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5 Most Impressive Bucs
DE STYLEZ G. WHITE Tampa Bay thought Jim Bates' defense would make its defensive personnel better when it hired him. While the jury still is out on that particular notion, White's play in the preseason opener vs. the Tennessee Titans on Saturday certainly lent validity to it. White saw significant playing time at right defensive end in the first half, and he made his playing time count. On the first play of the second quarter, White jumped up in the air to bat a pass from quarterback Kerry Collins. As he fell to the ground on his back, the ball fell on White, who clutched the ball for the interception on Tennessee's 24-yard line. That led to Tampa Bay's first touchdown, which put the Bucs up 7-3. On the next series, White sacked Collins for a 10-yard loss after defensive tackle Dre Moore flushed him out of the pocket. That play set up a third-and-20 situation for the Titans. On the ensuing play, White tackled running back Chris Johnson on a draw play, which resulted in a 5-yard loss. White's impressive performance played an integral role in Tampa Bay's defense holding Tennessee to just 96 yards of offense in the first half. SS SABBY PISCITELLI Piscitelli got off to a strong start Saturday night, making a nice open field tackle on Titans tight end Alge Crumpler on pass completion that came off a bootleg from QB Kerry Collins. On the next play, Piscitelli took a great angle to cut off a pitch to RB Chris Johnson near the left sideline. That set up a third-and-4 play. Later on the drive with the Titans on the Bucs' 28-yard line, Piscitelli did a great job of dropping back into coverage and leaping up in the air to intercept Collins' pass to wide receiver Nate Washington in the end zone. Safety Tanard Jackson and cornerback Aqib Talib also had good coverage on Washington, but it was Piscitelli who came up with the pick that ended Tennessee's promising drive deep in Tampa Bay territory.
WR BRIAN CLARK Shortly after DE Styles G. White came up with the interception in the second quarter, Bucs quarterback Byron Leftwich fired a deep ball down the left seam to Clark, who beat the defender and broke a tackle en route to scoring a 24-yard touchdown, which gave the Bucs the lead. It was a good pass from Leftwich, but an even better catch by Clark, who hauled in the pass despite it being thrown behind him. Later in the second quarter with the Titans set to punt from their own end zone, Clark had a nice rush from outside that drew a holding penalty on Titans tight end Craig Stevens. That penalty resulted in a safety, which gave the Bucs a 9-3 lead.
QB JOSH JOHNSON Rookies Kareem Huggins and Sammie Stroughter, or veteran quarterback Byron Leftwich might have wound up in this spot had it not been for Johnson. As expected, Johnson saw little action vs. the Titans, but he made the most of his playing time. Not only did the second-year signal caller play with confidence and showcase a strong and accurate arm, Johnson showed impressive athleticism, scrambling out of the pocket and sprinting 43 yards up the field and into the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Johnson outran three defenders on his way in for the score. Instead of kicking the extra point, the Bucs opted to go for the two-point conversion, and Johnson converted it by throwing up a nice pass into the back of the end zone for rookie tight end Ryan Purvis. That successful conversion made the score 27-20 with just over six minutes remaining in the game. Johnson was 3-of-5 on that scoring drive, which consisted of six plays for 58 yards. Unfortunately for Johnson, he and the Bucs offense never got on the field again as the defense couldn't get the ball back. Still, Johnson's play on Saturday night could prompt the coaching staff to consider giving him more reps in practice this week and in next Saturday's game in Jacksonville.
K MIKE NUGENT With Matt Bryant sidelined due to a hamstring injury, Mike Nugent handled kicking duties vs. the Titans on Saturday night. His first test came with two seconds remaining in the first half when Nugent lined up to attempt a 51-yard field goal. New punter Dirk Johnson had a nice hold on the snap from Andrew Economos, and Nugent displayed a strong and accurate leg by putting the ball through the uprights for three points. What made that kick even more impressive was the fact that the 51-yard kick was Nugent's first field goal try in a game in nearly one year. His last field goal attempt in a game came on Sept. 7, 2008. Nugent's kickoff to start the third quarter landed five yards deep in the end zone, and his kickoff late in the fourth quarter sailed out of the end zone. Late in the third quarter, Nugent was called on to kick a 50-yard field goal. While it had plenty of leg, Nugent pushed the kick wide left. He finished 1-of-2 on his two field goal tries. It's interesting to note that Bryant is 0-of-6 on his last field goal attempts over 50 yards, and just 2-of-10 on those tries during his eight-year career.