheme is something he’s seldom experienced.
“They’re putting me in different positions,’’ he said. “I’m not always going to be lined up outside and that (should) help (reduce) the attention I sometimes get. With this offense and the guys we have, we’re going to be create a lot of mismatches.’’
Smith and several other Bucs staff members spent the team’s off day Saturday in Canton, Ohio, where Derrick Brooks was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As soon as the Bucs’ chartered flight returned to Tampa at around 4 a.m., Smith went to work, while the other staffers went home to get some sleep.
“We knew it would be a quick turnaround,’’ Smith said. “But we got plenty of sleep. I slept on the plane all the way back. So we got in and got right back at it.”