WR Paris Warren Bucs wide receiver Paris Warren made a strong case for himself in terms of making the 53-man roster on Thursday night. He proved to be quarterback Luke McCown’s favorite target. After starting his night with a nice tackle on a kickoff, Warren put his receiving skills on display by hauling in a pass from McCown for a 9-yard touchdown, which capped off an eight-play, 76-yard drive. In the second quarter, Warren came up huge by running a slant and hauling in a perfectly thrown pass from McCown and taking it 51 yards up the field before being tackled on Houston’s 33-yard line. The Bucs eventually scored a touchdown on that drive. After a quiet third quarter, Warren came up huge on Tampa Bay’s final drive of the game by hauling in short passes from QB Bruce Gradkowski on third down and fourth down. After helping to keep the drive alive with those clutch catches, Warren finished the drive off by getting himself open across the middle of the field and hauling in a bit of an underthrown pass from Gradkowski for a 31-yard touchdown, which proved to be the game-winning score that put the Bucs up 31-24. However, that touchdown came at a great price as Warren’s left ankle got twisted and gruesomely dislocated as he was tackled in the end zone. Warren had to be carted off of the field after having an air cast wrapped around his left leg. Warren’s season is over, which is extremely unfortunate seeing as he turned in an impressive training camp and preseason. Warren caught a team-leading seven passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans.
QB Luke McCown Tampa Bay quarterback Luke McCown stole the show and most likely secured the backup signal caller job behind Jeff Garcia during the first half of Thursday night’s game vs. Houston. McCown started the game 10-of-11. On the first drive of the game, McCown completed a 23-yard pass down the right seam to tight end Jerramy Stevens. He capped off this eight-play, 76-yard drive by hitting wide receiver Paris Warren for a 9-yard touchdown. McCown picked up where he left off on the next drive by completing a 20-yard pass across the middle of the field to WR Michael Clayton. On the ensuing play, McCown once again looked decisive, hooking up with Stevens, this time in the flat for a 16-yard gain and first down. Two plays later, McCown hit running back Earnest Graham for a 26-yard gain down to the Texans’ 18-yard line. The drive ended when McCown threw a pass in to the flat for fullback B.J. Askew, who displayed a nice spin move and managed to keep his balance en route to scoring an 11-yard touchdown, which capped off an eight-play, 85-yard scoring drive. Two series later, McCown moved the chains again by throwing a beautiful pass to Warren, who was running a slant on the play, and watched the receiver gain 51 yards before being tackled at the Texans’ 33-yard line. On third-and-goal, McCown threw a nice pass across the middle of the field to RB Lionel Gates for a 5-yard touchdown. That play capped off a 10-play, 90-yard scoring drive, which put the Bucs up 24-14. McCown’s impressive night came to an unfortunate end with less than one minute remaining in the first half when his deep pass attempt down the right sideline slipped out of his hands. That pass was intercepted by Houston cornerback Jamar Fletcher, who had recovered a fumble from McCown after the quarterback was sacked and returned the ball for a touchdown, which ended Tampa Bay’s first offensive series of the game. Two plays after Fletcher’s interception, the Texans kicked a 39-yard field goal. McCown completed 15-of-20 passes for 203 yards and tossed three touchdowns and one pick.
S Sabby Piscitelli With starting strong safety Jermaine Phillips seeing little action before receiving the rest of the night off, rookie S Sabby Piscitelli didn’t take long to make the most of his playing time vs. the Texans. At the beginning of the second quarter, Piscitelli showed great awareness and closing speed by jumping a pass thrown by Texans QB Jared Zabransky and intercepting the throw on Houston’s 27-yard line. That turnover led to a 44-yard field goal by Bucs kicker Matt Bryant, which put Tampa Bay up 17-14. In addition to his interception, Piscitelli had an active night in both the running and passing games, and he was solid in terms of tackling. Piscitelli finished the game with two tackles, one pass defensed and one interception.
TE Jerramy Stevens Bucs tight end Alex Smith didn’t play vs. the Texans, which allowed Jerramy Stevens to see extended playing time in Tampa Bay’s preseason finale. The former first-round draft pick had an active night in the passing game. On the third series of the game, Stevens caught a 10-yard pass from quarterback Luke McCown for a first down. On the next play, Stevens ran a great route up the right seam and hauled in a nicely thrown ball from McCown for a 23-yard gain. That play put the Bucs on the Texans’ 38-yard line. The Bucs eventually capped off that drive with a 9-yard touchdown by WR Paris Warren. On the next offensive drive, McCown and Stevens hooked up again, this time in the flat. Stevens brought in the pass and threw a nice stiff arm on cornerback Jamar Fletcher en route to gaining 12 yards and a first down. Tampa Bay also capped off this drive with touchdown. In the third quarter, QB Bruce Gradkowski threw a nice pass to Stevens, who gained 22 yards on the play. However, Texans linebacker Shantee Orr caused Stevens to fumble on the play, which allowed Houston to recover the loose ball at its own 47-yard line. The Texans offense took full advantage of that turnover by marching down the field and scoring a touchdown that tied the game at 24 all. Although his fumble was costly, Stevens’ production was still impressive. He finished the game with seven catches for 100 yards against the Texans.
RB Earnest Graham On a night where Tampa Bay’s ground attack produced just 76 yards on 24 attempts, Bucs running back Earnest Graham proved to be a productive player by rushing five times for 23 yards (4.6 avg.). Graham also displayed soft hands, evidenced by his two tackles for 32 yards, including a 26-yarder that helped to set up a touchdown in the second quarter. Bucs RB Lionel Gates and fullback B.J. Aksew each had touchdown receptions vs. the Texans, but Graham was Tampa Bay’s most consistent and impressive running back on Thursday night.
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