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Publisher Scott Reynolds
"For the second straight game, I was not impressed with Byron Leftwich's third-down passing. Leftwich had a great 17-yard pass to Maurice Stovall on third-and-16, but finished the Jaguars game 1-of-4 (25 percent) passing on third down. In two preseason contests, Leftwich is a horrendous 1-of-8 (12.5 percent) passing on third down compared to Luke McCown, who is 3-of-7 (42.8 percent) on third down in two preseason games. McCown was 2-of-3 (66.6 percent) passing on third down against the Jaguars, including his 9-yard touchdown strike to Sammie Stroughter."
"Speaking of Stroughter, not only will he make the team, but he will provide a major impact on both offense and special teams. It's nice to know that with Stroughter, the Buccaneers have a capable backup to Pro Bowl kick and punt returner Clifton Smith. Stroughter had a 75-yard kickoff return against Jacksonville, which set up McCown's first touchdown pass, and he's averaging 34.8 yards per return on five kickoffs during the preseason. Not only that, but he leads the Bucs in special teams tackles with four. As a receiver in two preseason games, Stroughter has four catches for 51 yards, including his touchdown reception at Jacksonville."
"Mike Nugent appears to be winning the kicking duties by default as Matt Bryant's hamstring injury has kept him out of both preseason games. While he is only making 50 percent of his field goals, Nugent has not had an attempt less than 46 yards thus far. He has made field goals of 46 and 51 yards versus misses from 50 and 46 yards. Nugent's 46-yard miss hit the right upright in Jacksonville. One of the reasons he was brought in to challenge Bryant was because Bryant struggled last year with field goals past 45 yards. Although Bryant made 84.2 percent of his field goals in 2008, he was 0-3 from 50 yards and only 62.5 percent accurate on field goals from 40-49 yards. Even with a healthy hamstring, Bryant might not have hit 50 percent of the four field goals that Nugent has attempted this preseason."
"Gaines Adams flashed a new physical presence and some playmaking ability on back-to-back plays in the first quarter. In the second 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 backside pressure Adams got on Ryan Sims' sack and I came away very impressed with the Bucs' third-year defensive end in Jacksonville."
"It's early, but Tampa Bay's efforts along the defensive line this offseason have appeared to pay dividends. Not only have Miller and Kyle Moore, who had a sack and two tackles for loss at Jacksonville, stepped up as rookies and earned significant playing time in the defensive line rotation, but Dre Moore has shed his ‘project' label and looks to have earned a spot as the Bucs' fourth tackle. Dre Moore has been a stout force against the run and has shown he can pressure the pocket, too. But that's not all the 6-foot-4, 315-pound tackle can do. He also dropped into coverage in the middle of the field several times in the fourth quarter when defensive coordinator Jim Bates zone blitzed. Back at Maryland, Moore picked off Matt Ryan when he was at Boston College. He may get a chance to do that at the pro level, too. One last thing about the defensive line. It seems as if the duo of Todd Wash and new D-line coach Robert Nunn is really paying off. With two defensive line coaches, players like Miller, Kyle Moore, Dre Moore and newcomer Louis Holmes, who looks like a keeper at right end after almost having two sacks and two forced fumbles at Jacksonville (if not for a questionable call that ruled his second sack intentional grounding), have really developed due to the extra attention that can be given with an extra set of eyes. Credit Bates and head coach Raheem Morris for bringing in Nunn to assist Wash."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"It's only preseason, and granted these plays came against second- and third-string defenders, but it's interesting to note that Tampa Bay's longest runs of the preseason have come courtesy of the team's quarterbacks. In the Bucs' preseason opener in Tennessee, fourth-string QB Josh Johnson ripped off a 43-yard run down the left sideline for a touchdown. On Saturday night in Jacksonville, Bucs rookie QB Josh Freeman had similar success on a third-and-8 play, rolling to his left and sprinting down the left sideline for a 28-yard touchdown run. Bucs QB Luke McCown, who had an impressive game vs. the Jaguars, has also shown mobility, rushing two times for 13 yards in preseason. Remember – McCown had the team's longest run of the year in 2007, picking up 31 yards on a scramble. Bucs head coach Raheem Morris has a tough decision to make in terms of which quarterback to start in Week 1 versus Dallas. Mobility will factor into the decision, but how much weight is placed on this particular area is unknown. For his sake, Bucs QB Byron Leftwich better hope Morris and offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski don't put too much stock in it (although they should) since mobility is one of Leftwich's weaknesses, evidenced by the success each of the other three quarterbacks has had running the football compared to Leftwich, who took a 17-yard sack at Tennessee last week."
