What players made the biggest impact Friday night in Wednesday night's 30-3 loss to Washington? Which players may have hurt their cause with
less than stellar play? Find out in this Pewter Report insider story by
editor Mark Cook.
After a sloppily played 30-3 loss to the Washington Redskins, trying to find impressive players is somewhat difficult. However there were a few bright spots that emerged from the carnage.Safety Sean Baker
Free agent safety Sean Baker hasn’t wowed too many through training camp but you could begin to start to see his confidence begin to grow a couple weeks ago in a few practices. Baker starting earning a few more reps, and began to make a few media members look at their paper rosters searching out who No. 33 was. Wednesday night against the Redskins, Baker most likely created a buzz among Bucs fans – and even management – with his two interceptions and sure tackling. The safety position appears to be one of the stronger units on the defensive side of the ball so making the 53-man roster is probably still a bit of a stretch. But Baker may have earned him a place on the Buccaneers’ practice squad with his performance at Washington. On the night Baker finished with six tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.Tiquan Underwood
After being fairly quiet since the Buccaneers first preseason game against Miami, Underwood once again make a strong claim to be included on Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster. The former Rutgers star led all receivers with six receptions for 82 yards. In addition to the yards, receiving Underwood added one kickoff return for 39 yards and had a great hustle play to chase down a Redskins defensive back that picked of quarterback Brett Ratliff. Initially most Bucs fans knew Underwood more for his outrageous hairstyle than his talent on the football field, but that has been changing on a daily basis. Underwood has done enough to earn a roster spot and maybe even enough to garner considerable playing time in the regular season.
In a lopsided loss there were numerous candidates who could have made the most disappointing list. Below are a handful that stood out, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.Offensive tackle Bradley Sowell
To target Sowell specifically considering how the entire offensive line player perhaps is a bit unfair, but two plays stood out as bad as any we saw all night. Sowell rotated in at left offensive tackle and his play left much to be desired. On one play Sowell was completely whipped in a matter of one second by the Redskins defensive end that basically was in Ratliff’s face before Sowell even got out of his stance. His feet literally looked as if they were stuck in quicksand. Another play of similar bad technique led to a Ratliff interception as he was forced to throw the ball early and had his arm hit. Tampa Bay’s offensive line is in deep trouble if there are anymore significant offensive line injuries.The Entire Offensive Line
Sowell wasn’t the only offensive linemen who played poorly. In fact there may not be one player who grades out favorably after the coaches evaluate the game tape. Ted Larsen was victimized by a simple inside swim move early in the game, Derek Hardman gave up way too much pressure on the very first series, Jermarcus Hardrick failed to recognize a blitz off the edge, and Desmond Wynn was guilty of giving up at least one sack. Besides the miserable pass protection (five sacks) the line showed zero ability to open holes for the running game, and the Buccaneers offense finished with just 31 yards on the ground. The play of the offensive linemen didn’t just affect themselves; it also hampered the efforts of others trying to make the football team. Mossis Madu and Michael Smith found no holes to run through, and receivers were rarely able to showcase their ability as the constant pressure on Ratliff hampered the passing game dramatically. In one tiny bit of defense to the offensive line, there was no continuity as the coaching staff shuffled the lineup nearly every series. Lineman never knew exactly who was beside them on any single given play, as this game was strictly a game for evaluation.Quarterback Brett Ratliff
It is difficult to get a firm grasp on the play of Ratliff due to the poor play of the offensive line. But even through the constant barrage of pressure he was under, there were a few times in which the line gave the journeyman quarterback enough time to throw. Ratliff was sacked five times, but at least two could be pinned on Ratliff himself for holding onto the ball too long. Ratliff also showed little if any mobility or the ability to extend the play with his feet. No one is confusing Ratliff with Michael Vick, but no quarterback is going to always have clean throwing lanes, and sometimes needs to create his own pocket in a sense. Ratliff finished the game 14-of-30 for 164 yards and three interceptions. There is a small chance Tampa Bay decides to keep three quarterbacks on their active roster but most likely Ratliff’s days in Tampa are over, and with no practice squad eligibility his fate and career now rests with the league’s other teams.Cornerback Myron Lewis
The Myron Lewis saga in Tampa Bay may live on for one more season, but that may be due more to his third round draft status and injuries, as opposed to Lewis earning a roster spot. Again, Lewis had opportunities to make plays, and at times was solid, but the game was much like his Tampa Bay career – filled with missed chances and inconsistency. Former Buccaneers safety John Lynch raved about Lewis’ intangibles (speed, size, even arm length) on the television broadcast, but as the game progressed Lynch saw Lewis once again be a non-factor for the most part. Unless Lewis has a dramatic turnaround or an epiphany soon, the Buccaneers may have to just accept this is all they have in the former Vandy star, and at some point realize that keeping Lewis is only slowing the potential development of another young cornerback that has some upside.
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