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Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds went back and reviewed the tape of the Buccaneers' preseason game at Jacksonville and offers up this insight and analysis.
FIRST QUARTER • Mike Nugent's kickoffs were unusually short at Jacksonville. His first two traveled to the Jacksonville 7. Nugent's third kickoff was going out of bounds down the left sidelines, but he was bailed out when Brian Witherspoon foolishly stepped out of bounds at the Jacksonville 3. Nugent's final kickoff did reach the end zone, however.
• Sabby Piscitelli got beat mentally – not necessarily physically – against Jacksonville. The Bucs were in Cover 2 and Piscitelli got caught a little flat-footed on Jacksonville's opening play, which was a 74-yard touchdown bomb from David Garrard to Troy Williamson. Piscitelli's film study should have shown that Williamson is the Jaguars' speed receiver and that he needed to provide more cushion and spacing between he and Williamson. A safety's job is to always be between the receiver and the end zone. Piscitelli was already trailing Williamson at the Tampa Bay 40-yard line with the ball in the air.
• The Bucs missed blocking tight end John Gilmore on Derrick Ward's first carry. Kellen Winslow got stood up by defensive end Reggie Hayward and driven into the backfield. Hayward made the tackle and dropped Ward for a 6-yard loss.
• Byron Leftwich's first pass to Michael Clayton was overthrown. It would have been interesting if Clayton had hauled in the pass as he was wide open down the right sidelines. But his next throw, a 17-yard strike to Maurice Stovall on third-and-16, was on target and had great velocity. On that throw, left guard Jeremy Zuttah got driven back by defensive tackle John Henderson, who should have been called for illegal hands to the face.
• On the next play, Henderson slapped center Sean Mahan down on Leftwich's 19-yard bullet to Clayton over the middle. The crafty Mahan was able to nonchalantly grab Henderson around the leg to hold up him from getting to Leftwich and was not called for a penalty. Had Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio challenged the play, he might have won as Clayton had to go down to the ground to haul in the pass and the nose of the football actually hit the grass.
• Tampa Bay had to like what it saw on the first play of Jacksonville's second possession. Defensive tackle Ryan Sims wound up getting the sack on David Garrard, but he definitely had some help. Defensive tackle Chris Hovan had the initial penetration and just missed the sack, but it was right end Gaines Adams who had a great burst off the ball and a nice bull rush on left tackle Eugene Monroe, Jacksonville's first-round pick in 2009, that helped seal the deal. Sims came over the top to pounce on Garrard, but under the pile, Adams got Garrard around the legs, too.
• The perimeter tackling by Tampa Bay's cornerbacks continue to be rock solid in the preseason, evidenced by Aqib Talib's textbook tackle on Maurice Jones-Drew's 2-yard catch. Talib's coverage during the preseason has been exceptional for the most part as he has rarely had any passes thrown his way.
• Linebacker Jermaine Phillips made a great open-field tackle on Jones-Drew's 7-yard catch on the next play to prevent a first down. The Bucs had hoped to get a look at him at safety later in the game, but a shoulder injury in the first quarter kept him from seeing any more action.
• Stovall nearly blocked Jacksonville's first punt of the night. Tampa Bay has been putting a ridiculous amount of time into special teams this offseason. The guess here is that the Bucs will block a couple punts this year and that the return game will again be stellar (see Sammie Stroughter's 75-yard kickoff return in the second quarter). The Bucs got close to blocking a few punts at Jacksonville.
• Zuttah didn't have a great outing against Henderson, but considering the Pro Bowl defensive tackle is 6-foot-7 and weighs 335 pounds, Zuttah was up to the challenge. Henderson routinely makes guards look bad and Zuttah, who was outweighed by 40 pounds, was effective enough to prevent Henderson from making a big impact on Saturday night. Zuttah's performance was better than last week's sub-par showing at Tennessee.
• Clayton had a vicious stalk block at the second level on defensive back Sean Considine on Ward's 10-yard run on second-and-3. Center Sean Mahan and right guard Davin Joseph opened up a nice hole for Ward to run through. On Ward's 27-yard run later in the first quarter, Mahan trapped linebacker William Thomas and Joseph pancaked and destroyed defensive tackle Derek Landri on the play.
• Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood got beaten badly off the ball on first-and-10 midway through the first quarter. Hayward used a quick first step to run around Trueblood and nearly sacked Leftwich on the play. Leftwich stepped up in the pocket and was dropped for a 2-yard loss. Two plays later, right end Jeremy Mincey rocked Trueblood backwards and got him off balance with a bull rush, nearly sacking Leftwich. Perhaps Trueblood's back is still not 100 percent. Meanwhile, Donald Penn was stellar in pass protection for the second straight week and manhandled former first-round pick Derrick Harvey on a few plays.
• It looked like Phillips and middle linebacker Barrett Ruud had big assignment breakdowns on a 9-yard screen pass to Jones-Drew. Defensive tackle Chris Hovan had it properly diagnosed, but didn't have the speed to get there. But Hovan did show great hustle in pursuit on that play, and the next one, which was a toss to Jones-Drew off left tackle. On the next play, second-and-8 from the Jacksonville 49, Garrard was flushed from the pocket by Hovan, but Adams somehow missed Garrard for an easy sack.
