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FIVE MOST IMPRESSIVE BUCS
PewterReport.com lists the five players who impressed us in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 38-14 win against the visiting Houston Texans. Quarterback Chris Simms definitely makes this list, but because he is this week’s PewterReport.com MVP, we will focus on five other players who caught our attention for their solid play.
WR EDELL SHEPHERD Shepherd started off his big night with a well-executed 16-yard reverse before hauling in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Chris Simms in the end zone. Shepherd also helped out the offense by recovering a fumble by Earnest Graham at the start of the third quarter. With this performance tonight, Shepherd solidified his status as the Bucs’ fourth-string wide receiver.
K MATT BRYANT Bryant had a strong showing tonight and may have staked his claim to the Bucs’ place-kicking duties with a 52-yard field goal to put Tampa Bay on the board in the first quarter. Bryant followed that up with a great squib-like kickoff that was returned for only 13 yards out to the 19-yard line. Bryant finished the preseason 4-of-5 on field goal attempts with his lone miss, a 52-yarder, coming against Jacksonville.
TE WILL HELLER Heller showed some impressive receiving skills in the first half, catching two passes for 35 yards. Heller’s first reception was an 8-yard pass that set up a Mike Alstott 1-yard touchdown. His second catch was a leaping 27-yarder from Chris Simms near the left sidelines that helped set up J.R. Russell’s 21-yard touchdown. Heller finished the game with three catches for 45 yards. He could be battling Nate Lawrie for a roster spot this year, and with Lawrie catching a touchdown pass from Luke McCown in the third quarter, Heller, who is known more for his blocking skills, needed a strong performance catching the ball tonight and he delivered. Heller finished the preseason with five catches for 50 yards.
WR J.R. RUSSELL Russell followed up a great game against Miami last week with a sterling performance against Houston. Russell has clearly emerged as a legitimate candidate to make the Bucs’ roster, thanks to his three-catch, 34-yard performance against the Texans. He scored his first preseason touchdown against Houston on a 21-yard pass play from Chris Simms in which he split two Texans defenders – cornerback Lewis Sanders and safety Jason Simmons. Russell finished the preseason as Tampa Bay’s leading receiver with 11 catches for 139 yards and one touchdown.
LB MARQUIS COOPER Cooper received a lot of playing time against Houston and led the Buccaneers in tackles with seven (six solos) and forced a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Blue Adams. That turnover set up Luke McCown’s 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nate Lawrie in the third quarter. Cooper was extremely active against the Texans and finished the preseason with 13 tackles and a forced fumble.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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