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5 Most Impressive Bucs
RB Michael Bennett
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden entered Saturday night's preseason opener vs. the Dolphins intent on featuring Bennett, and he didn't disappoint. Bennett rushed for 74 yards on 19 carries (3.9 avg.) and one touchdown. He also hauled in a team-high four passes for 16 yards. Tampa Bay converted 11-of-20 (55 percent) of its third down attempts, and Bennett was a big reason for that success. He picked up the offense's first first down of the game late in the first quarter when he hauled in a 7-yard pass from quarterback Luke McCown. Bennett then picked up 2 yards on a third-and-1 run play, but dropped a pass on the ensuing play. Late in the second quarter, Bennett came up with a 3-yard gain on another third-and-1 play. He appeared to get stronger as the game went on, gaining 10 yards on a run on the second series of the third quarter. But Bennett's best run came in the fourth quarter when he showcased his speed off the right side, put a stiff arm on a defender and rushed down the right sideline for a 31-yard gain before getting knocked out of bounds at the 2-yard line. After two run attempts came up short of the end zone, Bennett punched the ball in on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line to put the Bucs up 14-6 in the fourth quarter. Bennett proved to be an offensive weapon that Miami's defense had trouble containing.
DT Jimmy Wilkerson
Tampa Bay's defense held Miami to just 198 total yards of offense and no touchdowns. Wilkerson showcased his versatility vs. the Dolphins by notching two tackles and one of the defense's four sacks. On the second drive of the game, Wilkerson showed impressive athleticism by dropping into coverage and defending a pass from quarterback John Beck to wide receiver Ted Ginn in the flat to force an incompletion on a third-and-6 play. In the third quarter, Wilkerson, who had one career sack before signing with Tampa Bay in the offseason, rushed from the right end position and beat Dolphins left tackle Kechuku Ndukwe around the corner to sack QB Chad Henne for a 7-yard loss. On the same drive, Wilkerson lined up at under tackle and came up with a key stop on a scrambling Henne on a third-and-10 play to force the Dolphins to attempt a field goal. The Dolphins rushed for just 64 yards vs. the Bucs, and Wilkerson was one of the main contributors.
TE John Gilmore
With Ben Troupe out of Saturday night's game due to injury, Gilmore saw extended playing time. In addition to showing solid blocking ability en route to helping Tampa Bay rush for 114 yards (3.5 avg.), Gilmore also showcased his hands, catching three passes for 25 yards, all of which came in the first half. Gilmore's biggest grab came in the first half on a third-and-4 play when he hauled in a 13-yard pass from QB Luke McCown. In the fourth quarter, Gilmore had a key block on RB Michael Bennett's 1-yard touchdown run. It was also interesting to see Gilmore used as a blocking fullback in the fourth quarter. Based on his performance vs. the Dolphins, Bucs fans can probably expect to see plenty of Gilmore this season.
QB Brian Griese
After watching QB Luke McCown complete 9-of-15 (60 percent) passes, Griese relieved him and fared quite well, completing 10-of-14 (71.4 percent) passes for 59 yards and tossing one touchdown and no interceptions. Griese completed key passes to TE Alex Smith and Gilmore, but also had a pass dropped by Smith on the same drive. However, Griese came up huge by throwing a perfect pass across the middle of the field for WR Maurice Stovall, which produced a 14-yard gain and got the Bucs offense down to the 2-yard line late in the second quarter. After tossing an incomplete pass on a fade to Stovall in the corner of the end zone, Griese came back and completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to WR Brian Clark in the end zone for a touchdown as time expired in the first half. That TD pass capped off a 19-play, 78-yard drive. The Bucs dominated the time of possession vs. the Dolphins, 36:11 to 23:49, and Griese was a big reason for it. He had good command of the offense, made quick decisions and appeared to be cool under pressure.
CB Ronde Barber
He hasn't made a lot of splash plays in training camp, but Barber showed up for Tampa Bay's preseason opener in Miami. In the first quarter on a third-and-10 play, Barber blitzed from the slot and eluded an oncoming blocker en route to sacking QB John Beck for a 3-yard loss and forcing the Dolphins to punt. In addition to that quarterback takedown, Barber recorded a team-high three tackles. The Dolphins quarterbacks completed 15-of-27 (55.5 percent) passes for 147 yards on Saturday.
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