Pewter Report editor-in-chief Scott Reynolds:
“Aside from a third-quarter missed field goal from Martin Gramatica and two penalties that negated good returns, Tampa Bay’s special teams showed that it was ready to take a quantum leap forward in 2004 after suffering through a dismal campaign in 2003. Gramatica made both of his first two field goal attempts from 20 and 46 yards against Cincinnati before missing a 43-yarder wide to the left.”

“The Bucs’ average starting field position against the Bengals was their own 36-yard line, which is a far cry last year when the team began several of its drives from inside its own 20. In fact, five of the Bucs’ nine drives began outside its 30-yard line, and only one drive started inside the 20. Frank Murphy gave Tampa Bay great field position with a 36-yard kick return out to the 37-yard line on its second drive, breaking several arm tackles along the way.”

“In the third quarter, rookie Mark Jones had a 55-yard punt return that was trimmed down to just 19 yards due to an illegal block above the waist call on fullback Greg Comella, who did not have a strong debut in Tampa Bay. Brandon Bennett had a nice 27-yard kick return out to the Tampa Bay reduced to just 13 yards due to a penalty on rookie tight end Nate Lawrie.”

“Tampa Bay’s coverage teams – led by Corey Ivy, John Howell, Scott Frost, Marquis Cooper, Jones and Murphy – were excellent. The Bucs’ special teams – or “We-fense” as it is known around One Buc Place – was full of energy and vigor against Cincinnati, which was a sight for sore eyes after watching this unit underachieve so badly last year.”

“One player who really caught my eye tonight was safety Kalvin Pearson. The undersized Pearson was known as a hard hitter at Grambling, and I could see why with his two powerful hits on tight end Chad Hayes near the Bucs’ 10-yard line in the fourth quarter. On both plays, which resulted in pass breakups, Pearson led with his forearm and shoulder and timed his hits well to prevent Cincinnati from moving into scoring position.”

“I was down on the sidelines to watch the plays at field level and the way he smacked Hayes really reminded me of how John Lynch used to nail receivers and tight ends that came across the middle. Pearson is a big-time contributor on special teams and still has a shot at making the team, even if it is a long shot. The Bucs will likely keep Howell and Frost, and possibly rookie Will Allen as reserves behind starting safeties Jermaine Phillips and Dwight Smith.”

Pewter Report managing editor Leo Haggerty
“The most impressive points of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 20-6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals were two-fold. First, and foremost, the defense did not seem to miss a beat without any of the “Big Three” playing. Both defensive tackle Warren Sapp and strong safety John Lynch are playing elsewhere, and linebacker Derrick Brooks sat out the contest with a sore knee. Still, the Tampa Bay defense was stifling limiting Cincy to 230 yards of total offense. The defense held the Bengals to just two field goals and shut out Cincinnati in the second half.”

“On the offensive side of the football, all three quarterbacks did admirable jobs. Brad Johnson played only one series, but mustered three points and was a perfect three-for-three throwing the football, including a nice 32-yard pass to Bill Schroeder on an audible. Backup Chris Simms engineered two scoring drives and was 12-of-15 through the air for 110 yards. Reserve signal caller Brian Griese led the Pewter Pirates to their final scoring drive and completed 7-of-11 aerials for 96 yards.”

“To me, one of the most impressive players for the Bucs tonight was wide receiver Michael Clayton. Although he was a first-round draft choice of the Buccaneers, Clayton is not a player with a lot of flash. All he does is catch the football and block, in addition to covering punts and kicks. He caught all three balls thrown to him for 39 yards. Not tough catches, but he did catch the football and that’s the first commandment in the NFL Bible for wide receivers. He makes the easy catches and makes the tough ones look easy without a lot of fanfare. This guy is special, but in a very unassuming way. He just does whatever it takes to get the job done and you’ve got to love that.”

Pewter Report assistant editor Jim Flynn:
“One of the main points of emphasis for the Bucs this offseason was trying to limit penalties. Last year, Tampa Bay was was called for 117 penalties for 1,104 yards, which prompted head coach Jon Gruden to hire an officiating crew to attend offseason team activities as well as training camp practices. Although they seem to have taken the necessary steps in their attempt to limit penalties, one wouldn’t have known that on Monday night. The Bucs had a whopping 14 penalties for 129 yards called on them in their game vs. the Bengals. Had they not committed so many infractions, the Bucs, who produced 345 yards of total offense, would have certainly scored more than 20 points on Monday night. The good news for the Bucs is a lot of those penalties, several of which consisted of illegal men downfield on screen plays, can be eliminated. It should be interesting to see how the team responds in Jacksonville on Friday after committing entirely way too many penalties on Monday night.”

“If wide receiver Charles Lee’s hamstring injury doesn’t heal sometime soon, he may find himself out of a job by the time the regular season rolls around in September. Lee, who doesn’t exactly have a drive to play on special teams but is required to since he’s not a starter, could be in danger of losing his roster spot. The Bucs will keep three receivers — Joey Galloway, Tim Brown and Michael Clayton — for sure, and will likely keep six receivers at the most. With both Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius taking up roster spots, that could leave one spot open for Lee, Bill Schroeder, Frank Murphy and Mark Jones. What separates Schroeder, Murphy and Jones from Lee is special teams play. If Lee can’t make an impact on special teams, he’s not going to stick around. Schroeder, of course, didn’t help Lee’s chances of making the team on Monday night. He caught two passes for 41 yards, including a 32-yard bomb down the sideline from quarterback Brad Johnson. The Bucs are very high on Schroeder and would love to keep him around, especially since he was a starter in Green Bay and Detroit and has the ability to cover and return kicks and punts.”

“One couldn’t help but like safety Jermaine Phillips’ aggressiveness on Monday night, especially against the run. Phillips, who notched four tackles, seemed to be everywhere on the field and showed the ability to make some hard hits and impact plays around the line of scrimmage. Gee, doesn’t that description remind you of a former Bucs safety that recently departed for Denver? Phillips won’t replace John Lynch, but don’t be surprised if this young, talented and athletic safety makes a name for himself around the NFL real soon.”

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