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FIVE MOST IMPRESSIVE BUCS
PewterReport.com lists the five players who impressed us in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 20-17 defeat at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wide receiver Paris Warren 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.
QB LUKE McCOWN
McCown had a much more impressive showing against Jacksonville than he did last week against Tennessee. Although he has a tendency to lose his focus downfield when the pocket is collapsing, McCown has the sense to elude the pass rush and the escapability to complete passes on the run or scramble for yardage. In fact, McCown was the Bucs’ leading rushing against the Jaguars with two carries for 25 yards, including a daring 19-yard scramble on third-and-4 at the Jacksonville 30 with 3:00 left in regulation. McCown displayed good poise and accuracy in hitting Paris Warren for a 45-yard touchdown pass and tight end Alex Smith on a two-point conversion pass late in the fourth quarter. Although McCown threw a costly interception that sealed the Bucs’ fate with just over two minutes remaining, wide receiver Chris Davis ran a poor route that led to the turnover. After the play, Bucs coach Jon Gruden was seen chewing out Davis on the sidelines. With Chris Simms having a rather average preseason, it would be interesting to see McCown get some reps with Tampa Bay’s second-teamers next week at Miami.
MLB BARRETT RUUD
Ruud followed up an impressive, six-tackle NFL debut at Tennessee with another stellar performance at middle linebacker against Jacksonville. Ruud’s instincts and speed were again on display versus the Jaguars as he recorded another six stops to lead the Bucs in tackles. Ruud, who is very active and always around the ball, also had a stop on special teams. While it is early, we are seeing the makings of a very good football player. With apologies to running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and tight end Alex Smith, Ruud has definitely been Tampa Bay’s most impressive rookie in the preseason.
OLB RYAN NECE
Nece was in the zone against Jacksonville, racking up two tackles and a pass defensed on defense at linebacker, but more importantly, recovering a muffed Chad Owens punt return in the first quarter and also recording a special teams tackle. That fumble recovery led to a Tampa Bay field goal. The Bucs are counting on Nece to become a leader and a playmaker on special teams with the loss of linebacker Keith Burns, who was a special teams ace last year, in free agency. So far, he’s doing a great job in that capacity.
K TODD FRANCE
France gets the nod over fellow kicker Matt Bryant for one big reason – he made his only attempt while Bryant missed a potential game-tying 53-yard field goal short and wide right. Neither kicker has established himself as the clear-cut favorite yet during training camp, but the fact that France drilled a 49-yarder with room to spare and that Bryant doesn’t seem to have the power to make many field goals over 45 yards (his career long in a game is 48 yards) may give France a slight edge right now. The only disappointing aspect of France’s game at this point is his kickoffs, which don’t have the distance or hang time that Bryant’s have.
TE ALEX SMITH
Rookie tight end Alex Smith his presence felt on the Bucs’ fourth quarter touchdown drive. While he didn’t catch a pass on Tampa Bay’s 10-play, 85-yard drive, Smith threw a crushing block on Jacksonville safety Gerald Sensabaugh to help Paris Warren find his way to the end zone on his 45-yard touchdown. Smith then capped off the drive by hauling in a two-point conversion pass from Luke McCown to bring the Bucs within a field goal in the fourth quarter. Through two preseason games, Smith looks impressive.
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