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After completing 22-of-29 passes last Monday night, Tampa Bay’s three quarterbacks — Brad Johnson, Brian Griese and Chris Simms — struggled on Friday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Johnson completed just 2-of-5 pass attempts for 8 yards. Perhaps Johnson’s first pass attempt of the night was a sign of things to come. It got batted in the air by Jacksonville defensive end Paul Spicer, who pushed his way through RB Michael Pittman and RT Todd Steussie on his way to getting a hand on Johnson’s throwing arm. That play allowed Jags DT John Henderson to pick off the pass on the Bucs’ 20-yard line. What made the play even worse was the fact that WR Joey Galloway had found a way to get himself wide open deep downfield. Johnson was attempting to throw it to the speedy receiver but instead the play turned into disaster for the Bucs.
Although Johnson didn’t fare well, Griese, who replaced the starting quarterback on the fourth offensive series, fared the worst. He completed just 2-of-7 pass attempts for 8 yards. On his first series, Griese fumbled a pass attempt on a third down play, which gave the Jaguars the ball at the Bucs’ 25-yard line. On the next series, Griese had two of his passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. Griese struggled to find a rhythm and didn’t do anything to help his chances of winning the backup quarterback spot.
Simms played the entire second half and fared better than Johnson and Griese. He completed 13-of-23 (56.5 percent) pass attempts for 104 yards and led Tampa Bay’s offense to its first first down and the team’s only two scoring drives. Simms had several nice pass plays, including 15-yard pass to tight end Will Heller on a bootleg, two great throws to WR Frank Murphy and a 23-yard strike on a slant to WR Danny Farmer. Simms also used his feet to move the chains, including a third-and-16 play in the third quarter where Simms scrambled upfield and wisely slid after he got the Bucs back in field goal range. Some might criticize Simms for making this play, though, since he had WR Marcus Knight wide open in the end zone on the broken play. However, it would’ve have been difficult for Simms to see and/or get the ball to Knight since Simms is left-handed and Knight was on the far right side of the football field. Like the other two quarterbacks, Simms wasn’t given much time to throw out of the pocket and had no running game to work with, but he still managed to make some impressive plays.”
*Tampa Bay converted just 2-of-14 (14.2 percent) third down attempts against Jacksonville.
For the second consecutive week, Tampa Bay’s backfield was without starting tailback Charlie Garner. The Bucs have obviously missed him since their running game has not been very productive in their first two exhibition games. On Friday night, Tampa Bay rushed 15 times for 59 yards (3.9 avg.). A lot of this group’s struggles can be attributed to the lack of push the Bucs’ offensive line was getting up front in this contest.
Fullback Mike Alstott received a few touches, but he didn’t have any success pounding the football up the gut of Jacksonville’s defensive. The “A-Train” rushed two times for just 2 yards.
Pittman started at tailback for Garner. He rushed two times for 8 yards. His longest run was a 5-yarder. Pittman also caught a pass for a 2-yard gain in the first half.
Last game’s hero, RB Earnest Graham, who rushed for two touchdowns vs. the Bengals, carried the ball two times for 3 yards.
For the second consecutive week, RB Jamel White had the most success via the ground game. White rushed three times for 17 yards (5.7 avg.) and had a long of 7 yards. However, White dropped a pass in the second quarter.
Fullback Greg Comella did better than he did on Monday night, catching one pass for a 8-yard gain. He also did a better job of avoiding penalties.
Running back Brandon Bennett rushed one time for a 5-yard gain and caught a team-leading four passes for 20 yards, including a long of 8 yards. Bennett has some elusiveness, but he doesn’t have the speed to outrun many defensive backs or linebackers.
*Tampa Bay had 14 first downs on Friday night and just one of them came via the running game.
Starters Joey Galloway and Tim Brown each saw some significant playing time, but neither player could make the most of it.
Brown dropped a pass on a slant in the first quarter, but he caught a 6-yard pass on a third down later on. He finished the game with one catch for 6 yards.
Galloway got himself open deep downfield on Tampa Bay’s first offensive play of the game, but QB Brad Johnson’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and intercepted. On the team’s next series, Galloway showed some impressive acceleration by taking off upfield after hauling in a pass while running a crossing pattern. Galloway gained 15 yards and a first down on the play, but it was negated by right tackle Todd Steussie’s face mask penalty.
Frank Murphy picked up where he left off last week by catching two passes for 18 yards, including a 9-yarder he had to stretch out to grab since QB Chris Simms threw it a little ahead of him. Murphy was also flagged for illegal motion in the third quarter, but other than that penalty, he had an impressive night.
Danny Farmer, who didn’t catch a pass vs. the Bengals, hauled in a pass from Simms in the fourth quarter for a 23-yard gain, which put the Bucs offense in field goal range.
Rookie WR Michael Clayton saw action but didn’t catch a pass on Friday night.
Bill Schroeder caught one pass for 6 yards.
