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5 Most Impressive Bucs
WR Sammie Stroughter Not only did he notch two special teams tackles in Jacksonville, Stroughter came up big as a return specialist and wide receiver on Saturday night, too. With the Bucs trailing the Jaguars in the second quarter, Stroughter gave the Bucs a much-needed spark by returning a kickoff 75 yards to Jacksonville's 20-yard line. Stroughter hit a hole, broke a tackle from safety Gerald Alexander and worked his way up the left sideline with great blocking from wide receiver Brian Clark. The Bucs eventually capped off that drive with quarterback Luke McCown's 17-yard touchdown strike to tight end Jerramy Stevens. On the ensuing drive with the Bucs offense facing third-and-goal from the 9-yard line, Stroughter lined up as a slot receiver, ran into the end zone and caught a strike from quarterback Luke McCown in between defensive back Brian Williams and linebacker Clint Ingram for his first touchdown as a pro. Stroughter showed impressive toughness and hands by catching the ball in traffic and taking a hard hit in the end zone. The score came with just one minute remaining in the first half and gave the Bucs a 17-14 lead. Stroughter is a rookie, but he certainly didn't play like one on Saturday night.
QB Luke McCown Byron Leftwich started Saturday's night exhibition game in Jacksonville. Heading into this contest, Leftwich was believed to be leading candidate to be announced as Tampa Bay's starting signal caller in Week 1. However, McCown made the most of all the snaps he took in the second quarter. Midway through the second quarter, McCown threw a 17-yard touchdown strike to tight end Jerramy Stevens down the middle of the field. McCown's pass had enough zip and accuracy to beat Jaguars safety Sean Cansidine on the play, which capped off a 20-yard drive that was set up by WR Sammie Stroughter's 75-yard kickoff return. On the next drive, McCown connected with Stroughter for a 9-yard touchdown on a third-and-goal play. McCown's pass was perfectly placed in between two defenders, and Stroughter showed good hands and toughness by making the grab for the score, which capped off an 11-play, 45-yard drive. McCown was 4-of-5 for 32 yards on that scoring drive. He finished the game 6-of-9 for 51 yards and tossed two touchdowns. That effort will make head coach Raheem Morris' decision in terms of who to start at quarterback a tough one to make this week.
RB Derrick Ward Tampa Bay's ground game struggled mightily vs. Tennessee in the preseason opener, especially for the first-team offensive line and running backs. But the Bucs, who were without Earnest Graham (ankle injury), found some success running the football vs. the Jaguars on Saturday night thanks to Ward. On a second-and-3 play on the second drive of the game, Ward ripped off a 10-yard run off the right side of the offensive line down to the Jaguars' 31-yard line. On the next offensive series, Ward broke off another big run off the right side behind guard Davin Joseph, right tackle Jeremy Trueblood and fullback Jameel Cook for a 27-yard gain. Ward showed impressive athleticism and burst on the run, breaking a few tackles en route to the 50-yard line. Two plays later, Ward displayed solid hands, catching an 8-yard pass over the middle on a poorly thrown ball from the quarterback. Ward finished the game with five carries for 40 yards (8.0 avg.).
P Dirk Johnson The Bucs have to be feeling better about placing Josh Bidwell on injured reserve with an unfortunate hip injury after the performance Johnson turned in on Saturday night. Johnson placed three punts inside the 20-yard line, but only one stood because on one particular punt wide receiver Maurice Stovall fielded the ball at Jacksonville's 10-yard line, but decided to carry the ball to the goal line and dance with the ball in his hands. Stovall stepped on the goal line, which by rule resulted in a touchback. At the beginning of the second quarter, Johnson placed a punt inside the 5-yard line, which allowed WR Sammie Stroughter to make a tackle on the punt returner at the 11-yard line. Late in the fourth quarter with the Bucs attempting to protect a 24-17 lead, Johnson was called on to punt out of his own end zone. He delivered, getting off a 56-yard directional punt towards the left sideline. Johnson averaged 46.1 yards per punt on seven attempts vs. the Jaguars on Saturday night.
DL Kyle Moore Tampa Bay's rookie defensive lineman was a force in the trenches vs. Jacksonville, Towards the end of the second quarter, Moore, who was lined up at defensive tackle on this particular play, penetrated the offensive backfield to sack Jaguars quarterback David Garrard. That quarterback takedown came just a few series after Moore displayed great run defense by lining up at left end and using his relentless motor to work his way over to the right side of the field to tackle running back Josh Vaughan, who previously played with the Bucs, in the backfield for a 9-yard loss. The Jaguars eventually had to settle for a 29-yard field goal. Earlier in the game, Moore showed great get-off on a goal line run attempt by Jacksonville RB Greg Jones, who was stopped in his tracks by Moore, who made the clean tackle. Moore finished the game with three tackles (two tackles for a loss) and one sack.