"While it might not happen, the Buccaneers need to give serious consideration to playing seventh-round pick Sammie Stroughter as the No. 3 receiver in Jeff Jagodzinski's offense this season. The rookie hasn't played like one in preseason, excelling on special teams and displaying lethal kick return and pass-catching ability. On Saturday night in Jacksonville, Stroughter had a key 75-yard kickoff return to set up an offensive touchdown, and a 9-yard touchdown grab of his own on offense. Stroughter's strong preseason performance likely means Dexter Jackson will not be a Buccaneer come the start of the regular season, but Stroughter should also see action on the field. Brian Clark is currently the frontrunner to win the No. 3 receiver job, but he did not help his own cause by dropping two passes against the Jaguars. In addition to having a fairly consistent and productive training camp, Clark also has something else going for him – wide receivers coach Richard Mann absolutely loves him. Still, Stroughter appears to be poised to either push Clark to become a better receiver, or possibly replace him as the No. 3 guy in Tampa Bay's offense."
"If I'm Bucs general manager Mark Dominik I'm probably calling a few agents on Sunday and Monday to line up workouts with a few free agent cornerbacks. Why? Not only is second-year cornerback Aqib Talib facing a possible suspension for his recent arrest, No. 3 cornerback Elbert Mack sustained an ankle injury against the Jaguars, the severity of which we're not aware of yet. There is one free agent cornerback the Bucs are familiar with and that's Patrick Surtain. Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates worked with Surtain when he served in that capacity with the Miami Dolphins. No one is saying the Bucs have to sign him, but they probably should take a look at him given the circumstances. One positive note from Saturday night's contest was how well cornerback Kyle Arrington played late in the fourth quarter to help the Bucs hold on to win versus the Jaguars. Arrington saved a touchdown pass intended for Tiquan Underwood by swatting it away in the fourth quarter and then had solid coverage on Underwood on Jacksonville's failed two-point conversion attempt."
"Kudos to Bucs fullback B.J. Askew, whose role as a skill player in Jeff Jagodzinski's offense had greatly been reduced in training camp compared to the role he had in Jon Gruden's offense. However, Askew was called on to carry the ball quite often against the Jaguars due to the fact that Earnest Graham was sidelined with an ankle injury, Cadillac Williams was rested as a precaution and Kareem Huggins left the game with a knee injury of his own. Tampa Bay rushed for 159 yards on 38 carries (4.2 avg.) at Jacksonville, and Askew was the leading ball carrier with 14 attempts for 52 yards (3.7 avg.), including a long of 13. Askew showed great athleticism, drive, balance and power on his run attempts. The Bucs don't appear to have much value in the fullback position in Jagodzinski's offense, evidenced by the fact that the team opted to have Askew, who is the team's starting fullback, take those reps over backup fullback Jameel Cook. However, Jagodzinski and Co. might have developed a new appreciation for Askew's versatility after his performance on Saturday night, which not only included some eye-opening runs, but also featured a great block he made on rookie QB Josh Freeman's 28-yard touchdown run in the third quarter when he took out two Jaguars defenders."
Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"Buccaneers center Sean Mahan could be a critical player for Tampa Bay in 2009. The reasons are clear. He has starting experience at center and guard, and he is the only experienced backup offensive lineman on the Bucs roster. Mahan played the entire first half for the Bucs offense, and had a strong showing. Mahan had a great block to open a hole on the first productive run for the Bucs. Running back Derrick Ward went through the hole opened by Mahan and guard Davin Joseph for a 10-yard gain. That run helped set up the Buccaneers' first score of the game. On the next Bucs possession, Mahan made a great block to spring Ward for a 27-yard jaunt. Mahan was assignment sound in pass protection and did not allow his man to pressure the quarterback. Considering he was helping to block Jaguars standout defensive tackle John Henderson, it was an impressive performance from the Bucs veteran. Many Tampa Bay fans can recall some of Mahan's struggles as a starting guard for the team in 2005 and 2006. In hindsight, he was being played out of position there. Mahan really is only a player that can play spot duty at guard, and his natural position is center. A concern that has been growing at One Buc Place has been the injuries that starting center Jeff Faine has had deal with. Faine had a back injury during the offseason, and has missed practice and both preseason games in 2009 with a groin injury. Prior to the last three seasons, Faine had some injury issues in his career. He missed 12 games in his first three seasons before making 46 of 48 starts the past three years. If Faine's injuries persist, Mahan is going to be doing some starting for the 2009 Buccaneers. Saturday night's performance against the Jaguars should ease the concerns of Buc fans that remember Mahan's play during the 2006 season."
"One big positive for Tampa Bay in the game against the Jaguars was the way a lot of the negatives from the first game were turned into positives against Jacksonville. That was at the individual and team level. Luke McCown had a much better game against the Jaguars, and produced two of the Bucs' three touchdowns. He threw accurate passes, made good decisions, and attacked the end zone. Wide receiver Maurice Stovall came back from a disappointing game against Titans to lead the Bucs with five catches for 42 yards. Stovall was effective going across the middle, and using his size to ensure receptions. Stovall did have a bad error on special teams when he fielded a punt at the 8-yard line, and instead of stopping quickly he ran the ball all the way over the goal line that caused a touchback. Stovall is usually an extremely solid player on special teams, so that play is an aberration from his typical performance."
"On a team level, Tampa Bay's offensive line performed much better in the second preseason game. The Buccaneers were able to run behind the line effectively throughout the game. Tampa Bay racked up 159 yards on the ground and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Not only did the line perform well on the ground, it only allowed just one sack in the game. The Bucs' pass rush left something to be desired in the first game at Tennessee, but the defense bounced back to record four sacks, and move the Jaguars back a total of 35 yards. The starting defensive line was able to get pressure from Gaines Adams, Chris Hovan, and Ryan Sims. With the later notching the Buccaneers' first sack. The backup defensive linemen totaled three sacks and were able to generate a consistent rush in the fourth quarter. The linebackers notched some pressures on blitzes, and it was an overall impressive performance by the Bucs front seven. Jacksonville only totaled 61 yards on the ground. After some shaky performances in Tampa Bay's first preseason game, it is an encouraging sign for the 2009 season that the Bucs have the ability to turn things around a week later and improve their production."
"After a great game from McCown, and a ho-hum game from Byron Leftwich, this reporter believes the Bucs should re-think their plan to name a starter in the next day or two. The two were about even through the training camp practices. Leftwich took the lead after the first preseason game, but now after two preseason games the scorecard is at least tied. Leftwich had a better showing against the Titans, and McCown performed better against the Jaguars. Why not make the starter who ever plays the best in two out of three preseason games? With teams playing the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season it makes sense to see what the quarterbacks can do against defensive starters that are playing into the third quarter. The Bucs would be better off giving McCown and Leftwich more of a look in the third game rather than rushing the decision. The veteran quarterbacks could get a lot of work in that game, perhaps playing two quarters apiece, and make the decision clearer for Morris. In the fourth preseason game, the Buccaneers could let the young quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson get the majority of work to help their development. In this reporter's opinion, neither McCown nor Leftwich has proven they are the starting signal caller over the other. Whoever is named the starter will still have two and half weeks to take the starter's reps in practice, and get ready for the Dallas Cowboys. At this point, the starting quarterback is debatable. For continuity in the locker room, and the public perception of who should be the starter, it would make sense to give the competitors another game to state their case."