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August 25, 2013 @ 12:40 am
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Tampa Bay Squeaks By The Dolphins 17-16; Unit Game Grades

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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The Buccaneers picked up their first win of the 2013 preseason Saturday night against the Dolphins in Miami. PewterReport.com's Mark Cook dishes out his game grades for each unit. Find out what he thinks and see if you agree.
The Buccaneers escaped Miami with a one-point win, notching their first win of the preseason 17-16 against the Dolphins. While not a thing of beauty, the Bucs players and coaching staff will take it and will return to Tampa with a 1-2 record, with the Redskins coming to town on Thursday night in their final tune up before the regular season.

Below is Mark Cook’s take on the Bucs units with grades for each group.

For those concerned with Josh Freeman coming into Saturday night’s preseason game against the Dolphins, Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback did little to quell those fears. In fact for some Buccaneers fans who were on the fence about Freeman, those fence-riders may have jumped off to one side after a 6-for-16, 59-yard night that included a fumble that slipped from Freeman’s hand late in the second quarter.

Freeman was never in synch all night and the few good balls thrown, Freeman’s receivers let him down with a couple few costly drops. Freeman was also under duress a good part of the night, causing some concern, as the offensive line most thought was a strength, looked confused at times.

It is easy to chalk it up to being preseason, but the fact remains there is little evidence seen from preseason thus far that Freeman will be able to just flip a switch and get into 2012 midseason form. Talk radio and internet message boards will be on fire this week, you can count on it.

Rookie Mike Glennon fared no better, however did find wide receiver David Douglas for a late touchdown that brought the Bucs back. Glennon, who played well last week, finished the night 3-of-9 for 43 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

Running Backs
While the Buccaneers running attack managed just 3.5 yards per carry, there were some flashes and glimpses that should make fans feel a touch better in the worst-case scenario that starter Doug Martin gets banged up this season.

Brian Leonard got the start in place of Martin tonight and had a solid first half finishing the night with 38 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Leonard doesn’t have the wiggle of Martin, or the bruising style of Peyton Hillis, but runs down hill and had just enough make-you-miss to be dependable backup.

Rookie Mike James had just 17 yards on seven carries, but was stuffed in the backfield a few times Saturday night that brought his average (2.4 yards per carry) way down. James is clearly the closest Bucs running back to mimic Martin’s style and agility, but is still a rookie and learning what it takes to be a complete NFL back.

Hillis got some carries late, and showed why he was previously a 1,000 NFL rusher. Surprisingly agile on his feet for being so big, Hillis will also lower a shoulder and deliver a blow, something that cornerbacks and safeties do not want to see in the fourth quarter.

Leonard, James and Hillis will have one more chance to showcase themselves next Thursday night against the Redskins, and there is no question head coach Greg Schiano and his staff will be faced with some tough decisions come cut down day.

Wide Receivers
The Buccaneers starting receivers were surprisingly underwhelming on Saturday night, not helping out their shaky quarterback through the first half. Vincent Jackson had a crucial first quarter drop on Freeman’s best pass of the night in the first quarter, and Mike Williams managed just two catches for 33 yards. Jackson had just one reception for 13 yards, and Kevin Ogletree wasn’t much more productive, hauling in just two receptions for 13 yards.

While it is easy to place all of the blame on a 90 yard passing night on the quarterbacks, the receivers must also take some of the responsibility.

Tight Ends
The Buccaneers tight ends were non-existent for a majority of the night and when their number was called it was for a bad plays like Nate Byham’s third quarter whiff block that led to a sack, or a dropped pass like Tim Wright had in the second half.

Why the tight ends are not more involved in the Bucs offense is a mystery to most who follow or cover the team. When a quarterback is struggling to get in a rhythm, one of the first things some offensive coordinators do is call plays that work the short middle of the field. Not many, if any teams win Super Bowls with strictly a vertical passing game. The Bucs coaching staff must find a way to get the tight end more involved in the offense or it may be a long season for Bucs fans.

Offensive Line
What was assumed to be a strength of the Bucs offense was the offensive line, but through three preseason games, it has been a huge disappointment in pass protection. The Bucs offensive line gave up six sacks on Saturday night against the Dolphins and while there was some personnel shuffling going on, the Bucs offensive line will need to tighten up considerably in pass protection.

Gabe Carimi played guard next to tackle Donald Penn on Saturday night and their lack of chemistry was evident as both gave up a sack. Bucs fans were glad to see Davin Joseph back on the field, and while obviously rusty the former first-round pick out of Oklahoma played fairly well considering it has been one year since he has seen any live game action.

