Pewter Report editor-in-chief Scott Reynolds:
“Charles Lee had a nice performance against Houston despite missing most of training camp and the first three preseason games with a hamstring strain. Lee was productive enough to really cause the Bucs’ coaches and personnel staff headaches at the wide receiver spot. Do the Bucs cut kickoff returner and special teams ace Frank Murphy, who has averaged 29 yards per kick return this preseason? Murphy’s first return against the Texans was a 38-yarder out to the Bucs’ 42. His next return was out to the Tampa Bay 30. Or do the Bucs cut Mark Jones, who has returned every punt this preseason and has intriguing speed and big-play ability? In my opinion, Lee’s disdain for special teams and lackluster effort blocking downfield should cost him a roster spot. This team was so bad in the return game last year, that it would be a big mistake to rob it of its primary return men for a receiver who will be fifth on the depth chart and not play on special teams.”

“Kerry Jenkins had a terrific night as a lead blocker on counters, tosses and pulling plays. Matt Stinchcomb and Jeb Terry have also excelled at pulling as well, and Cosey Coleman has the ability to pull, although the results sometimes with his blocking on the run is hit or miss. Still, look for the Bucs to run more perimeter runs this year, which has mentioned several times throughout training camp and the preseason. With backs like Charlie Garner, Michael Pittman and Jamel White, and the guards the team has, Tampa Bay should be pretty successful this year outside near the boundaries in the running game.”

“Tampa Bay did a great job of converting third downs against Houston. The Bucs finished the game converting 10-of-15 third downs, which allowed the Bucs to drive the ball against the Texans virtually at will. Tampa Bay got their running game going with Michael Pittman (12 carries, 71 yards) leading the way. The Bucs racked up 153 yards on the ground (not including the minus-6 yards that Chris Simms had kneeling down to end the game), which helped set up the play-action pass game. Both of the Bucs’ touchdown passes to tight ends Rickey Dudley and Will Heller came off of play action.”

“If I’m Bill Muir or Jon Gruden, I start Anthony Davis at left tackle against Washington in place of Derrick Deese. Deese, who is coming off a foot injury, was hobbled a bit against Houston and struggled on a couple of the few snaps he played after missing the first three preseason games. Muir has stated that he would be comfortable playing Davis, especially since he played exceptionally well against the likes of Justin Smith, Hugh Douglas and Jason Taylor. Davis has earned the right to start on opening day in Washington. Deese hasn’t. The Bucs need to go with the hot hand and start Davis in Week 1.”

“How about Jeb Terry playing great football in the preseason finale? Not only did Terry play well at guard, but he played the second half at right tackle in place of Kenyatta Walker, who did not make the trip to Houston. The Bucs coaches and personnel department are very high on Terry. Look for him to make this roster, especially with Tampa Bay trading Jason Whittle to the New York Giants earlier in the week.”

Pewter Report managing editor Jim Flynn:
“Although I still believe Chris Simms will start the regular season as Brad Johnson’s backup, quarterback Brian Griese made Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s decision a lot harder than it appeared it was going to be heading into Thursday night’s game against Houston. Griese, who was Tampa Bay’s No. 2 quarterback on Thursday night, was outstanding, completing 12 of 16 passes (75 percent) for 110 yards and he tossed one touchdown vs. the Texans. Griese led the Bucs to 10 points and outperformed Simms, who completed six of 10 passes (60 percent) for 73 yards and threw one touchdown and one interception. Although Johnson didn’t throw a touchdown in preseason, Tampa Bay has got to be happy with its three quarterbacks heading into the regular season.”

“Tampa Bay would like to keep four tight ends on its 53-man roster, but if the Bucs can only keep three, don’t be surprised if Rickey Dudley ends up being the odd man out. Although he did catch a touchdown on Thursday night, Dudley has made his fair share of mistakes this preseason. Last week, Dudley ran the wrong route in the end zone and caused quarterback Brad Johnson to misfire a pass aimed for a wide-open Ken Dilger. Having two receivers in the same area got Johnson confused and caused the incompletion and cost the Bucs a touchdown. On Thursday night, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden called for a play-action pass on fourth-and-1 in Houston territory. The play fooled the Texans, and QB Brian Griese threw a perfect strike to a wide-open Dudley, but he dropped what would have given the Bucs a first down. The Texans took that turnover and eventually scored a field goal. Dilger will start for the Bucs, Dave Moore will serve as the team’s long snapper and Will Heller, who caught three passes for 19 yards and scored one touchdown vs. the Texans, has had an outstanding preseason and is the team’s most athletic tight end. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dudley, who is an inconsistent blocker and pass-catcher, and isn’t a huge special teams contributor, is a ‘surprise’ roster cut on Sunday.”

“It was nice to see Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden take advantage of Houston’s aggressive linebackers in its 3-4 defensive scheme by running a lot, and I mean a lot of play-action plays on Thursday night. Much of the offense’s success on third downs (10-of-15) came as a direct result of perfectly executed play-action plays, and the touchdown passes thrown by quarterbacks Brian Griese and Chris Simms each came off play-action plays near the goal line. The Bucs rushed 38 times for 147 yards vs. the Texans, which certainly helped sell those play-action plays. Gruden called plays for Griese and Simms to run bootlegs off of some play-action passes, and they were quite effective. Don’t get too used to these types of play calls, though, since starting QB Brad Johnson isn’t mobile enough to execute them.”

Pewter Report contributing writer Leo Haggerty
“I understand that Michael Pittman is going to shut it down after the game for a league-imposed three-game suspension due to his off-the-field behavior but what did the Buccaneers need to see. Was he on the bubble? No, but it was almost like Tampa Bay was saying that Pittman was expendable. How about getting a couple of guys in the contest that you want to see how they react in a game situation while the outcome was still in doubt? I know Earnest Graham got a lot of carries, but why didn’t we see Brandon Bennett or more of Jamel White, who will likely be getting more carries in Pittman’s absence?”

“Charles Lee finally got his first action of the pre-season and looked good, but is it enough? Lee has to stay healthy because with the Bucs like any other National Football League team it’s ‘what have you done for me lately?’ Has he done enough in one game to make the roster? You can’t make the club in the tub, and he missed the first three preseason games.”

“Finally, is it time for the Pewter Pirates to start looking for a replacement for kicker Martin Gramatica? This team is not good enough on the offensive side of the ball to leave points on the field. Gramatica has definitely gone from ‘Automatica’ to ‘Gramissica’ and needs to turn it around quickly or this team will be sitting home again in January. How long do the Bucs wait to make a change?”

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