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Publisher Scott Reynolds “Tampa Bay’s quarterback play was outstanding against Jacksonville. Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski combined to complete 22-of-30 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Both Garcia and McCown made plays with their feet, which had to please head coach Jon Gruden, who has been craving a mobile quarterback for years. Garcia eluded a sack and scrambled for six yards on one play, and then escaped the rush on a rollout to throw a 19-yard touchdown strike to David Boston. McCown also had several good scramblers, but none better than his 27-yard run in the third quarter. However, that wasn’t McCown’s longest run of the night. That came on a 70-yard jaunt in which he chased down Jacksonville safety Jamaal Fudge, who returned a Maurice Stovall fumble 70 yards. McCown made a one-handed tackle on the play to save a touchdown. With Gradkowski’s fourth quarter scoring pass to Mark Jones, each Tampa Bay quarterback that has played in the preseason has now thrown a touchdown. Of course, Chris Simms has yet to take a snap in the preseason for Tampa Bay and will likely be the odd man out when it comes to the roster cutdowns this year.”
“While Garcia was the PewterReport.com MVP tonight, rookie safety Tanard Jackson was a close second. Jackson finished the game with three tackles, all of which were big stops inside Tampa Bay’s 5-yard line, and two pass breakups in the end zone. On Jacksonville’s second scoring drive, the rookie out of Syracuse was a one-man gang, breaking up a pass intended for tight end Marcedes Lewis before stopping fullback Greg Jones on consecutive carries at the Tampa Bay 2 on second and third down, respectively. Jackson made some ‘money plays’ for defensive backs coach Raheem Morris in the first half, and even made the opening tackle on the second half kickoff before leaving the game with a hamstring injury on that play. Tampa Bay desperately needs more plays from the safety position, and Jackson, the team’s fourth-round draft pick, delivered against Jacksonville.”
“Tampa Bay’s defensive line was much more active against Jacksonville than it was last week against New England, with two newcomers leading the way. Kevin Carter, who started in place of Greg Spires at left end and also played some under tackle, played inspired football against Jacksonville. Although he finished with just two tackles and one sack, he also had two quarterback pressures and was a disruptive force in the first quarter. His sack came from the under tackle position, fighting through a double team of Dan Connolly and Dennis Norman. Rookie Gaines Adams also played outstanding, finishing with three tackles, two QB pressures, his first NFL sack and a forced fumble. Adams was very active against Jacksonville, and deserves credit for running hard to the ball and pursuing the running backs from behind. That was always a knock on Simeon Rice, who seemed disinterested in chasing down running backs from behind, especially if the play went away from him. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said he wanted Adams, who took some plays off at Clemson, to lead the league in effort. So far, so good for the rookie.”
“Another rookie who stood out was cornerback Marcus Hamilton, who looked great in run support and was pretty solid in pass coverage. Hamilton, a seventh-round pick, looked better than Sammy Davis, a former first-round pick. Davis got abused by Jacksonville receiver Charles Sharron for two big receptions. Hamilton might not make the final roster, but he might be impressing the coaching staff enough to earn a practice squad spot. Tampa Bay cornerbacks have to be physical and willing to come up and support the run. Hamilton showed his ability to do that in Jacksonville.”
“Two rookies who disappointed were left guard Arron Sears and linebacker Adam Hayward. Sears didn’t pick up Jacksonville defensive end Reggie Hayward on a twist up the middle and almost gave up a sack. Sears’ pass protection was a bit shaky against Jacksonville. Hayward missed several tackles, including a 38-yard catch-and-run by Maurice Jones-Drew. He looked lost on several plays and appeared to be thinking too much instead of letting his instincts take over.”
“I don’t think Ryan Nece is cut out to play middle linebacker based on what I saw against Jacksonville. He seems a bit tentative taking on blockers in the hole and looks shaky in pass coverage. Nece seems out of his element in the middle and is probably better suited to play outside linebacker. He was tied for the team lead with five sacks, but he easily played more snaps than any other defender due to the fact that reserve middle linebacker Antoine Cash was injured in the first quarter. Nece should have had more tackles than he did, and he didn’t cause the fumble that he was credited for. He stood up Jaguars running back Roosevelt Kiser, but cornerback Carlos Hendricks actually knocked the ball loose.”
