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August 23, 2013 @ 7:27 am
Current rating: 4.33 Stars/3 Votes

SR's Pick 6: Bucs at Dolphins

Written by Scott
Scott Reynolds


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What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds will be looking for in Tampa Bay’s third preseason game at Miami? Find out in his new weekly column, SR’s Pick 6.
The Buccaneers are down in Miami for a highly anticipated preseason against the Dolphins on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s next preseason game?

Are you sick and tired of the “Josh Freeman hasn’t gotten enough snaps in the preseason” mantra that has engulfed Tampa Bay area sports talk radio and PewterReport.com’s message boards this week? I know I have. Freeman has played in exactly four offensive series in two preseason games, with three of those ending in three-and-outs. But he has been sacked four times through two preseason games and had a third-down pass to Kevin Olgetree dropped at New England to kill a drive.

As a result, he has played the third-fewest snaps of any starting quarterback in the 2013 preseason. But do we really need to see Freeman get more reps? I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen Freeman start all but one game over the past three seasons. I saw him throw for a team-record 27 touchdown passes last year and become the franchise’s first-ever 4,000-yard passer. I don’t need to see Freeman play a bunch of reps in the preseason – and need is the key word in that sentence.

Do we want to see Freeman play and perform well? Of course, but do we need to see it? No. He’s not a rookie quarterback and he has a full year’s worth of playing in Mike Sullivan’s offense, throwing to Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams and handing off to Doug Martin. The good news is he is slated to play at least the first half in Miami, so we’ll see plenty of Freeman on Saturday night.

The Buccaneers have given six sacks through two preseason games, including four by the starting offensive line that has disrupted Freeman’s performance in the four series he has presided over this August. It would be one thing if the Bucs’ backups were the guilty parties, but No. 2 quarterback Mike Glennon has only been sacked twice.

Granted, the Bucs have been playing without the services of Pro Bowl guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph, but Ted Larsen has plenty of starting experience and he surrendered a sack last week at New England. Left tackle Donald Penn, who has Pro Bowl credentials, also surrendered a sack, as did right tackle Demar Dotson – and both of those players are starters. In order to give Freeman more opportunities to be more productive he needs better pass protection.

Tampa Bay’s defense has underwhelmed in two preseason games, especially in the splash plays department. Granted, the starters haven’t played much, but through eight quarters of play the Bucs have just two interceptions, one sack and no forced fumbles or fumble recoveries.

Tampa Bay’s starters have done a credible job in terms of scoring defense, holding the Ravens scoreless in the first quarter and surrendering just a touchdown to the Patriots, but the second unit has surrendered 27 points through two games (not including a blocked punt for a touchdown against Baltimore). But where are the turnovers? The Bucs spend an entire period during practice every day dedicated to creating takeaways on defense. Where are the results – even from young defenders desperate to make the football team?

Considering the concern over the team’s lack of pass rush last year, the fact that no defensive lineman – starter or reserve – has gotten to the quarterback yet through two games (the Bucs’ only sack has come from a linebacker blitz by Lavonte David), you have a right to be worried about the alarming lack of sacks by the D-line. To put that in perspective, former USF defensive end George Selvie, who was signed during the offseason and released shortly thereafter prior to the start of OTAs (organized team activities), has three sacks this preseason for Dallas. Selvie is tied for the NFL lead this preseason.

The Buccaneers signed veteran kicker Rian Lindell to provide rest for first-year kicker Derek Dimke as well as competition. The Bucs have been without the services of Lawrence Tynes for weeks as he has dealt with an ingrown toenail, that has turned into a MRSA infection and his return date is cloudy, if he in fact he even returns at all.  As of right now, the job appears Dimke’s to lose.

Dimke is a perfect 5-for-5 on his field goal kicks this preseason, and is tied for the NFL lead in field goals. If he can remain perfect against the Dolphins with a few more field goals he could essentially end the competition before it begins. Lindell will likely be given a few attempts because he’s the new leg in town, and if Dimke misses a makeable kick he could be given consideration as the team’s veteran replacement for Connor Barth this season.

One of the biggest question marks heading into the preseason is which player would step up and become the backup running back behind Doug Martin? Brian Leonard, rookie Mike James and Peyton Hillis have all performed well through two games.

James is Tampa Bay’s leading rookie with 96 yards on 21 carries (4.6 avg.), followed by Hillis, who has 86 yards on 22 totes (3.9 avg.). Leonard, who did not play in the second preseason game, had 23 yards and a touchdown on six carries. With the starters expecting to see a lot of action for the first two or three quarters, carries among the reserve running backs may be limited – depending on how much or little Martin plays in Miami.

The best-case scenario would be letting James, Hillis and Leonard all see some action with the first-team offensive line to see how they perform against Miami. To make Tampa Bay’s decision easier when it comes to the running back depth chart, it would be great for one of these backs to step up and claim that job with a standout performance against the Dolphins.

Time is running out on Tampa Bay’s longshots – the late-round draft picks, the undrafted free agents, the newly acquired guys off the street. With just two preseason games left to make a favorable impression, there are nearly three dozen Buccaneers fighting for their NFL careers.

The bad news for the backups is that there will be limited reps against the Dolphins as the starters are expected to play into the third quarter. The players that do get the chance to play sparingly on Saturday need to make the most of their opportunities as newly signed cornerback Mason Robinson did when he picked off Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow in the fourth quarter last week.

Entering into the fourth and final preseason game without a lot of quality plays on tape can negatively affect a player’s performance with all of the pressure that comes from that situation. If a couple of Buccaneers reserves can step up and star on Saturday in the third and fourth quarters it can create some momentum heading into the preseason finale against Washington and perhaps earn an unheralded player a roster spot.

