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Publisher Scott Reynolds
“One of the subtle things Mark Jones does that makes him so effective is that he will run upfield with his eyes upward while the ball is still in the air to help create a touchback. What this does is slows down the first opponent downfield by creating the illusion that the punt was short when it is really sailing over his head. By doing this, Jones creates a distraction and a touchback opportunity. This is something that Tim Brown never did during his tenure with the Bucs in 2004 that used to drive everyone crazy. Instead of ‘fake fielding’ the ball, Brown just used to step aside and let the defender down the ball inside the 10-yard line. Jones acts like he’s going to catch every ball and it really works. His first punt return opportunity was a touchback that he helped create.”

“Shelton Quarles is the rightful starter at middle linebacker, especially after his career year in 2005. But should Quarles falter or get hurt in 2006, second-year player Barrett Ruud looks like he’s capable of filling in. He only had three tackles tonight, but he shadowed backs and tight ends and was always around the ball, evidenced by his fumble recovery after Kalvin Pearson’s sack of Chad Pennington.”

“Cornerback Torrie Cox has had such a focused training camp. In danger of being an afterthought this year with Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly, Juran Bolden and fourth-round draft pick, Alan Zemaitis, in the fold, Cox has really made plays in camp and stood out. That carried over to Friday night’s game versus the Jets. While Bolden started in place of Kelly tonight, Cox was the starting nickel corner and came on in place of Ronde Barber in the second quarter instead of Zemaitis and played well in coverage and against the run. But Cox went out late in the second quarter with an ankle injury and Zemaitis made a nice pass breakup in the end zone at the end of the first half. Provided Cox’s ankle injury isn’t serious, the battle for the fourth cornerback spot is alive and well.”

“Running back Derek Watson really couldn’t afford to miss this game. Watson has a sprained ankle and was limping around on crutches, but curiously was able to jump up and celebrate Derrick Brooks’ introduction dance along with Michael Pittman, who was healthy and started. With Earnest Graham proving once again he can move the chains and run the ball in the preseason, Watson needs preseason carries to show that he belongs on the Bucs’ roster. Instead of playing tonight, third-string fullback Carey Davis, who was Pewter Report’s sleeper at running back in our Training Camp Issue, got 14 carries and proved he could run the ball, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. With Cadillac Williams, Mike Alstott, Pittman and Graham being proven ballcarriers, is there a place for Watson? He needs to show that next Saturday against Miami. If not, Davis will be making this team along with Rick Razzano, who is beating out Jerald Sowell for the right to back up Alstott.”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
“Tampa Bay’s passing game was non-existent on Friday night. That was until rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski entered the lineup in the third quarter. Gradkowski, who has been having an impressive training camp, played behind Chris Simms and Tim Rattay in the Bucs’ preseason opener, but he outperformed both of them, completing 11-of-13 passes and throwing for 104 yards and tossing two touchdown passes and no interceptions. The Bucs completed just three passes for 34 yards in the first half. With Rattay completing just 1-of-4 passes, Gradowski continues to outperform the veteran signal caller and deserves a chance to work with the second-team offense when the Bucs play the Miami Dolphins at Ray-Jay on Saturday night.”

“You can only hope the ankle injury cornerback Torrie Cox sustained during the second quarter of Friday night’s exhibition game isn’t too serious. Cox has been having a great training camp and made some impressive open-field tackles against the Jets before leaving the game with the injury.”

“Tampa Bay’s first two 2006 draft picks – guard Davin Joseph and tackle Jeremy Trueblood – started alongside each other on Friday night, and they played well, especially in the running game, where both players had a physical presence and helped to open up some big running lanes. It might be early, but Joseph and Trueblood might have made a strong case for starting at their respective positions on opening day.”

“Kudos to running back Earnest Graham and fullback Carey Davis, both of whom carried the torch for Tampa Bay’s ground game with Cadillac Williams (rest) and Derek Watson (ankle) not playing, and Michael Pittman fumbling twice in the first half. Graham rushed for 69 yards on 17 carries (4.1 avg.) and caught a 26-yard pass, and Davis, who barely ran the ball during training camp, carried the ball 14 times for 67 yard (4.8 avg.). Both players made strong cases for making the team on Friday night, Watson will have to play on Saturday night if he hopes to make the 53-man roster.”

This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.

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