Copyright 2008

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5 Most Impressive


The rookie wide receiver and kick returner looked like a dynamic veteran. It started out with a quality kick return. Last week against Jacksonville, Jackson did not have a lot of running room on his kickoff returns. At Houston, he had one opportunity in the first quarter and had a respectable return of 23 yards. Then the Bucs rookie had a nice run on the Bucs first drive. Jackson took an end around up field running for 14 yards and a first down, showing a nice burst of speed. That was just a preview of things to come though. Jackson followed up his rush by making a good decision on his first punt return. Standing at the 10-yard line the punt went over his head and landed inside the ten and rolled into the end zone. The next punt was an electric moment for the Buccaneers. Jackson fielded the ball at their own 13-yard line. Jackson broke to his left, the short side of the field. The Texans gunner on that side of the field over-pursued Jackson and the rookie broke to the outside. He turned the corner and raced away from the coverage. Nobody came close to catching Jackson from behind as he raced down the field for an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown. That was a very encouraging return for the Bucs rookie, who flashed the big-play return ability that he was drafted for. Jackson also drew a pass interference on a deep pass and converted a third down in the second half on a eight-yard catch from quarterback Josh Johnson. The Buccaneers are hopeful that the game against Houston is just a preview of things to come for Jackson.


Jackson was not the only Bucs rookie who flashed against the Houston Texans. The Buccaneers first-round pick Aqib Talib had a good night against as well. He was active on the field and was providing good coverage on every one of his plays. Talib made a play that most cornerbacks would not make. Texans quarterback Shane Boyd threw a short pass to wide receiver Jacoby Jones who had stopped his route after running five yards. Talib closed the cushion in a heartbeat and put a nice hit on Jones to break the pass up. Most cornerbacks don't break that pass up, but Talib used his size and strength to separate the ball from Jones. Talib then forced a punt two plays later. Boyd threw on third down and completed a pass to tight end Joel Dreessens. Talib came in and made a nice open field tackle to force a punt. The punt ended up being Jackson's touchdown. Talib's night did not last long as he was out of the game before the end of the first half.


The second-year linebacker had a great night at Houston. Hayward got the start at the Will (weakside) linebacker as the Bucs held out starter Derrick Brooks. Hayward made the most of his opportunity as he played the entire game and was active all over the field. He excelled in pass coverage almost making a few interceptions. He also was noticeable for stuffing runs and he had a few pressures on the quarterback via some blitzes. On the first drive of the game Hayward forced an incompletion on third down as he blitzed and pressured quarterback Sage Rosenfels to throw incomplete. That forced a field goal attempt. Hayward even saw some action at Mike (middle) linebacker. Hayward tied for the team lead with five tackles. Hayward was consistently in the Texans backfield. He burst through the line on a few runs to set up some tackles for loss, and was effective when he blitzed by getting into the quarterbacks face and forcing throws to come out early. One of Hayward's pressures led to Boyd being sacked and helped stall the Texans' last scoring drive. It was impressive night for the second-year linebacker who was the most impressive backup linebacker for Tampa Bay.


One of the Buccaneers free agent tight end imports has challenged for the starting spot, many expected that to be Troupe but it has been John Gilmore instead. Troupe has been held back by a few injuries in training camp and the preseason. Going into the game against the Texans, Troupe needed a good game to help solidify his roster spot. Troupe came through with a fine performance. He was Tampa Bay's leading receiver with four catches for 52 yards with a long of 29 yards. The 29-yard pass from quarterback Josh Johnson was the big play in a 55-yard drive that set up a 40-yard field goal for kicker Matt Bryant. Troupe contributed well as a blocker in the game. That was a real positive to see for the Buccaneers as blocking is not known as Troupe's forte. Tampa Bay uses a lot of two tight end sets, and going into New Orleans the Bucs will be without tight end Jerramy Stevens as he serves a two-game suspension. It was important for the Bucs to see Troupe healthy and productive in the final preseason game. Having Troupe in that mode will be a big asset for the Buccaneers' depth in the season opener.


It was a hard decision to pick Hayes over Charles Bennett. The defensive lineman Bennett was all over the field and made a number of impact plays. Hayes forced his way into the five most impressive with his interception late in the fourth quarter. Hayes was active and flying to the ball. He was able to get some extra playing time as Hayward moved to the Mike linebacker for a while so both young linebackers could see action at the same time. On a key third down in the Texans third drive, Hayes blitzed and put a nice hit on quarterback Boyd. The pass went for a short completion that was short of the first down and the Texans punted. A couple of drives later Hayes combined with Bennett and cornerback Eugene Wilson to stop Houston running back Darius Walker for a loss of two yards on third and one. Hayes made some nice tackles throughout the game. Then in the fourth quarter Hayes halted one of the Texans final drives with an impressive interception. Quarterback Alex Brink was flushed out of the pocket and pursued by rookie defensive tackle Dre Moore. Brink tried to throw the ball away downfield along the sideline, but Hayes showed great hands bringing the ball in and tapping both feet down before his momentum forced him out of bounds. It was a great play for the rookie that capped off a stellar night and helped his status as coaches make their final decisions on roster spots.


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