Copyright 2006 PewterReport.com 

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DEFENSIVE LINE
Rookie defensive end Julian Jenkins did a great job of staying at home on a reverse by Steve Smith that only picked up two yards in the second quarter. By stringing out the play, it forced Smith to the sidelines. But Jenkins drew a costly offsides penalty in the third quarter on third-and-8 that made the down and distance third-and-3. The Panthers wound up converting that and scored later on the drive. Overall, Jenkins played well and finished with two tackles.

Defensive end Greg Spires had two tackles, but his play was rather pedestrian and he failed to make any impact plays or generate any type of pass rush. Dewayne White started in place of Simeon Rice, who has an injured shoulder, and fared well against the run by notching five tackles. He stayed at home on a Smith reverse and dropped the Pro Bowl wide receiver for a 7-yard loss. White also recovered a fumble in the first quarter.

Jon Bradley started at under tackle for the injured Ellis Wyms, but didn’t record any tackles or sacks. Bradley appeared to be overmatched against Carolina’s physical offensive line. The team missed a healthy Wyms. Jovan Haye didn’t record a tackle, but did have a quarterback hurry.

Nose tackle Chris Hovan was stout against the run despite being held all night and had three tackles.

Tampa Bay’s defensive line helped stymie Carolina’s running game, but once again, the pass rush was non-existent. Quarterback Jake Delhomme was rarely pressured during the game and was able to find open receivers.

GRADE: D+

LINEBACKERS
Barrett Ruud started in place of Shelton Quarles and played well at times. He played a big part in holding Carolina to an average of just 2.6 yards on the ground. The Panthers rushed 30 times for 78 yards and Ruud’s sure tackling was a big reason that the team was not going to give up 100 yards on the ground. Ruud finished with six tackles.

Weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks had eight tackles, but didn’t make many big, splash plays. Ryan Nece, Tampa Bay’s strongside linebacker, had just one tackle.

The Bucs linebackers did a good job against the pass in zone coverage, but didn’t cause any turnovers.

GRADE: B-

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Cornerback Ronde Barber had a great pass breakup in the first quarter against Steve Smith and that would set up a great night for Barber. Barber forced a fumble when he tackled Keyshawn Johnson to help set up Tampa Bay’s 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Barber also had a great pass deflection and recorded a hurry on a blitz. Barber capped off a great first half with an interception in Carolina territory. The biggest downer of the first half was that some of Barber’s teammates engaged in a group “row the boat” demonstration that immediately backed the Bucs out of field goal position due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Cornerback Juran Bolden had a rough night in pass coverage at Carolina. He dropped a possible interception in the second quarter, and then gave up a deep, 43-yard pass to Steve Smith on Carolina’s field goal drive in the third quarter. There was a pitiful job of officiating on Bolden’s supposed throw-down on Johnson on that drive. Johnson did a great job of acting and flopping and drew a unnecessary roughness penalty. Bolden was solid against the run, and actually led the Bucs in tackles with 10, including nine solo stops.

Nickel corner Torrie Cox gave up a couple of big plays in the passing game and was overmatched against Smith on several occasions. He finished with two tackles and didn’t make any big plays on defense.

Strong safety Jermaine Phillips had a horrible night. He dropped an easy interception in the third quarter, in addition to giving up a 4-yard touchdown pass to Johnson on third-and-goal. Phillips, who finished with three tackles, and Kalvin Pearson, who had one stop, didn’t do a good job of rotating on defense and recognizing Jake Delhomme’s touchdown pass to Smith in the fourth quarter. Smith finished with 149 yards on eight catches (18.6 avg.) and killed the Bucs once again.

On Carolina’s touchdown drive in the third quarter, free safety Will Allen drew a 15-yard facemask penalty when he grabbed Smith’s facemask. Allen had four tackles in the game, but was out of position in coverage on more than one occasion. Once again, Tampa Bay’s safeties played very poorly. But what else is new? Barber’s aggressive play in the passing game and Bolden’s aggressive play in the running game were the only bright spots.

GRADE: D

SPECIAL TEAMS
Safety Kalvin Pearson drew a holding penalty in the first half on a punt return. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud made a great tackle on Chris Gamble on a subsequent punt return that possibly saved a touchdown.

Cornerback Juran Bolden did a great job of pushing a Panthers gunner away from the ball on a second quarter punt and not allowing Carolina to down the punt inside Tampa Bay’s 5-yard line. The result of the play was a touchback. Earnest Graham was sensational with three special teams tackles.

While Tampa Bay’s coverage units were great, holding DeAngelo Williams to just 18 yards per kick return and Chris Gamble to only 6.7 yards per punt return, its punt return game was putrid. Ike Hilliard muffed a punt that was recovered by Barber for a 1-yard loss. Phillip Buchanon returned two punts for minus-4 yards. Overall, the Bucs averaged 1.8 yards per punt return. Yes, the team cut Mark Jones, but Tampa Bay needs a skilled and fast return man. Neither Jones, nor Hilliard nor Buchanon is that guy.

Michael Pittman averaged 23.8 yards per kick return with a long of 27, but seemed to run straight into defenders. He seems to lack the vision and creativity to break anything longer than a 35-yarder. Torrie Cox, who is more quick than fast, had just one return for 26 yards.

Kicker Matt Bryant made his only field goal of the game, a 28-yarder, in the fourth quarter.

Punter Josh Bidwell averaged 43.2 yards per kick with two downed inside the 20 and no touchbacks.

GRADE: B

COACHING
Tampa Bay head coach and offensive play-caller Jon Gruden saw his rookie quarterback commit three turnovers and his former first-round running back fumble the ball and drop a catchable pass. Gruden didn’t fumble the ball, nor did he drop passes as Mike Alstott, Alex Smith and Michael Clayton did. Gruden’s play-calling had it all – deep passes, short passes, screens, draws, outside runs, and inside runs – except execution. The problem is that the Buccaneers are still beating themselves and Gruden and the offensive coaches can’t seem to stop it and put enough points on the board. The poor play of the players is killing Tampa Bay, but Gruden hasn’t solved the team’s problems, which are unfortunately plentiful.

Monte Kiffin didn’t drop interceptions, commit stupid penalties or fail to put pressure on the passer. However, like Gruden, Kiffin can’t seem to put his finger on the poor play of his safeties and dial up a steady pass rush. The Bucs have gotten better at tackling this year, which is somewhat encouraging. Gruden and Kiffin aren’t bad coaches, but they aren’t getting the results out of the players this year for some odd reason.

GRADE: C

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.

Copyright 2006 PewterReport.com

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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