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Publisher Scott Reynolds“Buccaneers wide receiver David Boston didn’t get the start in Miami, likely due to his DUI arrest on Thursday night. However, he did play against the Dolphins and it is obvious that he has the support of the organization, evidenced by the pre-game statement by general manager Bruce Allen: ‘We have investigated the David Boston situation and feel that we have an understanding of the facts. At this time, we have seen no objective evidence to support the charges that were brought against him.’ Boston didn’t catch a pass, but did have an 18-yard run on a reverse. Boston is in no jeopardy of getting cut.”
“Cadillac Williams’ first rushing attempt went for a 5-yard loss on first down. The thing I didn’t like about that play was Williams’ unwillingness to stick his head into the pile on the right side of the line. Granted, he had nowhere to run, but one thing an NFL veteran can’t do is back up, which is exactly what Williams did. That was inexcusable, even in a preseason game. But he more than made up for it with 30 yards on the next three carries, including gains of 12 and 14 yards. Williams showed good toughness, speed and determination after that 5-yard loss. If you were worried that Williams wouldn’t be ready for the season, Saturday night’s big gains should ease those concerns. Williams had a good training camp and showed the same type of burst he displayed in Miami.”
“Because the Buccaneers did not see what they wanted to see from in-house return candidates, Mark Jones and Chad Owens, in the first two games, the team brought in former Pro Bowl return specialist Eddie Drummond. Drummond, who was released by Detroit earlier in the week, came to Tampa Bay on Thursday night for a visit and a physical. But after Saturday night’s game in Miami, Jones has emerged as the leader for the return duties. He returned his lone punt return 18 yards, while Owens averaged 7.5 yards on two returns with a long of 12 yards. Jones returned three kickoffs 93 yards (31 avg.), including a 40-yarder. Owens returned two kicks for a 25-yard average, including a 31-yarder. With a 53-yard touchdown catch in last week’s game at Jacksonville, Jones, a former seventh-round pick, has really improved his chances of making the team dramatically on Saturday night. Jones has been a favorite of special teams coach Rich Bisaccia and general manager Bruce Allen, and that bodes well for him. The problem is, Tampa Bay can’t keep seven receivers, and after Saturday, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, Maurice Stovall, David Boston, Michael Clayton and Paris Warren stand a very good chance of making the 53-man roster.”
“Quarterback Luke McCown showed his inexperience on several plays Saturday night. McCown, who missed all of the 2006 preseason due to an ACL injury and has just four NFL starts, did not recognize a free blitzer from his left side prior to the snap. The result was a sack by linebacker Edmond Miles. McCown was also sacked by Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, who got around right tackle Donald Penn, because he held on to the ball too long and didn’t step up in the pocket. After the first two preseason games, it appeared that McCown had a firm grasp on the backup job. But after Bruce Gradkowski’s two-touchdown performance and fourth quarter heroics in Miami, the winner of the No. 2 QB job behind Jeff Garcia may not be decided until Thursday’s preseason finale` against Houston. Gradkowski's 11 starts from a year ago may give him the edge if he and McCown ultimately end in a tie.”
“After Saturday night’s game at Miami, you can see why Pewter Report had 2007 fifth-round draft pick – defensive lineman Greg Peterson – making the team in our predicted 53-man roster on Friday. Peterson had a great sack from the under tackle position and showed a great closing burst. Although he hasn’t flashed as much as fans want to see, the coaching staff is very excited about Peterson. He has great raw potential and a rare blend of size and speed for an under tackle. He’ll need a year to really develop, but expect Peterson to make the club this year.”
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn“Bucs head coach Jon Gruden challenged his linebackers to step up and make more plays earlier in the week, and it didn’t take them long to answer the challenge on Saturday night. On Miami’s first offense play of the game, which was a designed screen pass from quarterback Trent Green to running back Ronnie Brown, Bucs strongside linebacker Cato June read the play perfectly and closed in quickly on the pass. In fact, June got to the play so fast that he was able to rip the ball from Brown’s hands, intercept it and return the ball two yards for a touchdown, which put the Bucs up 7-0 early in the first quarter. Tampa Bay’s defense prides itself on making splash plays. It scored nine touchdowns in Gruden’s first season with the Bucs, which helped the team win a Super Bowl. The last time we saw the Bucs score a touchdown was in Week 16 of last season when LB Derrick Brooks intercepted a pass and returned the ball 21 yards for a score. The Bucs will need more of those plays from their defensive players if this unit is going to return to the top 10 again after a one-year hiatus.”