Last modified on Saturday, 14 September 2013 07:03

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  • avatar

    Free sucjs
  • avatar

    Thanks for responding pinkstob it seems like that is the case. I don't necessarily think Sheridan is a complete bust as we were #1 in run D and did some good things and I like the defensive players schiano has drafted for the most part. I just hope they aren't too inflexible to adapt their scheme to the nfl. I hope that now that we have a real nfl secondary (as opposed to last years stiffs) that schiano/Sheridan will be more likely to adapt/ let the dline rush without crazy stunts, since poor pass d and pass rush results can no longer be blamed on a lousy secondary. Let them rush coach! Especially if they earn it by stopping the run!
  • avatar

    I hope USF product does as well as his team mate JPP; but pre-season stardom doesn't necessarily mean he'll even make Jerry's 53 man roster. Why? It's Pre-season. The time when, as the Strawberry Fields song says, "nothing is real."
  • avatar

    Is it September yet?
  • avatar

    I agree with all criticisms of Sheridan and was among those who called for his ouster last year to no avail. Hopefully, McCoy will speak up again this year if the silliness continues. As a USF alumnus, I was thrilled when the Bucs brought in Selvie...he was THE MAN at DE before Pierre Paul arrived & got doubled teamed a lot...to Paul's benefit. I understand the Bucs were concerned about Selvie's shoulder, but he certainly seems fine with Dallas.
  • avatar

    As far as I am concerned Sheridan was a bust with the Giants.and he was a bust with the Bucs last year and the same this preseason. The Bucs at one time were a top ten defense for over ten years. However it was done with a top Defensive Coach and a top tier Defensive line coach . We have neither this year! If they can't get it together in the Miami game, we need to let Sheridan go and install Davis in his job and see if Sapp is a available to coach our Defensive Line. We have the players now on Defense.
  • avatar

    Bucs show me something good. No more 3 and outs. No more bend and then break defense. Get some sacks. How about some splash plays. Do a decent job on special teams. Give me something that provides hope for the future. I am not a believer in that it will all come together like magic in the first regular season game. If its not gelling now, then we are in trouble. Enough excuses and questions. Do it now. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    Kinderrt, I agree.
  • avatar

    I would love to watch the offense change tempo from smash and grind and run the defense down to an offense that runs hurry up from the gun. That is the recipe the Pats have used and as long as your QB has command of the offense, it works.
  • avatar

    When I read this article my thoughts were the same as Uncle Stan that the prolem is in our scheme. How can we cut Selvie and he goes to dallas and looks like an all pro? Sheridan and Schiano need to be evaluated as they can't seem to get a pass rush going. If the D fails again this year Sheridan needs to be cut loose and Schiano needs to be on the hot seat.
  • avatar

    Good Article Scott!
  • avatar

    2 things. IMO, Selvie wouldn't have gotten those sacks if he played here because of the stunts employed by the defense Stunts have a time and place but not all the time like they are being used here to our players detriment. McCoy was right last year when he said just let us do our jobs or words to that effect. Sheridan (Schiano) haven't learned yet. Until they do we won't see a worthy pass rush even if we had 4 pro bowlers on the DL. I believe we have some real talent but its not being used properly. Would have liked to have heard more from you on this topic. Would have thought more mention would have been made of all the practice throwing Freeman got with all the scrimmages run against the Pats and that Schiano didn't want him laying too much..
  • avatar

    I hope that the coaching staff has a plan this late in the pre-season-I sure hope Tampa is ready. Dallas don't look that great but they do make an impact each year.Come On Bucs Lets beat the trend- If freeman is not the answer go after another veteran next year-GO BUCS
  • avatar

    Through both of Schiano's preseasons with the Bucs, he has played his starters very sparingly, not wanting them to get hurt, and using the games more for the evaluation of backup players. I don't see this changing this preseason, so we have to live with it. I'm not saying this is a perfect approach, or even that I agree with it, but there is no sense in whining about it. I do agree that this is the best/only time to see what we have in Glennon though, and we will be thankful for him getting this experience if/when the time comes when Freeman gets hurt/benched. It's for the greater good of the team, albeit frustrating for those of us who watch. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    Great article SR. I agree on all points made except the one about Freeman playing in preseason, which Surferdudes addressed well. In fact I completely, whole-heartedly agree with everything Surferdudes and Buc1932 said (except of course where they gave conflicting remarks about Freeman).
  • avatar

    Totally disagree with you on Freeman Scott. The tape I've seen of Freeman suggests he's erratic. You can't equate practice with honing your craft in actual game conditions. If it's good enough for Brady, Brees, and company to get so many preseason reps, it should be good for Josh. Speaking of splash plays, that's some middle linebacker the Panthers have. I think he was available when we picked last year.
  • avatar

    Thank you SR!!! Definitely agree on Free especially without game planning. I would like some opinions on this theory-- I believe the bizarre stunts and blitzes are a function of schiano s college experiences facing spread o like chip Kelly's. against that kind of offense, it makes sense to confuse the qb and oline making it more difficult to tell where the defenders are coming and screwing up blocking assignments, ultimately making it less likely the qb will know whether to run, pass, or pitch. This may work well against the eagles and other read option offenses, but against more traditional nfl offenses its obviously not working and making the path to the qb longer which frustrates all of us! Is schiano/Sheridan so inflexible that they can't change scheme to adapt to whatever style we are playing? Do they still believe that just getting better at executing those stunts will produce sacks regardless of the offense? Does anyone even think that it's possible to get more production without adapting? Is schiano even open to trying to let the dline rush straight or even simplifying some stunts?
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