Tampa Bay TE Will Heller had an impressive outing against Jacksonville. He used his speed and route-running ability to catch three passes for 30 yards, including a 15-yarder he hauled in in the flat while QB Chris Simms ran a bootleg to the left side of the field. Heller also had a drop, though. He had a decent night in terms of blocking.
Tight ends Rickey Dudley and rookie Nate Lawrie also saw action on Friday night.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line was bad, but it was missing starting left tackle Derrick Deese (foot) and starting right guard Matt Stinchcomb (calf) on Friday night.
Right tackle Todd Steussie cost the Bucs big-time when he was flagged for grabbing a Jaguar defender’s face mask on the same play that QB Brad Johnson hit WR Joey Galloway on a crossing pattern for a 15-yard gain and a first down. Tampa Bay ended up going the entire first half without a first down.
Guards Kerry Jenkins and Jeb Terry were each involved in allowing quarterback sacks on Friday night.
Second-year player Sean Mahan saw some reps as a center during the fourth quarter. Center Austin King also saw action, but it was limited.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line was dominated in the trenches by Jacksonville. The Bucs’ ground game was horrible and the quarterbacks didn’t have enough time to throw comfortably out of the pocket, which led to too many three-and-outs and turnovers. Perhaps the only bright spot from this unit came courtesy of Anthony Davis, who performed quite well at left tackle for the second consecutive week.
*Jacksonville dominated the time of possession on Friday night, 39:19 to 20:41.
For the second consecutive week, Tampa Bay’s defense had trouble stopping the opposing offense’s ground attack. Missed tackles, blown assignments and players getting blown out of their gaps contributed to Jacksonville’s ability to rush 39 times for 132 yards (3.4 avg.) and one touchdown on Friday night.
Tampa Bay’s defensive line struggled to sustain a potent pass rush on Jacksonville’s quarterbacks, and when it eventually generated some pressure, the Jaguars’ mobile signal callers took advantage of their overpursuit by scrambling upfield for big gains and first downs on several occasions. In fact, Jags QBs Byron Leftwich and David Garrard rushed a total of four times for 36 yards (9.0 avg.).
Bucs starting under tackle Anthony McFarland probably had the most impressive game of all of the defensive linemen. McFarland penetrated Jacksonville’s offensive backfield early and often, including one play where he split two offensive linemen en route to tackling Jaguars RB Fred Taylor for a 4-yard loss. However, McFarland was penalized for being offsides on one play in the first half. He finished the game with two tackles.
Nose tackle Chartric Darby got blown out of his gap on Jaguars fullback Marc Edwards’ 12-yard run in the first quarter. Darby had a tough time working his way around Jacksonville’s big defensive linemen, but the Bucs signed run-stuffer Oliver Gibson on Friday night, which should help the Bucs defend the run better than they have over their first two preseason games. Darby notched a total of two tackles vs. the Jags.
Dewayne White started in place of left defensive end Greg Spires for the second straight game. White wasn’t as impressive as he was against the Bengals on Monday night. He did, however, make a great tackle on Jags RB Greg Jones at the line of scrimmage. White displayed impressive upper-body strength on the play by standing up Jones, who is a power rusher. White made another nice tackle at the start of the third quarter. White recorded two tackles on Friday night.
Corey Smith saw action at both the right and left end spots on Friday night. He forced a fumble with :49 remaining in the fourth quarter, which allowed cornerback Will Hunter to recover. But the Bucs offense couldn’t take advantage of the turnover caused by Smith. Smith notched one tackle vs. the Jags.
Backup DE Reinard Wilson, who took Simeon Rice’s place in the first quarter, put a good amount of pressure on Leftwich on two consecutive plays, but he couldn’t record a sack. Wilson recorded one tackle vs. Jacksonville.
Rookie DE Josh Savage saw action at left end in the second quarter. He didn’t get any sacks (he had two vs. the Bengals), but Savage made a great tackle on Jones in the backfield for a 3-yard loss in the fourth quarter. Savage finished the game with one tackle.
Neither Derrick Brooks nor Shelton Quarles played for the second straight preseason game. The Bucs could have definitely used both veteran players seeing as the defense struggled at times vs. the Jaguars.
Linebacker Michael Brown started at the weakside spot in place of Brooks, but he struggled. Brown missed a tackle on Jags FB Marc Edwards’ 12-yard run in the first quarter. A few plays later, Brown missed another tackle, this time on QB Byron Leftwich’s scramble for a big gain. Brown recorded two tackles vs. the Jags.
Starting strongside LB Ian Gold fared well for the second straight game. Gold continued to display a knack for racing into the opposing offense’s backfield by notching a tackle in the first quarter. He made another nice tackle near the line of scrimmage a few plays later. Gold notched three tackles on Friday night.
Keith Burns, who started in place of MLB Shelton Quarles, bailed the Bucs out of a jam in the first quarter by intercepting a pass thrown by Jags QB Byron Leftwich in the end zone. The ball was deflected into the air by CB Brian Kelly. Burns seemed to always be in position to make plays on batted passes in training camp and he did it again on Friday night. Burns finished the game with two tackles.
