"Despite some less than stellar play from the Buccaneers' second- and third-string defenders, I still think Tampa Bay has some really solid depth on the defensive side of the ball. If one or two backup defensive players are in the game, Tampa Bay's defense is still strong. But based on what we have seen during the preseason, you just don't want all 11 backups in the game at the same time if you are Monte Kiffin or Jon Gruden. The most interesting cuts and keeps will happen along the defensive line where the jury is still out on virtually every backup behind Anthony McFarland, Chris Hovan, Simeon Rice, Greg Spires and Dewayne White. I think Jon Bradley made a strong case tonight with six tackles. He took up temporary residence in Houston's backfield on numerous occasions. I like him over rookie Julian Jenkins, who missed several plays tonight and got blocked out of his gap way too often for my liking. Jenkins finished with one tackle and a trip to the practice squad in my opinion."
"I really like what rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has done during the preseason. He's clearly the preseason MVP after throwing five touchdowns and making the most plays on offense. Tonight we saw his mobility in the pocket and his scrambling ability outside the pocket as he rushed for 47 yards on three carries, including a 20-yarder. Jon Gruden always talks about the need for his quarterbacks to pick up first downs with their feet much like Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick do. Gradkowski has the ability to do that – and Gruden loves it."
"Running back Derek Watson really needed to get some work in the first two preseason games, but missed those contests with an ankle injury. That will wind up costing him a roster spot as he was not terribly impressive in an extended look against Houston. Watson finished with 14 yards on seven carries (2.0 avg.). Earnest Graham has solidified his status as the third halfback on the team behind Carnell Williams and Michael Pittman with 37 yards on 10 carries (3.7 avg.)."
"Don't buy the analysis from some pundits who say that wide receiver Ike Hilliard is on the bubble. Not only is Hilliard not on the bubble, he is the team's third wide receiver heading into the season opener. Why? He didn't play against Houston. The Bucs know what they have in Hilliard, so they didn't need to see him. What do they have? A veteran receiver who is a dependable target on third downs. If the Tampa Bay coaching staff had any questions about Hilliard, he would have played tonight. Instead, guys like Edell Shepherd, David Boston and Paris Warren were the ones who were playing."
"My practice squad candidates based on what I've seen this preseason? I'd stash defensive end Charles Bennett, who had a pretty good game against Houston, wide receiver Chas Gessner, cornerback James Patrick, defensive lineman Julian Jenkins and tight end Tim Massaquoi on the practice squad. I wouldn't stash linebacker Antoine Cash on the practice squad again this year. I would stick him on the active roster in place of Marquis Cooper, who hasn't impressed during the preseason."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn "It looks like Tampa Bay could have a surprise cut after all. The Bucs must trim their roster from 75 to 53 players by Saturday evening, and don't be surprised if linebacker Marquis Cooper's name is on the list of cuts this weekend. Cooper, a 2004 third-round draft pick, failed to make a splash in training camp or preseason. In fact, with Wesly Mallard and Antoine Cash competing with him for what could be one more available active roster spot, Cooper might have had the worst performance of all three players on Thursday night. He took poor angles and failed to even record a tackle vs. the Texans. Cash, on the other hand, had a breakout game, recording five tackles, one pass defensed and two special teams takedowns. Linebackers Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles, Ryan Nece and Barrett Ruud are locks to make the team. The Bucs will keep either five or six linebackers on their roster, and no one should be surprised if Cash makes the 53-man roster and Cooper does not this year."
"Tight ends Tim Massaquoi and Mark Anelli turned in somewhat impressive performances vs. Houston, but it's too little too late seeing as the Bucs traded an undisclosed draft pick to the New York Jets in exchange for veteran TE Doug Jolley earlier in the day. Massaquoi showed surprising quickness and soft hands by catching five passes for 37 yards, including a five-yard touchdown from rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski. Anelli hauled in four passes for 24 yards. With Tampa Bay likely to feature plenty of two-tight end sets on offense this year, Massaquoi and Anelli could be candidates to land on the Bucs' eight-man practice squad."
"After watching training camp and preseason, I've come to the conclusion that fullback Rick Razzano needs another year to develop on Tampa Bay's practice squad. He's not consistent as a blocker and flat out stinks as a pass catcher. Veteran Jerald Sowell, who has much better hands and should be a special teams contributor, should earn the backup fullback job behind Mike Alstott this year, and Carey Davis has shown enough to earn a spot on the practice squad."
"It should be interesting to see how Tampa Bay comes out vs. Baltimore on Sept. 10. With the exception of rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski, Tampa Bay's offense was quite flat in preseason, and the Bucs aren't exactly finishing August on a strong note with three straight exhibition losses. I'll be the first to admit that the offense I watched at training camp was much more consistent and potent with the football than the one we watched in preseason, but you can't help but be disturbed by the lack of offensive productivity the Bucs had in these exhibition games under starting QB Chris Simms and backup QB Tim Rattay."
"Speaking of quarterbacks, Bruce Gradkowski should be Tampa Bay's backup quarterback behind Chris Simms. Tim Rattay was unimpressive in training camp and didn't have a great preseason, either. Gradkowski, on the other hand, has a certain charisma about him and moves the chains and scores points. Having a sixth-round rookie signal caller back up your starting quarterback probably isn't ideal, but Gradkowski has outperformed Rattay and deserves to be the No. 2 guy behind Simms, period."
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