• Cornerback Ronde Barber made a great play by slapping the ball out of tight end Marcedes Lewis' hands on third-and-13.
• Maybe I don't understand the rules, but I thought when Stovall obtained the ball at the Jacksonville 8 on Dirk Johnson's punt with 1:10 left in the first quarter, that the play would be whistled dead where he fielded the ball. But Stovall kept jogging towards the end zone and the play resulted in a touchback. Stovall, who is one of the best in the business at downing punts, apparently made a bonehead play. Johnson continues to impress with his punting and had kicks of 56 and 51 yards to average 46.1 yards on the night.
SECOND QUARTER • I wrote this about Gaines Adams in the Pewter Report Roundtable, but would be remiss if I didn't repeat it here. Adams flashed a new physical presence and some playmaking ability on back-to-back plays in the first quarter. On second-and-4 from the Tampa Bay 41, Adams was stout against the run, reading Jacksonville's zone play and knifing past left tackle Eugene Monroe, the Jaguars' first-round pick in 2009, to tackle running back Greg Jones for only a 1-yard gain. On the next play, which was third-and-3 from the Tampa Bay 40, Adams bull-rushed Monroe and drove him back into quarterback David Garrard, who launched an errant pass just before getting clubbed to the ground by rookie defensive tackle Roy Miller. Adams spent three weeks at Chuck Smith's Defensive Line, Inc. pass rushing camp working on a bull rush and becoming a more physical rusher. That rush on third down, which Smith defines as the ‘money down' for pass rushers like Adams, is the first sign that Smith's teachings are sinking in. Combine those plays along with the pressure Adams got on Ryan Sims' sack and I came away very impressed with the third-year defensive end in Jacksonville.
• I got a phone call from an ecstatic and proud Smith on Sunday morning, who received text messages from his two summer school students, Adams and Kyle Moore, last night around midnight. Smith said both were really "feeling it last night" and that they are excited about their performances. You know what they say about young guys who have confidence – it's a dangerous thing in a good way.
• Quincy Black led the Bucs with special teams tackles last year and is picking up right where he left off with two at Jacksonville. Black tackled Nate Hughes after a 5-yard gain at the Jaguars' 11. Black also showed great hustle in racing downfield to help cornerback Elbert Mack bring down Williamson after a 61-yard catch. Once again, Piscitelli's game suffered from a mental mistake as he took a poor angle on Williamson. Black also caused a false start on Maurice Williams by aggressively showing blitz at the line of scrimmage on the next play.
• Rookie defensive end Kyle Moore had a strong game, starting in the second quarter when he lunged into the backfield and grabbed Jones for a 1-yard loss near the goal line. Dre Moore also provided two nice, assisted tackles in Tampa Bay's goal line defense.
• Sammie Stroughter's 75-yard kick return in the second quarter was just as much about his toughness as it was about his speed. Stroughter broke a tackle attempt by safety Gerald Alexander at the Tampa Bay 34. Credit Clark for providing the escort down the left sidelines and blocking Tiquan Underwood to add an extra 20 yards to Stroughter's return.
• On Luke McCown's first touchdown pass, he received great backside protection from rookie Xavier Fulton, hung in the pocket and threaded the ball perfectly to tight end Jerramy Stevens in between Considine and Reggie Nelson.
• Last week, Stylez G. White was everywhere in the second quarter. Against Jacksonville he was nowhere to be found except on a rush that drew a penalty on Monroe with 6:01 left before halftime. The Bucs want consistency from week to week, but this week White was out-played by both Adams and third-string defensive end Louis Holmes.
• Clark has dropped too many passes in the preseason to be counted on as the number three receiver, which should go to rookie Sammie Stroughter based on what I've seen. Clark dropped a great play-action pass from a boot-legging McCown that would have picked up a first down.
• Kareem Huggins had a nifty, 8-yard run on third-and-3 from the Jacksonville 38. Fulton, Stovall and fullback B.J. Askew had great blocks at the point of attack and Huggins put a nice juke move on cornerback Brian Williams.
• McCown looked comfortable on Saturday night and showed poise in the pocket and decisiveness on his 7-yard strike to Stovall on third-and-6 from the Jacksonville 26. On the next play, McCown displayed his accuracy while throwing on the run once again on a play-action bootleg. This time Stovall caught the pass and picked up nine yards down to the Jacksonville 10. McCown has proven to be much more effective running bootlegs and throwing on the run than Leftwich during training camp and the preseason.
• Although he showed accuracy and zip on his 9-yard touchdown pass to Stroughter right before halftime, McCown's play on the previous throw was just as impressive. In the past, he has been guilty of holding on to the ball too long and not sensing pressure, but McCown felt the backside rush of Harvey, rolled to his right and threw the ball away out of bounds rather than taking a sack.
• Right before halftime, Kyle Moore had a great sack on Garrard as he beat guard Uche Nwaneri with some fast, physical handiwork.