Linebacker Ryan Nece was called for pass interference on a completed pass, so the penalty was actually declined. Nece had a very active night and did a good job of getting to the ball, but he didn’t capitalize on some of the opportunities after putting himself in position to make some plays. Nece notched two tackles.
Rookie LB Marquis Cooper recorded three tackles and continues to show a nose for the football. However, Cooper has yet to make an impact play in a Bucs preseason game.
Bucs starting CB Brian Kelly had an outstanding game, getting a hand on a ball in the end zone that allowed LB Keith Burns to intercept it and kill what would have been a Jags scoring drive. From there, Kelly made another great play downfield by breaking up a pass. Then, Kelly came up huge by sticking his hand in-between Jags WR Jimmy Smith’s as Smith apparently caught a touchdown pass from QB Byron Leftwich. But replays showed that Kelly forced the ball out of Smith’s hands as he fell down out of bounds. Kelly also did a nice job of defending against the run and finished the game with one tackle.
Cornerback Ronde Barber made a nice play on a pass attempted for Jags rookie WR Reggie Williams in the first quarter.
Safety Jermaine Phillips had a mixed outing. He was late coming over on a deep pass thrown to Williams, which resulted in a first down in the first quarter. But Phillips rebounded from that play by making a couple of nice tackles, including a huge hit on tight end Kyle Brady near the sideline. Phillips recorded three tackles.
Safety Dwight Smith notched two tackles and drilled Leftwich on a scramble in the first half. His stop forced the Jags to kick a field goal instead of them getting a set of new downs. The Jags ended up missing the field goal, too.
Cornerback Torrie Cox made some nice plays, including a nice pass breakup in the first quarter and a great open-field tackle in the second quarter. Cox had two tackles on Friday night.
Nickel CB Mario Edwards wasn’t very effective when he had to come up to defend the run around the line of scrimmage. However, Edwards was very sharp in terms of open-field tackling. He made two good ones in the second quarter alone and finished the game with three tackles.
After a rough training camp, rookie S Will Allen continued to impress Friday night by making three great tackles near the line of scrimmage. However, he allowed Jags WR Jermaine Lewis to haul in a pass for a first down on a third-and-6 play. Allen led the defense with five tackles.
Safety Scott Frost allowed Jacksonville WR Matthew Hatchette to beat him deep and haul in a 48-yard pass from QB Quinn Gray for a touchdown in the second quarter. Frost was late coming over on the play. In Frost’s defense, the Bucs defensive line should have sacked Quinn on the play, but the quarterback scrambled away from the group of defenders, which caused Frost to come up a bit. That score put the Jags up 14-0.
Rookie CB Will Hunter picked up a sack in the fourth quarter after he blitzed Jaguars QB Doug Johnson and brought him down for a 13-yard loss. Hunter came up big again with under 1:00 remaining when he recovered a fumble caused by DE Corey Smith. Hunter notched one tackle and one sack.
Cornerback Ronyell Whitaker also picked up a sack and notched two tackles vs. the Jaguars.
* Tampa Bay allowed Jacksonville quarterbacks to complete 18-of-34 (52.9 percent) passes for 224 yards and throw one touchdown and one pick.
This was the one bright spot for Tampa Bay on the night. The play the Bucs received from their special teams units was excellent.
Kicker Martin Gramatica was 2-of-2 on field goal attempts (43, 44). The only thing he could have done any better was kick a better onside kickoff attempt at the end of the game.
Punter Josh Bidwell performed well and got a lot of work in, punting eight times and averaging 44 yards per attempt. His longest punt was a 57-yarder. Bidwell got plenty of hang time on his punts, which allowed the gunners to cover them perfectly.
Newly signed kicker Nicholas Setta did a descent job of handling all of Tampa Bay’s kickoffs.
Fullback Greg Comella might have redeemed himself this game by making two impressive special teams tackles. Dwight Smith, Mark Jones and Lenny Williams also made impressive special teams takedowns. Jones’ open-field tackle was an eye-opener.
Wide receiver Marcus Knight was flagged for holding on a punt return in the fourth quarter.
Tampa Bay didn’t do a great job of providing Jones time to return punts. He had to fair catch a few of them, and Gramatica didn’t do a good job of placing the onside kickoff at the end of the game, which are the two things that kept this unit from receiving an A.
It’s hard to fault Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and/or his staff for Tampa Bay’s poor showing vs. the Jaguars. The team only had five days in-between games, which showed. The players looked extremely tired, especially the offensive and defensive linemen.
The good news is the Bucs, who were penalized 14 times vs. the Bengals last Monday, were only penalized six times for 44 yards on Friday night.
The bad news is Tampa Bay couldn’t get one first down in the first half and could’ve have easily been completely blown out by the end of the first half had Jacksonville capitalized on all of its scoring opportunities.
Perhaps the game plan, which had to be installed in just one day because of the short week, wasn’t the best, but execution, for the most part, was to blame for Tampa Bay’s sub-par outing.
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