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5 MOST IMPRESSIVE
LB Bo Ruud – Bucs fans are used to seeing a linebacker named Ruud make tackles and cause big plays for the defense. Except in the fourth preseason game, the younger Ruud did a great job of imitating the play of his older brother middle linebacker Barrett Ruud. Playing outside linebacker, Bo Ruud had a banner night against the Texans. Ruud led Tampa Bay with seven solo tackles, and did a great job covering backs and tight ends in pass defense. It was on some tight coverage that Ruud forced a Texan turnover. While guarding tight end Anthony Hill, Ruud broke up a pass from quarterback Dan Orlovsky. The deflecting ball fell into the waiting arms of cornerback Torrie Cox for an interception. Ruud was very solid in run defense flying to the ball carrier, and showed good fundamental tackling. The younger Ruud is on the bubble to be on the Bucs final 53-man roster, but his performance against Houston should bolster his efforts to stay on the team or make the practice squad.
S Sabby Piscitelli – On the second play from scrimmage Piscitelli made a big play to give the Buccaneers a prime scoring opportunity. After a short pass to Hill in the middle of the field, Piscitelli closed on the tight end and laid some lubber with a big hit. While Hill was going down, Piscitelli's helmet forced the ball out of Hill's hand. Cornerback Ronde Barber fell on the loose ball to get possession for Tampa Bay. After that series Piscitelli, and the rest of the first team defense was done for the night. Piscitelli's strengths were always his speed and athleticism. His mental progress and tackling are issues that he has needed to improve. Piscitelli's tackle and forced fumble were perfectly executed and a good sign of progress for the Bucs third-year starting strong safety.
WR Cortez Hankton – After dropping a few passes in training camp and the previous three preseason games, Hankton was under the gun to turn in a good showing against the Texans. Hankton came up big on the Bucs two-minute drive to close out the first half. On second-and-10 from the Houston 49-yard line, Hankton caught a nine-yard pass from quarterback Josh Freeman. Hankton got out of bounds to stop the clock, and set up an easy third-and-1 for the offense. The next catch by Hankton turned out to be the biggest play for the Buccaneers offense in the first half. Hankton ran a nice seam route down the middle of the defense. Freeman threw a strike and Hankton snared the pass inside the five-yard line while being covered closely by Texans cornerback Glover Quin. Hankton took a shot from Texans safety Brandon Harrison, but kept his feet moving and fell into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown reception. Hankton's catch was the first touchdown since the second preseason game for the Bucs, and was one of the most impressive plays by a Bucs receiver in the preseason. Hankton also got active on special teams making a nice tackle on a third-quarter kickoff at the 17-yard line.
CB Torrie Cox – One of the Bucs players that may have undergone one of the toughest training camp and preseason showings is Cox. Bucs receivers in practice, and opposing receivers in preseason games, have beaten Cox regularly. Cox had a night of redemption against the Texans. In the first half Cox came up with the Bucs third turnover the game when he intercepted Orlovsky. The pass was intended for Hill, and was deflected by Ruud. Cox adjusted quickly and snatched the ball out of the air. Cox returned the ball 11 yards before being brought down at the Tampa Bay 46-yard line. The quality performance for Cox was not limited to that play. Cox blanketed receiver David Anderson on a deep route down the sideline. The coverage from Cox forced an incompletion from Houston quarterback Rex Grossman. Cox also forced a field goal attempt for the Texans when he tackled tight end James Casey short of a first down. Against the run Cox contributed a few tackles, and finished the game tied with Ruud for the team lead with seven stops. It was an encouraging game for Cox, who is on the bubble for a roster spot.
P Dirk Johnson – The mid-training camp addition showed that he was ready for the regular season on Friday night. While he only averaged 36.5 yards per punt, Johnson was extremely accurate with ball placement. Johnson put three of his four punts inside the Texans 20-yard line. His first punt inside the 20 was a booming kick with good hang time that was fair caught at the 17-yard line. Johnson angled his second punt to go out of bounds at the 10-yard line, and skied his third punt inside the 20 to induce a fair catch at the Houston 12-yard line. The one punt that was not inside the Texans' 20 was a 44-yard punt that could have been longer, but was returned nine-yards. Johnson had an excellent night dictating field position for the Texans offense when he was given the opportunity. Considering some of the tough defenses the Bucs offense will face early in the year, Johnson being ready to force favorable field position should be a real asset for Tampa Bay. Honorable mentions for the five most impressive go to defensive end Kyle Moore, kicker Mike Nugent, and quarterback Josh Johnson.