“I realize the West Coast offense often times calls for the passing game to help open up the rushing attack, so having more passes than runs is quite common. However, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s run-pass ratio can sometimes be suspect. Saturday night’s game in Miami was a perfect example of this. Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia opened the game completing just 2-of-7 passes. In the meantime, running back Cadillac Williams had just one carry, which went for a 5-yard loss. By the end of the first half, Tampa Bay’s offense ran 22 passing plays and just eight running plays. Three of those passing plays actually turned into rushing attempts thanks to Garcia and QB Luke McCown’s scrambling ability. Although those passing plays helped open up some running lanes for Williams, who finished the first half and game with four carries for 25 yards, the Bucs will need to have more balanced play calling in the regular season if they want to keep Garcia healthy and have Williams return to his rookie form.”
“Tampa Bay has some tough decisions to make on Tuesday, which is when each NFL team must trim their rosters down to 65 players. One of the toughest decisions for the Bucs will be at running back, where Earnest Graham and Kenneth Darby are having a great battle. Neither player will be released on Tuesday, and Pewter Report’s guess is both players will make Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster. However, if the Bucs only keep one of them, Graham likely will make the active roster over Darby. “Mr. August” is more versatile (he can play halfback and fullback) and turned in an impressive game against the Dolphins on Saturday night by rushing for 34 yards on nine carries (3.8 avg.) and catching two passes for 14 yards. Graham did a nice job of breaking tackles and fighting for the yardage he gained, and he displayed reliable hands in the fourth quarter when quarterback Bruce Gradkowski dumped the ball off to him across the middle for a 6-yard touchdown. It would be awfully risky of the Bucs to attempt to release Darby, a seventh-round draft pick out of Alabama, and sneak him on to the practice squad. That’s why Pewter Report still expects both Graham and Darby to make the 53-man roster.”
“Win and losses in preseason don’t normally mean much to teams. However, wins mean a lot to teams that are coming off of 4-12 seasons – teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year, the Bucs lost their final three preseason contests, and their woes carried over into the regular season, where they started off 0-4. The Bucs improved to 2-1 in preseason with their 31-28 win over the Dolphins. This win was big for several reasons, including the fact that it was on the road, where Tampa Bay went just 1-7 last year, and came in the third exhibition contest of the year. It would be big for the Bucs to defeat the Houston Texans at home in their preseason finale on Thursday night to finish the preseason strong with a 3-1 record and take some much-needed momentum in to the 2007 regular season, which starts in Seattle for Tampa Bay.”
Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez“The lack of run-blocking during the first two preseason games has little to do with Cadillac Williams and more to do with the offensive line. After battling through injuries last season, Williams has looked healthy during training camp and against the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars. What hasn’t looked healthy is the offensive line moving the line of scrimmage and giving Williams any kind of daylight to run the ball. Even running the ball on the right side behind guard Davin Joseph and tackle Jeremy Trueblood has yielded little success for the Bucs running attack. Williams had a total of three yards on four carries coming into Saturday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. The running game is a necessity for the Bucs offense to have any success this season. Williams showed in his rookie season that he can make some plays in head coach Jon Gruden’s offense when he has some holes to run through, but he’s seen few openings so far this preseason. Even though Williams struggled early in the first quarter against the Dolphins, the second quarter was a different story. Williams found some running lanes and made some impressive runs of 12 and 14 yards during the drive. The offense needs to keep opening some lanes for Williams and keep him healthy because his success is vital to the success of Tampa Bay’s offense.”
“Tampa Bay’s defensive line saw a third different starting rotation with nose guard Chris Hovan, under tackle Jovan Haye, defensive end Kevin Carter on the left side and defensive end Greg Spires on the right side vs. Miami. With Carter and Spires on the field at the same time, it gives the Bucs defense more experience when it comes to getting pressure on the quarterback. However, the tandem of Carter and Spires seemed a bit slow and got little pressure on Miami quarterback Trent Green. The Dolphins offensive line has been in limbo for most of the preseason as well and had its own different starting lineup for the third time in 2007. That said, Carter and Spires should have been able to get more pressure on Green and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. That wasn’t the case on the Dolphins’ 18-play, 73-yard drive in the second quarter that took more than nine minutes off the clock. On that drive, the Dolphins converted two third downs and one fourth down to keep the drive alive. One of the things the Bucs defense wanted to improve on during the offseason was in the pass rush and getting off the field on third down. After doing a good job of that in the first two preseason games, the Bucs took a step back against the Dolphins.”