Defensive Line
The defensive line must have gotten tired of hearing and reading about how bad they were and came to play on Saturday night. While not perfect, it was a marked improvement over the first two preseason games and gave the coaching staff hope that the front four may be able to generate some pass rush by themselves.

Adrian Clayborn, while not recording a sack, was all over the field Saturday night, showing he is recovered from a knee injury suffered last year against the Cowboys in Week 3.

Newly signed free agent Trevor Scott made his presence know early and often on Saturday night providing a spark sorely needed. Scott was credited with three sacks on Saturday, which was three more than the defensive line had produced all preseason long.

Rookie Steven Means also had a sack for the Buccaneers and was a part of a unit that harassed Dolphins quarterbacks all night. Akeem Spence, Gerald McCoy and yes even Da’Quan Bowers were solid performers all night for Tampa Bay’s often criticized defensive line.

Tampa Bay’s linebackers had solid effort against the Dolphins on Saturday night. Against the run both Lavonte David and Mason Foster had great games, and reserves Adam Hayward, Najee Goode and Ka’lial Glaud also performed well. But the Dolphins passing game completed a number of passes in the middle of the field, and it appeared Tampa Bay’s linebackers were out of position and failed to get proper depth at times.

Overall the unit was good and combined for 22 tackles, with David leading the team with six stops.

The secondary had an up-and-down performance on Saturday night in Miami. The first-team unit allowed Ryan Tannehill to pick them apart at times, but really tightened up in the red zone. Rookie Johnthan Banks reminded everyone he is still a rookie, but didn’t give up anything deep, keeping receivers in front of him for the most part. Tannehill was able to find soft spots in the Bucs zone at times and took what the defense gave him.

Cornerback Leonard Johnson led the Bucs secondary with five tackles and three pass breakups.

On the night the secondary gave up 264 yards through the air, but buckled down when they needed to.

Special Teams
Tampa Bay’s special teams unit overall played very well, minus a long punt return, and a 15-yard penalty for a gunner not getting back in bounds quick enough in the first half. Adam Hayward was the star of the special teams unit, recovering two fumbles on punt returns.

Kick returner Eric Page may have distance himself in the race to win the returner job, averaging 17.5 yards on two punt returns and also adding a 23-yard kickoff return.

Recently signed former Bills kicker Rian Lindell was solid in his Tampa Bay debut nailing a field goal and extra point Saturday night against the Dolphins.

Last modified on Friday, 30 August 2013 01:30

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  • avatar

    Ok, time to say something. Has anyone considered that this is all part of the big picture? Free looking bad, play calls? Our Bucs (not all) looking bad in certain areas. I'm purposely not being specific. Why does eveything look lost in your eyes? 1000's of opinions of what your seeing so far. Hmm, maybe very secret practices for certain groups of players. Seeing isn't always believing in these irrelavent pre-season games. I suppose it's fun hate this, love that, but in the end it's when games count. That, my fellow Buc fans is when the opinions have validity. Yes, I don't post much, but that does'nt matter, I would just be another opinion like this post. Wait and see 10-6 and playoffs. Biggest difference when we have injuries (hopefully not). Go Bucs 2013!
  • avatar

    We play Miami in the regular season so Im not sure why we expected anything short of an extremely vanilla gameplan similar to the one we saw in NE last week. We all know football is a game of strategy and no coach is going to give away a real gameplan on a meaningless game against a team they will see again during the year. Freeman got his reps, had a few errant throws and a few drops oh well. We get Nicks healthy this week and cleared for a full week of practice leading up to the Jets game and we will be fine. The only thing meaningful we can lose in a preseason game is players. We stayed healthy, the first team got an extended look, Spence made some flash plays, the coverage in the secondary was alot better even without Revis, Foster looked to be playing faster and we saw glimpses of a pass rush. Thats enough for me, Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    I see somethings late.But until the regular offensive guys that are injured, I feel the defense will shine espically the away game against the Jets w/o their starter.I think their rookie will be eaten alive ve bucs. But Freeman is a different sistutation. They say he can do this and do that. I think when the veterans qb's are getting cut. I say keep three qb's. With rookie from NC st start, and freeman is the backup with the third qb another veteran that was cut to be brought in and learn the system. But Freeman must open the offense up plus he must run and pass-GO BUCS 8&*8.
  • avatar

    This team has become so dreadful to watch that I am on strike from posting on here any furthur till this team shows something positive.
  • avatar