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn “Last year, Tampa Bay’s starting offense scored just one touchdown in four preseason games. Saturday night was the Bucs’ second preseason contest of the year, and the team’s starting offense matched their touchdown total from a year ago vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia engineered a six-play, 43-yard scoring drive in the first quarter. He capped it off with a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver David Boston. Garcia only played a total of three series tonight, which was just one more series than he played in the preseason opener vs. New England. However, it was encouraging to see Garcia, who was 6-of-6 in the game, and the Bucs’ starters actually accomplish something positive before taking a seat on the sideline for the rest of the exhibition contest. Ironically, the one touchdown Tampa Bay’s starting offense managed to score during the 2006 preseason came against Jacksonville.”
“Tampa Bay’s first-team defense played with some fire against Jacksonville. This unit fared much better from a tackling and pass rushing standpoint on Saturday night compared to its preseason opener vs. New England. Defensive lineman Kevin Carter, linebacker Cato June and cornerback Phillip Buchanon each made impressive open-field tackles. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay’s second- and third-team defensive units didn’t fare as well. In fact, the play from these two units was just bad. The Bucs’ second-team defense surrendered a whopping 24 points to the Jaguars in the second quarter alone. Sure, Tampa Bay’s offense had two costly turnovers in this contest, but the play from the defensive backups was easily the most disturbing development that came out of Saturday night’s game from the Bucs’ perspective.”
“The Buccaneers weren’t as successful running the ball vs. the Jaguars as they were against the Patriots. After all, quarterback Luke McCown led the offense in rushing yards with 37 tonight. However, Tampa Bay’s offense was able to move the ball well via the running game in the third quarter. It was interesting to see that some of the players that were opening up holes for running backs Earnest Graham and Kenneth Darby were left tackle Anthony Davis, left guard Dan Buenning and center John Wade. Each of these players was playing with the second-team offensive line on Saturday night. Why is this significant? It shows how much deeper Tampa Bay’s offensive line is. Remember – Davis, Buenning and Wade entered last year’s preseason as starters.”
“If I’m the Bucs, I’m feeling a lot better about my backup quarterback position after watching Luke McCown play vs. the Patriots and Jaguars. Last week, McCown was 7-of-7, and while he didn’t post those types of numbers on Saturday night, McCown was a respectable 9-of-13 for 66 yards. The thing I really liked from McCown tonight was his ability to make plays with his feet. McCown rushed three times for 37 yards, which included a 27-yard scramble in the second half. While the Bucs don’t even want to think about life without Jeff Garcia right now, I do not believe Tampa Bay’s offense would be as hindered as it was last year with Bruce Gradkowski in the lineup if something happened to Garcia and McCown was forced into the starting lineup. McCown has been playing with a lot of poise, and he’s proven to be a playmaker.”
“It was nice to see Mark Jones come through as a wide receiver against the Jaguars. His 51-yard touchdown grab from quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was an impressive play, and one Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has been waiting to see from Jones for a while now. Jones, who is attempting to make the 53-man roster again by returning punts, needs to show that he’s capable of doing more than just that. Jones might have to win the punt and kickoff return jobs to make the team this year, but his touchdown reception certainly should help his chances of securing a spot on the 53-man roster this year.”
Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez “Defensive lineman Kevin Carter got an extensive amount of playing time with the first team defense against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Carter made the most of his opportunity getting pressure on Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich on the second drive of the game. Carter finally got his hands on Leftwich on the third drive with a sack. Carter also showed his quickness in pursuing running plays, staying parallel down the line of scrimmage to keep the running back from cutting back across the field. Carter finished the game with two tackles and one sack and seems to be putting pressure on Greg Spires for the starting left defensive end position. Carter was brought in because of his versatility on the defensive line, being able to play both defensive end and defensive tackle. However, head coach Jon Gruden has wanted to put Carter at one position and let him get comfortable. That was why Carter got the start at left defensive end against the Jaguars. Carter has been durable during his entire career, not missing a game during his 12-year career and that is something that the Bucs need on the defensive line. With the defensive line trying to figure out a starting rotation before the season begins, Carter went a long way in showing that he has what it takes to be the starting left defensive end for the Bucs.”