“After struggling in the OTAs, mini-camp and during training camp, quarterback Chris Simms finally saw his first game action since his spleen injury last season. Simms attempted one pass that was dropped by tight end Keith Heinrich across the middle. Simms was in for three plays, handing the ball off twice, but just taking snaps in live game action is a step for Simms. Before Saturday’s game, Tampa Tribune reporter Ira Kaufman reported that the Bucs were going to keep Simms on team, contrary to the public opinion that Simms would be cut before the season began. If this proves to be true, Simms will take another step in his journey to make the 53-man roster for this season. Simms did not look comfortable at all during training camp and has continued to run the scout team offense during practice. He admitted last week during practice that he still wasn’t 100 percent, but that he did feel that he was making improvement. Even though quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has experience at the position, Simms, if healthy, would be an upgrade at the No. 3 spot. When given the time to throw the ball, as in 2005, Simms showed that he has the talent to run this offense. But if it comes down to who is the healthiest between Gradkowski and Simms, Simms will lose that battle. No matter what happens, Simms getting some playing time was a good thing no matter what the opinion of Simms is."
Contributing Writer Jenna Laine“I was most impressed with the starting offensive line of Luke Pettigout, Anthony Davis, Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood, and John Wade. They weren’t without flaw, but for a team that has struggled year after year in fielding a strong offensive front to protect its quarterback and create holes for the running game, this group deserves some recognition. Tonight, quarterback Jeff Garcia had a decent amount of time to throw. He finished his night 4-for-10 and 54 yards, including a beautiful 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Joey Galloway – and even more time to scramble for yardage when he couldn’t find an open man.”
“As for the center-quarterback exchanges, I only saw one botched snap. One solid night won’t have Coach Gruden convinced John Wade’s his starting man, but another strong performance next week could seal the deal.”
“Michael Pittman appears to be adjusting well to his new role at fullback. He showed good hands and a lot of speed, charging downfield and acting as a receiver when needed. While Pittman makes the transition to fullback, Earnest “Mr. August” Graham could finally become “Mr. September.” He may not be as flashy as Cadillac Williams, but he consistently finds a way to get the job done. Graham was the top Bucs’ rusher tonight – 34-yards on nine carries, as well as 14 yards receiving, including a touchdown.”
“Call it ‘playing with a chip on his shoulder,’ or ‘it’s got to be the hair,’ but wide receiver Michael Clayton took the field with something to prove. His 23-yard reception in the second quarter inside Miami’s 30-yard line was a huge momentum builder, and shows that he still has the physicality to be effective in Tampa Bay’s West Coast offense. Clayton did have an early drop, but finished the game with two catches for 24 yards."
“The starting defense appeared hungry, applying spotty pressure up front and forcing Miami’s starting quarterback Trent Green to make a couple of bad decisions – one resulting in an interception for a touchdown by strongside linebacker Cato June. The versatility he and defensive end Kevin Carter bring to the table is impressive. June’s had no trouble adjusting to his new strongside position, after spending four seasons playing weakside linebacker in Indianapolis."
“Despite appearing hungrier, the starting defensive unit still leaves a tad room for improvement, especially if it wants to regain its old swagger. At times they were prolific, with Derrick Brooks making an excellent read and tipping the ball on Miami’s second offensive drive. Unfortunately, a missed tackle eight plays later, and Ronde Barber getting beat out in man-to-man coverage, left the door open just enough for the Dolphins to score on that drive.”
“Ryan Nece responded to critics with his best performance at middle linebacker yet. He appeared speedy and surefooted up the middle, although Barrett Ruud has a lock on the starting job. Still, he’s a definite option if defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin wants to change things up by bringing in an extra linebacker.”
“On special teams, kicker Matt Bryant was clutch, nailing a 26-yard field goal through the uprights, and going 4-for-4 on extra points. Many people forget that even during the Bucs’ magical Super Bowl run in 2002, there were times when the offense couldn’t put points on the board, and the team had to rely solely on kicker Martin Gramatica. Bryant’s consistency has, at times, been overlooked, but his performance tonight was truly merit-worthy.”
“Overall, I’m feeling much better about this team. Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was on fire, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Luke McCown wasn’t at his best, and Gradkowski took full advantage of it. With another strong performance next week, he could very well sneak in to earn that backup quarterback job. And although we only saw Chris Simms in the mix for a bit, it was nice to see him get out there – a remarkable accomplishment considering the way he started off in training camp.”
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