    I've reserved judgment until I saw the 1st team play extended time in week 3. Anyone who dismisses what we've seen so far because it's the preseason is kidding themselves. We're two weeks away from real football and our 5th year starting QB looks absolutely terrible. It doesn't matter how good everyone else is - as long as #5 continues to regress and regress some more this team is doomed. I really hope I'm wrong but like many of you, I watch these preseasons closely with an open mind. I don't know how anyone can watch this comedy of errors and think they're going to compete in a loaded division. Mark - be prepared to make the trade of your life (and save your job) to get Teddy Bridgewater. If you need some pointers contact Bruce Allen and discuss the stones it took to get RGIII.
  • avatar

    Maybe Schiano has been a bit too nice this year. I am getting very concerned about Freeman, but this is the entire team playing like they don't give a damn. When that happens, you need to look at the head coach. I still say we have to wait to see what happens in the regular season. I think everybody on PR would agree with me, that this is the most excited they were during the off season since their Super Bowl run. Except until we saw one of the worst preseasons for a talented team that we have possibly have ever seen.
  • avatar

    @dick2111: I totally agree with your comments. Supposedly, the Bucs brought in players to fill at least some of the holes from last year, but the team has the APPEARANCE it has taken a step(s) backwards...That would point to a lack if leadership (coaches AND players). In free agency, the Bucs put all their marbles in Revis rather than acquiring 4 to 6 above average free agents...so there are still many holes in this team. At this time, it's hard to tell when he will play & how well he will play when he does. Freeman looks like he's afraid & robotic, thus leading to poor play. It's just GOT to get better from here...DOESN'T IT??!!
  • avatar

    Ok folks, in no particular order, here's EEB's take: 1) I know it looks ugly but the ugliness comes from preseason...Free looked bad (again) but again he had some easy catches dropped - make those catches and his day looks better - still issues I concur, but I'm just saying it looks worse because of the preseason effort players are clearly putting in. 2) Tim Tebow...get serious...he literally cannot throw the ball more than 5 yards down the field...awful as awful gets...this guy has received a tonne of chances because of his brand name (well done on his part), but it's time to retire the brand. 3) Glennon is not even close to ready for the pros (if he'll ever be)...the incredibly mediocre performances he has put up in preseason are all against 2nd and 3rd stringers...this is not the next coming of Russell Wilson. 4) @horse: nice grades and nice idea. 5) Mark, I like your grades too (definitely an F for TE - what was that attempted block by Stocker where he pushed the DE right into Free), although Noble actually made a nice catch or two...however I thought our LBs were not really very good (apart from that sack by Glaud...who is he?) - Foster was just picked on in coverage over and over (coach better find an answer for that or it's going to be a long season of watching opponents score over the middle). 6) most importantly...don't think that these efforts are how we'll look in regular season...VJax will catch everything, Dougernaut will be the focus on offense, GMAC will be sitting on QBs and RBs in the backfield, and Revis will be closing down half of the secondary....the real show will look a lot different despite how difficult the preseason is to watch...GO BUCS!
  • avatar

    MC, 9 for 25 for 89 yards is not a D IMHO. It's an F.
  • avatar

    I know everyone wants to point at the quarterback after nights like that, but the entire Bucs team lacked 'fire in the belly', not just Josh. The offensive line was pitiful, and that's being kind. The receivers couldn't have gotten open if all of Miami's secondary fell down (and they certainly could've used some Elmer's glue on their fingers). Both quarterbacks looked like deer in the headlights on almost every play. The one semi-bright spot I thought was the running backs ... they managed to make yardage even though there were very few holes (thanks again offensive line). Special teams played much better than they have in the first 2 games, but the defense made me want to cry. If you let the other team keep the ball for 35 minutes in a game and march up and down the field, the only way you'll even have a chance to win is if you get a bunch of turnovers. That being said, this team is loaded with talent, and there's no excuse for them looking this bad. As ex-career-military, I always come back to the same point in looking for answers in bad situations: leadership. Most of the time it's not the lack of talent on your 'team' ... it's poor leadership. It looks to me like these coaches are trying to create a team of automatons, instead of embracing the unique skill-sets of various players. Take a look at the one play Josh had last night where he rolled out to his LEFT, and fired a bullet downfield on the run for a first down. But instead of letting him do more of that (and yes, some planned runs), they've corralled him into being a pocket-passer. Works well if the offensive line pass-protects like the Pats do for Tom Brady, or the Broncos do for Peyton Manning, or the Saints do for Drew Brees. In the case of the Bucs' offensive line ... not so much.
  • avatar

    Just to pass time, Detroit did in one month what the Bucs couldn't do in 3 years and that's cut Myron Lewis. The Bears also cut Kyle Moore. We've gotta cut 14 more players before 4pm Tuesday. They started with Adam Weber today! Stay tuned!
  • avatar