“Center Matt Lehr, who was signed as a free agent from the Atlanta Falcons during the offseason, got an opportunity to show what he could do at the position vs. the Jaguars, and he didn’t impress at all. Lehr struggled with the exchange with quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Luke McCown the entire first half. Whether McCown or Garcia was in the shotgun or under center, Lehr seemed to find a way to muff the center-quarterback exchange. On the second drive of the game, Lehr had a high snap to Garcia in the shotgun and Garcia did a good job grabbing the ball and making a play. On the third drive of the game, Garcia had to pounce on a loose ball as Lehr and Garcia couldn’t get the exchange together. The same issues popped up when McCown came in at quarterback as McCown had to pounce on a muffed snap on his second drive and also had to snag a high snap in the shotgun as well. Gruden reluctantly implemented the shotgun into the offense this season and has stressed the importance of the center-quarterback exchange. Center John Wade did a good job with the snap in the shotgun last week against the New England Patriots. Lehr’s performance on Saturday didn’t improve his chances of unseating Wade in the starting lineup.”
“Defensive end Gaines Adams showed why he was chosen with the fourth overall selection in this year’s draft against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Adams recorded his first sack of his young career when he came around on a stunt move and planted quarterback David Gerrard on his back. Adams also had a forced fumble on quarterback Byron Leftwich in the second quarter. Adams seems to be a player that doesn’t show much enthusiasm or fire during practice, but once the lights come on for game time, his light goes on. For most of training camp, Adams has looked clueless at times during practice and hasn’t looked worthy of a first round selection. However, Adams showed a good ability to rush the passer and his effort pursuing the play down field was impressive against the Jaguars. Adams, unlike defensive end Simeon Rice who he is taking over for, was seen running 10 or 15 yards down field, even though he was taken out of the play, to try and make a tackle. That kind of effort is what Gruden and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin are looking for from Adams.”
Contributing Writer Jenna Laine “I know I mentioned him last week, but I like what I saw from wide receiver David Boston in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game. The 19-yard touchdown catch off a bootleg from quarterback Jeff Garcia could really be a key factor in Boston getting more playing time. We didn’t see a lot of him tonight, but Boston made things happen when it mattered most.”
“And talk about making things happen – you have to applaud the athleticism of quarterback Luke McCown, but more importantly, his accountability. A fumble by wide receiver Maurice Stovall had Jacksonville safety Jamaal Fudge going 72 yards – almost the whole way to the end zone. Of all people to make the stop, it was McCown, who sprinted about 70 yards to make the touchdown-saving tackle, and he did it with one hand. It’s that accountability that the Bucs missed most last season, and something that really needs to be stressed in the locker room, especially after the Bucs' receivers dropped four passes at Jacksonville.”
“The Bucs defense showed it could be turning things around. Last season, getting into the red zone pretty much ensured a “pass go, collect 7 points” handout. But Saturday night against Jacksonville on a short field set up by Jamaal Fudge’s 72-yard fumble return down to Tampa Bay 5, the Jags had to settle for a field goal. Props to rookie Tanard Jackson for making three big plays on that stop. Unfortunately the remaining play of the second-string defense wasn’t up to par, allowing Jacksonville to rack up 24 points in the second quarter alone."
“Rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli’s debut as a Buc gave me mixed signals. He showed shades of his idol, John Lynch, taking down running back Maurice Jones-Drew at the 5-yard line (courtesy of Adam Hayward's blown tackle), but beyond that, I was hoping he could have come down with that interception in the third quarter. With some fine-tuning by defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, this second-round pick could be a presence in the future.”
“Bucs running backs coach Art Valero is having a field day with his group of guys. Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman are locks to make the team, of course, but beyond that, I think the Bucs have some viable options here. At the beginning of training camp, and even mini-camp, I had Earnest Graham and Kenneth Darby fighting for the fourth and final slot. Now I’m convinced both could make an impact, although we have yet to see either face first-string defenders. Darby did show his youth on a drive-killing third quarter fumble. I’m sure the fourth quarter touchdown with six minutes left in the game made him feel a bit better about his chances of making the team, and surely earned a pat on the back from his college coach and Jags’ new quarterbacks coach– Mike Shula after the game.”
“After bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2004, Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton faced some injuries and started to pull a disappearing act. Now, in a strong pool of receivers and fighting just to make the roster, he put himself back in the forefront, not with his playmaking ability, but with his eccentric hairstyle. I’m not sure what the motive was here, but if shedding the tiny cornrows for a mohawk gives him that edge he needs to get back on track, I’m all for it.”
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