Tampa Bay wrapped up its preseason schedule Thursday night with a ho-hum 24-10 loss to visiting Washington, marking the fourth straight year the Bucs head into Week 1 after losing to the Redskins.
Third-string Washington quarterback Colt McCoy played whistle-to-whistle and led his fellow backups to 443 total yards of offense, including 321 and two touchdowns through the air. Tampa Bay defenders LB Nate Askew and CB Keith Lewis did manage to grab second-quarter picks of McCoy.
Enjoying considerably less success Thursday was Bucs third-string signal caller Mike Kafka. The third-year quarterback out of Northwestern played all but the game’s first series and completed 7 of 14 passes for 86 yards, tossed a 25-yard, third-quarter touchdown to WR Solomon Patton and lost a fumble deep in Tampa Bay territory that resulted in the Redskins’ first touchdown.
Tampa Bay managed just 157 total yards of offense: 92 rushing and 65 passing.
Backup RB Jeff Demps – trying to hang with the team in the offensive backfield or as a return man – led all Bucs backs with 59 rushing yards, but needed 20 carries to get there. With rookie Charles Sims injured and Mike James not playing because of a lingering shoulder issue, Bobby Rainey was the only other Tampa Bay running back to take a carry. He picked up 11 yards on five attempts.
“We tried to get Jeff as many opportunities as possible, as a returner and of course at the running back position,” head coach Lovie Smith said of Demps. “That’s the fastest guy in the NFL and you want to see him use that speed, we just weren’t able to break him so he could really show it throughout the preseason.
“We got a good evaluation we feel like. As I said earlier, I think we put him in position to show what he can do and that’s as a running back carrying the ball and as a returner. So that’s what we’re going to evaluate him on.”
Demps did hit for a 37-yard kick return and averaged 31.0 yards per run-back on his two attempts. Patton, currently the team's first-string punt and kick returner, brought back two kicks for a 19.5 yards each. Patton also returned one punt for nine yards.
Receivers Louis Murphy and Chris Owusu both pulled in three receptions and Patton grabbed two others for a team-high 34 yards, including his 25-yarder in the third that narrowed Washington’s lead to 17-10. Murphy, though, left the contest early because of a second-half back injury.
“He didn’t finish and anytime a player doesn’t finish there is some concern,” Smith said in reference to Murphy’s injury. “Hopefully it’s not too serious.”
Any setbacks at this juncture are unfortunate for players clinging to roster spots. Tampa Bay and every other NFL organization will have to cut down to their final 53-man rosters by 4 p.m. Saturday. Tonight’s game was the last game-day chance for bubble players to make an impression on the coaching staff. When asked if anyone improved their stock Thursday, Smith said it was too soon to determine.
“That would be hard to say right now,” Smith said. “I don’t overreact either way. I just kind of look at the video and go from there. We didn’t really score a lot of points, we didn’t stop them an awful lot, so right off the top of my head I can’t think of anybody that really flashed an awful lot.”
Standard practice for NFL teams is to sit either the majority or all of their projected starters in this fourth and final preseason game. Tampa Bay and Washington largely held to that policy Thursday, but not completely.
SLB Jonathan Casillas and RG Patrick Omameh both entered the game listed as Bucs first-stringers at their respective positions and saw playing time. Omameh started his third game in a row and is now trying to hold onto his spot opposite newly acquired left guard Logan Mankins.
As expected, head coach Lovie Smith would not tip his hand about who his Week 1 starter at right guard would be against the Carolina Panthers.
“It’s a little early for that,” Smith said. “What we wanted to do was give him a lot of opportunities and we’ve done that. We’ve seen steady improvement from him like we’ve seen from some of the other guards at the position. We have a group of men to really choose from.”
Casillas played sparingly and backup Danny Lansanah started at his strongside linebacker position. Smith acknowledged Lansanah’s efforts Thursday and throughout the preseason, but added that the entire unit could use some improvement.
“He’s done some good things,” Smith said. “Obviously we’ve started him last week. He’s had opportunities. But yeah, he’s had some excellent flashes. To you guys that have been around training camp, I’ve talked about Danny a few different times. But we’re still not where we need to be, though, linebacker-wise. We have some players really playing well, but we’re not quite there yet.”
Along with the two interceptions, Tampa Bay defenders combined for seven tackles for loss Thursday, three passes defensed and one sack, recorded by DE Scott Solomon. DB Marc Anthony and FS Keith Tandy paced the team with seven total tackles each, followed by six apiece from LB Ka’Lial Glaud and DT Akeem Spence.
After the Bucs defense let McCoy and the Redskins drive 47 yards in eight plays late in the first to set up Kai Korbath’s 45-yard field goal, the Bucs never evened the score again. The sack-fumble of Kafka came on the first play of Tampa Bay’s next drive and McCoy tossed a 2-yard pass to WR Ryan Grant to go up 10-0.
Backup Tampa Bay kicker Patrick Murray drilled a 35-yard field goal midway through the third quarter to cut Washington’s lead to 10-3, but the Redskins answered quickly with speedy rookie RB Lance Seastrunk’s 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown two offensive plays later. The Bucs responded with the Kafka-to-Patton TD pass on the next drive and Washington RB Silas Redd capped the night’s scoring late in the fourth with a 1-yard run up the middle, bringing the score to its 24-10 final.
Thursday’s announced paid attendance at Raymond James Stadium was 50,239. Skies were clear and the temperature at kickoff was 93 degrees.
Buccaneers defensive starters: LE Scott Solomon, DT Matthew Masifilo, DT Akeem Spence, RE Steven Means, SLB Ka’Lial Glaud, MLB Dane Fletcher, WLB Danny Lansanah, LCB Kip Edwards, RCB Quinton Pointer, FS Keith Tandy and SS Anthony Gaitor.
Buccaneers offensive starters: WR Louis Murphy, LT Kevin Pamphile, LG Oniel Cousins, C Josh Allen, RG Patrick Omameh, RT Jamon Meredith, TE Cameron Brate, WR Chris Owusu, QB Mike Glennon, RB Bobby Rainey and FB Lonnie Pryor.
Tampa Bay’s inactives were CB Mike Jenkins, RB Mike James, SS Major Wright, SS Bradley McDougald and CB Rashaan Melvin.