    The Ravens just cut "Touchdown" Tommy Streeter from the U. He is 6-5, 220 and could catch when he played at Miami. Vincent Jackson could teach this guy a thing or two. Just thinking out loud, the Bucs would probably never give this guy the time of day!
  • avatar

    Nice article MC. I agree on all points and grades made.
  • avatar

    The plays called sucked. But we should be used to that. The play execution sucked but we are used to that. All in all, pretty much the way we are used to seeing it. The defense looked about the same or better. No one called for return of M Bennett, he has not been a factor for Seahawks.
  • avatar

    Stay coole evryone. If you think this is bad, how do you think the Falcon fans are feeling. Ryan got sacked 5 time last night and they are 0-3. Do you think they're worried about going 3-13?
  • avatar

    Go long past the cameraman on the right hashmark and be ready for the ball dude
  • avatar

    I saw the offensive coordinator drawing up plays on the ground on the sideline
  • avatar

    It's not too late to trade for Tebow
  • avatar

    It's not too late to try to sign Bret Favre
  • avatar

    You get sacked in preseason you go down easy no vet plays all out in a warm up...Freeman bashing getting tiresome go bash Tebow or half the QBs in the NFL that dont have numbers like Free...only way Glennon plays this year is injury...anybody hear Ronde say on air that the Bucs have never had QB as good as Josh. Move on
  • avatar

    I am convinced Freeman will never be a leader, will never play with a clear head, and will never reach his potential until he comes out of the closet. He is clearly not in a mental place where he can competently play qb. When your qb has an unforced fumble and gets frustrated and begs to the ref, instead of GOING FOR THE LOOSE BALL, you have big issues.
  • avatar

    Im a little worried about Freeman but not too worried. Ive always been a Freeman supporter but to get nothing going in 3 games is kind of sketchy, even if its preseason. O-line worries me more than Free does so far. As for the defense im not worried at all. I think coach knows this defense isnt going to be dominant but rather a bend but dont break type which works out for some teams. hopefully the Bucs are one of those teams.
  • avatar

    Pewter Report, can we also start grading the coaching staff too. My grade in this game for Head Coach is D; offensive coordinator D-; Defensive Coordinator C-; Special Teams Coach B+.
  • avatar

    I have laid off the coaching in the past, but now I am pointing it at them. Who in the heck thinks practices is where the job gets done and pre season games are trival? I mean when Schiano spouted that out these last couple weeks it was all I could to hold back from saying something. Look at Revis as a perfect example? He's not in any kind of football shape and isn't ready to play in the first two games. On the positive side, I believe that the draft picks from last year and this year are carrying this team this year; not all of that costly Free Agency hitting and missing players. When a 5 year player is picked up because nobody thinks he is any decent, and goes into a game after three days of practices and gets multiple sacks says a lot. I would say out of sync is being too kind; right now there is total confusion at One Buc Place. These Offensive and Defensive schemes are not working unless this is all about disguising what you are really going to do in regular season. How many believe that story?
  • avatar

    Watched the FSU, NC State game the other day. Glennon was less then stellar that day, but when the game was on the line he made play, after play, with a big T.D. pass to win it at the end. He got us the game winner last night, and that's the most important thing for any Q.B., making the game winner when you have to. I've seen enough of Josh to know, he will always be a tease. My prediction, Schiano's guy Glennon will take over after the bye week. Freeman will crack under the pressure of having to live up to a contract, and keeping Glennon at bay.
  • avatar

    I have seen enough of Josh Freeman's over throws even with one receiver wide open, and inaccurate throws, and no confidence whatsoever, and going down like a dishrag on sacks! When he was 250 pounds he could get off passes with tacklers hanging on him and he could run over people and get yardage on QB sneaks. What was he thinking losing that weight? The coach even tried him two more times in the second half and he just drops the football on the ground. Schiano needs to call his Buddy in N.E. and work an even trade for Tebo. Put Tebo on our roster and promote Gannon to first string for the opener. Give Tebo training on our offense, and if by the break Gannon doesn't get it done, try Tebo. In a similar situation in Denver behind a solid first string line (which we will have going by then ourselves) Tebo ignited that team to seven wins in a row and took them into the playoffs and beat reining Superbowl Champs in his first playoff game. Tebo won't go down like a dishrag either and is a born leader and has the arm for a vertical game, and let him run the QB option to slow defenses! If Schiano listens to the Polyanas any more "it is just preseason Josh will be fine" he will be out of a job by the end of this season. He better wake up before it is too late! Thank goodness for Scott on Defense. See what a DE not coached by our pathetic defensive coaches can do--three sacks in one game. Coaching changes are needed there now to get us to a top ten defense too. Tanneyhill even picked us apart.
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