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Publisher Scott Reynolds“I’ve been on the bandwagon of Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood all year and I’m not about to jump off now. Trueblood has been outstanding in pass protection, holding Charles Grant, Leonard Little, Julius Peppers, Robert Mathis and Travis LaBoy without a sack in five straight weeks. Trueblood’s sackless streak came to an end against Detroit when he surrendered two to former teammate Dewayne White. Trueblood also had a rough day when it came to penalties, too, getting nailed with a false start, a holding penalty and a 15-yard personal foul. But don’t expect Trueblood to go into a funk like former Bucs right tackle Kenyatta Walker used to. Trueblood is a fighter, evidenced by his first quarter tussle with mammoth 6-foot-4, 340-pound defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, whom he took on after he slammed Lions linebacker Ernie Sims to the ground like a rag doll. Trueblood is a warrior who will overcome the mistakes he made today and rebound next week.”
“I keep waiting for Tampa Bay’s pass rush to produce a breakthrough performance, but I don’t think it is coming this year. Against Detroit, the Bucs recorded three sacks, with two of those coming on third downs, which is when sacks are needed the most. But Tampa Bay needs more of a pass rush than what it is getting. Under tackle Jovan Haye recorded his team-leading fourth sack of the season, while defensive end Greg White recorded his second NFL sack. Defensive end Kevin Carter and nose tackle Chris Hovan combined for another sack, but that’s it. Defensive end Greg Spires was disappointing, as was first-round draft pick Gaines Adams, who didn’t even record a tackle on Sunday. The fact that unheralded journeymen like Haye and White are leading this team in tackles speaks volumes about Tampa Bay’s pass rush woes. Adams is going to have to step up immediately and produce. Patrick Chukwurah needs to get healthy and stay healthy. And Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden need to scour free agency for a veteran pass rusher – especially since letting former second-round draft pick Dewayne White (three sacks vs. Tampa Bay) go.
“I thought Jon Gruden did a great job with the playcalling against the Lions. A prime example of this was Michael Bennett’s 18-yard run in the fourth quarter. Gruden had Earnest Graham line up as a slot receiver and he was called upon to block downfield along with guard Arron Sears to create a running lane for Bennett down the middle of the field. The Bucs executed this play to perfection and Bennett raced down to Detroit’s 2-yard line. It’s too bad he didn’t score on the play because on the next snap, quarterback Jeff Garcia and center John Wade fumbled the exchange, resulting in a costly turnover at the Lions’ 6-yard line. Bennett really showed some jets on the play and it should be interesting to see what plays Gruden designs for him as the season rolls along.”
“Tampa Bay’s offense will get criticized for not putting enough points on the scoreboard at Detroit, and justifiably so. But the Buccaneers defense didn’t force a single turnover to match the two that the Lions defense was able to create. Not only did Detroit’s defense stop a Tampa Bay scoring opportunity at the Lions’ 2-yard line, it also got created a scoring opportunity by recovering a fumble at the Bucs’ 49-yard line. That led to a touchdown that enabled Detroit to take a 10-0 first quarter lead. Tampa Bay’s tackling was also fairly shoddy, especially in the second half. The Bucs had difficulty stopping the run, especially in the second half. Allowing the Lions to go 94 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter was unforgivable, as was Detroit’s field goal drive right before halftime that made a six-point game a nine-point game. Linebacker Cato June was invisible, posting just one tackle. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud was struggling with a gimpy knee and had a season-low four tackles.”
“Despite a 4-3 record, Tampa Bay is still in good shape as the 2007 season unfolds. Winning next week’s home tilt against Jacksonville will be a tall order, but the fact that the game is at Raymond James Stadium gives the Bucs a better chance at victory. Even with a loss to Jacksonville, Tampa Bay can stay above .500 by beating Arizona heading into the bye week. A winnable road game awaits at Atlanta the week after the bye and the Bucs could be 6-4 heading into a home contest against an improved Washington Redskins team. The chances of the Bucs winning 10 or more seems unrealistic given all of the injuries that have accumulated and the team’s lack of a pass rush.”
