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QB Bruce Gradkowski The rookie quarterback impressed for the second straight week by completing 11-of-14 passes for 193 yards and tossing one touchdown and one interception as Tampa Bay’s third-team signal caller. Gradkowski’s best throw of the game came in the fourth quarter when he play-action passed down the left sideline to wide receiver Edell Shepherd, who hauled in the 48-yard pass for a touchdown. Gradkowski showed good poise in the pocket and made several clutch throws, including a 14-yarder to WR Paris Warren on a fourth-and-1 play in the fourth quarter and a 36-yard pass down the right seam to rookie WR Maurice Stovall. Although his last pass of the game, which came deep in Miami territory, went off Shepherd’s hands and was intercepted by the Dolphins, Gradkowski ignited an offense that had fallen flat for nearly three quarters.
WR Edell Shepherd After catching just one pass in Tampa Bay’s preseason opener, Shepherd served as Gradkowski’s go-to receiver Saturday night by hauling in three passes for 93 yards (31.0 avg.), including a 48-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Shepherd did a great job of getting himself open by running precise routes, and he displayed soft hands. Shepherd’s only mistake of the game came on Gradkowski’s final pass when he batted the ball that as thrown a bit behind him up in the air, which allowed Dolphins safety Jack Hunt to intercept it.
LB Barrett Ruud With Shelton Quarles receiving the night off, Tampa Bay second-year middle linebacker Barrett Ruud took advantage of the reps he received during Saturday night’s exhibition game. Ruud had a strong presence in the middle of Tampa Bay’s defense, notching a team-high eight tackles and defending a pass. Ruud also proved to be a capable blitzer by penetrating the offensive backfield to sack Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper and force him to fumble in the first quarter. Fortunately for Miami, the Dolphins recovered the loose ball. Tampa Bay’s defense held Miami to 260 yards of total offense and just 86 yards rushing, and Ruud had a lot to do with the Dolphins’ lack of offensive success in the first half.
S Blue Adams Adams, who is making the transition from cornerback to safety, might have solidified a 53-man roster spot by turning in an impressive performance vs. Miami. Adams finished the night ranked second on the team in tackles with six. The Dolphins threw for just 174 yards through the air, and Adams was one of many players that made it difficult for Miami’s offense to move the ball through the air. After two preseason games, Adams has the edge over second-year S Donte Nicholson.
P Josh Bidwell Bidwell, who is coming off of a Pro Bowl season, appears poised to earn another trip to Hawaii this year. He punted three times for 146 yards, which comes out to an average of 48.7 yards per attempt. His longest punt of the game came in the first half when he got off a 62-yarder. In addition to his great outing in the punting department, Bidwell did a nice job of grabbing a high snap and placing the ball on the ground so kicker Matt Bryant could successfully get off a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter.
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