THIRD QUARTER • Fulton's run blocking really picked up. On the first play of the third quarter, he drove Mincey back four yards off the ball. He also picked up blitzing cornerback Tyron Brackenridge and sealed the edge on Josh Freeman's 28-yard touchdown.
• Freeman's first pass, which was a 9-yard slant to Mario Urrutia, was on target and thrown with tremendous velocity.
• Anthony Alabi got a lot of second half work at right tackle at Jacksonville, replacing Trueblood. Alabi doesn't have the athleticism that raw project tackle Demar Dotson showed with the second-string line last week at Tennessee. A false start penalty didn't help his cause, either. Alabi also allowed a lot of pressure from Mincey to get to Freeman, which caused his swing pass to B.J. Askew to be thrown too high.
• Freeman's 25-yard pass to rookie tight end Ryan Purvis on third-and-8 from the Tampa Bay 45 was not only a great read, it's also the longest pass play for the Buccaneers this preseason. With this catch and an amazing two-point conversion reception last week at Tennessee, Purvis has outplayed Jason Pociask and deserves consideration for the practice squad on the heels of an above average training camp. Pociask couldn't block defensive end James Wyche on Cortez Hankton's failed end around, which lost one yard.
• Askew did a great job running the ball unexpectedly in the second half after Huggins suffered a knee injury, but what impressed me was his sell-out block on Freeman's 28-yard touchdown run.
• Fulton and left guard James Lee did not do a good job communicating during pass protection on Freeman's intentional grounding play. Freeman tried to get rid of the ball and can't be faulted for trying to throw it away. From what I've seen of Freeman in the first two preseason games, I think he's going to be a damn good quarterback in a year or two for the Buccaneers.
• Cornerback Kyle Arrington had great coverage in the second half and was a half a step away from making a play on the ball on Jarrett Dillard's 21-yard catch down to the Tampa Bay 8.
• Although Kyle Moore got the kudos for tackling Josh Vaughan for a 9-yard loss, it was right end Louis Holmes that got the initial penetration off the edge to get Vaughan moving backwards towards the left sideline. Holmes had a great second half and forced an early throw by Todd Bouman on the next play, which was an incomplete pass.
FOURTH QUARTER Fulton drew a holding penalty at the start of fourth quarter, but is clearly the best backup tackle the Bucs have right now. On third-and-8 from the Tampa Bay 24, Alabi allowed Mincey to work around him and put pressure on quarterback Josh Johnson, whose pass to Hankton was too high as a result.
• Cornerback Elbert Mack's ankle injury on Tampa Bay's first punt of the fourth quarter is particularly troublesome because he may be the Bucs' fastest and best cover corner right now.
• New safety Steve Cargile made a nice impression in his first preseason game as a Buccaneer, nailing Nate Hughes on an end around with a physical shot near the sidelines. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the team over Donte Nicholson, who missed Saturday's game with a quad injury.
• It didn't seem like the Bucs wanted to get a good look at Johnson last night as Askew had 11 carries in the fourth quarter compared to just four pass attempts and two completions for Johnson. Granted, the Bucs were backed up near their own end zone on one series and were trying to run out the clock with the lead, but one would have that thought that Johnson would have been given more passing plays considering he had four series. It's hard to know if the Bucs have any plans on keeping him and carrying four quarterbacks on their 53-man roster as they did last year. Johnson's pass to the end zone on third-and-7 intended for Hankton was a wobbly pass that was thrown a bit late, which allowed safety Marlon McCree a chance to make a play on the ball.
• Defensive tackle Chris Bradwell got a sack and a pass deflection on third down in the fourth quarter, but didn't help his cause with an offsides penalty and a personal foul hands to the face infraction. The hands to the face penalty came on second-and-20 and gave Jacksonville a first down.
• I wrote about Holmes' pass rushing ability in an SR's Fab 5 over the summer and he showed up big time against Jacksonville with a sack and a forced fumble. He nearly had another sack and a forced fumble, but Bouman was whistled for intentional grounding instead. After further review, it looked like Bouman fumbled. Holmes, who also batted a pass down, has a chance to make the team if he continues to rush the passer like this.
• What was more painful to watch, Jim Bates? The third-and-26 that was surrendered with 3:40 left when Bouman hit Underwood with a 30-yard pass in front of Marshall McDuffie, Tampa Bay giving up a 16-yard catch on fourth-and-10 on Jacksonville's final drive, or the potentially game-tying, 20-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lorenzen on fourth-and-8? The correct answer is all of the above. Bates has to be livid watching the Jaguars convert so many "money downs" in the fourth quarter.
• I was impressed with the coverage skills by rookie cornerback E.J. Biggers last night. Both Biggers, who had a nice tackle for a 5-yard loss on Vaughan, and Arrington deserve to make the team this year as the Bucs will likely keep five corners and four safeties. Arrington made two great leaping pass breakups in the fourth quarter. The first one was against wide receiver Todd Peterson, who would have come down with a big first down if not for Arrington stripping the ball out on the way to the ground. The second one was on a pass intended for Underwood near the goal line. Arrington also had good coverage on Underwood on Jacksonville's missed two-point conversion pass.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org