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynnâ€¨"Several impressive performances were lost in Tampa Bay's 23-16 loss to Detroit on Sunday. Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia, who played for Detroit in 2005, completed 19 of his first 20 passes of the game and finished the contest 37-of-45 (82.2 percent). He threw for 316 yards and tossed two touchdowns. Garcia has yet to throw an interception through his first seven regular season games as a Buc. Running back Earnest Graham produced nearly 200 yards of offense by himself by rushing for 92 yards on 16 carries (5.7 avg.) and catching 13 passes for 99 yards. However, both Garcia and Graham were involved in costly fumbles vs. the Lions. Wide receiver Ike Hilliard caught nine passes for 92 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season and wide receiver Maurice Stovall caught a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, the first of his career. Unfortunately, those positives likely will be overshadowed by the two costly fumbles, a blocked punt and a missed field goal, all of which contributed to Tampa Bay's third loss of the season, a game in which the Buccaneers should have won."â€¨â€¨
"I hate to say it, Bucs fans, but Tampa Bay's offense hasn't missed a beat without fullback Mike Alstott, a fan favorite who is on injured reserve with his second neck injury since 2003. One of the best free agent acquisitions the Bucs had in March was New York Jets free agent fullback B.J. Askew. With the "A-Train" on IR, Askew has assumed lead-blocking duties for Tampa Bay's running game and has done a good job. He's more of a true-blocking fullback than Alstott. With Cadillac Williams (knee) and Michael Pittman (ankle) sidelined with their respective injuries, the Bucs have asked Askew to take on more of a role in the passing game, and he's delivered. He caught four passes for 36 yards vs. the Detroit Lions on Sunday and now has 10 catches for 90 yards through seven games. Alstott showed that he could still catch the ball in 2006, but doing something with it was another story. He averaged just 4 yards per reception whereas Askew is averaging 9 yards per catch. Even if Alstott, who turns 34 in December, wants to resume his career in Tampa Bay, the Bucs might not need him with Askew, 27, under contract through 2008."â€¨â€¨
"The Bucs are just 2-10 in their last 12 regular season road games. There is, however, good news. Only four of Tampa Bay's final nine games are on the road, and those contests are against New Orleans (2-4), Atlanta (1-6), Houston (3-4) and San Francisco (2-4), giving those four opponents a combined record of 8-18. If the 4-3 Bucs are going to continue to struggle on the road, they must take care of business at home, and that all starts with their next two games, which will be played against Jacksonville and Arizona at Raymond James Stadium."â€¨â€¨
Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalezâ€¨“Wide receiver Ike Hilliard came into Sunday’s contest vs. the Detroit Lions leading the Bucs receivers in receptions. However, Hilliard had no touchdown receptions even though he’s made some big catches this season. Hilliard finally got his first touchdown catch of the season with a 5-yard catch from quarterback Jeff Garcia. The Florida alum seems to struggle in getting the ball into the end zone when passes come his way. Hilliard only has four touchdown receptions during his three-year career with the Bucs, compared to 26 touchdowns during eight years with the New York Giants. Hilliard is the type of player that puts the team before his stats, but he should be getting into the end zone more often. Just to put his lack of jaunts into the end zone in perspective, wide receiver Maurice Stovall, who has seen limited action this season, has equaled Hilliard with one touchdown reception, which came vs. Detroit. Hilliard has started seven games this season and produced only one touchdown. It’s good to see Hilliard catching a touchdown pass after all his hard work that helps to get the offense down the field, but it would be nice to see number 19 in the end zone more often as his tenure with the Bucs continues.”
“In his first career start at running back vs. the Titans last week, running back Earnest Graham did little to dispel his “Mr. August” nickname that has followed him his entire career. He got the nickname from recording outstanding rushing performances in the preseason and then being nothing more than a standout special teams’ player during the regular season. His 29 yards on 13 carries vs. Tennessee helped fuel his critics’ thoughts that he can’t carry the load for the Bucs’ offense with the loss of running backs Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Michael Pittman Well, at least for one week, Graham’s critics will be silenced because he proved that he can carry the load with 191 total yards on 32 touches vs. the Lions. Graham set personal milestones in several categories and just missed his first 100-yard rushing game (he rushed for 92 yards against Detroit). The next step for Graham is to continue this success next week against another tough defense in the Jacksonville Jaguars. Another performance like this next week will not only silence his critics, but will give the Bucs a consistent running back and a dangerous backfield when Pittman returns from his ankle injury to go along with Graham and recent addition Michael Bennett. ”
“In the past two games, a win over Tennessee and a loss to Indianapolis, the time of possession for the offense has been quite offensive. In those two contests, the Bucs recorded less than 23 minutes of offensive plays while the Colts and Titans held the ball for more than 35 minutes. The Bucs seemed to fix the problem vs. the Lions in the first half, holding the ball for almost 22 minutes, but couldn’t get the ball into the end zone. The Lions took away the big-strike ability of wide receiver Joey Galloway and quarterback Jeff Garcia by playing a Cover 2 zone defense on virtually every play. So the Bucs used a physical running attack and short-to-intermediate pass routes to slice up the Lions defense. However, the Bucs shot themselves in the foot with two turnovers that thwarted potential scoring drives. It was proven against Detroit that the Bucs can move the ball down the field and control the clock. However, it seems that Tampa Bay can’t put it all together when it needs it the most. Either the offense scores quickly or goes three-and-out, leaving the defense out on the field too long, or it puts together time-consuming drives, but can’t score any points. Even with all the injuries on offense, the Bucs are a dangerous unit when they put all their elements together. The only question is when will this year’s team put it all together with any consistency? If they can, the Bucs have a shot to make some noise in the wide-open NFC.”
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