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QB Bruce Gradkowski
Tampa Bay’s offense was determined to run the football on Friday night, and that strategy made a lot of sense since two rookies – guard Davin Joseph and tackle Jeremy Trueblood – were starting on the right side of the line on Friday night. However, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s strategy changed when rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski entered the game in the third quarter. Gradkowski shook off the jitters (he literally vomited before the game) when he walked onto the field and made a strong case for being the second-string quarterback on the team by completing 11-of-13 of his passes for 104 yards and tossing two touchdowns and no interceptions. Granted, he was aided by a potent rushing attack, but Gradowski showed poise and playmaking ability en route to leading the Bucs offense on two 80-yard scoring drives.

RB Earnest Graham
With Cadillac Williams given the night off, Derek Watson (ankle) out and Michael Pittman fumbling twice on one series, Graham answered the challenge of carrying Tampa Bay’s ground attack on his back by rushing 17 times for 69 yards (5.1 avg.). Graham rushed for 32 yards on six carries on Tampa Bay’s 73-yard drive that ended with a field goal in the second quarter. He also caught a key 26-yard pass from quarterback Tim Rattay on that drive to put the Bucs in field goal range. With Watson out, Graham put himself ahead of his competition on Friday night.

FB Carey Davis
Davis only carried the ball a few times in training camp, but he was asked to carry the load for the latter part of Friday night’s game. Davis answered the call and might have secured his spot on Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster by carrying the ball 14 times for 67 yards (4.8 avg.), including a 14-yarder. Davis showed quick feet and cutting ability, especially by bouncing the ball to the outside when running lanes were clogged in the middle of the field. Bucs second-year FB Rick Razzano did a nice job lead blocking, and with Davis’ performance, newcomer Jerald Sowell could be the odd man out at fullback.

LB Barrett Ruud
Tampa Bay’s defense held the New York Jets to 185 yards of total offense and forced two fumbles, and Ruud, the team’s backup middle linebacker, played a big part in this unit’s success on Friday night. Ruud recorded three tackles, and more importantly recovered a fumble caused by safety Kalvin Pearson on the Bucs’ 6-yard line near the end of the first quarter. That turnover stalled a Jets drive deep in Bucs territory. Ruud played with the second- and third-team defenses, and he did a great job of calling the plays and getting the younger players in position to dominate the Jets offense.

WR Maurice Stovall
Several Bucs rookies impressed on Friday night, and Stovall was one of them. He caught three passes for 21 yards. His biggest grab of the game came on third-and-goal in the fourth quarter when QB Bruce Gradkowski threw a fade into the corner of the end zone for Stovall, who out jumped Jets cornerback Rayshun Reed for the ball and the 2-yard touchdown. Although he only had three catches, Stovall’s grabs were good enough to lead the team in receptions on Friday night.


This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.



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