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Publisher Scott Reynolds “So how are the Buccaneers going to replace Mike Alstott at fullback this year? We saw a glimpse of that on Friday night when Michael Pittman started at fullback. Not only will B.J. Askew serve as the fullback this year, but Bucs head coach Jon Gruden plans on using the “Rocket” backfield, which is really a two halfback set with one of the halfbacks playing the role of a fullback. Using two halfbacks in a “Rocket” backfield will make it harder for opposing defenses to key on the probable ball carrier. The reason why the Buccaneers can use this formation in 2007 is because Cadillac Williams has made strides in pass protection and catching the ball this offseason after being a liability on third downs and obvious passing downs in his first two years in the NFL. Even if Alstott hadn’t been put on injured reserve this week, chances are that his role would have been somewhat diminished due to the fact that Gruden wanted to get both Williams and Pittman on the field at the same time this year.”
“The big thing that stood out to me tonight about backup quarterback Luke McCown wasn’t his 7-of-7 passing for 68 yards, nor was it the fact that he led the Bucs to a field goal and a touchdown. Those statistics were impressive, though. But it was the fact that after a year off from playing live football again, McCown looked extremely comfortable being back on the field and comfortable with the plays. McCown was calm and poised in the pocket, always looking downfield to make a play in the passing game before having to be forced to run. The offensive line didn’t help McCown out much as he had to scramble on three occasions and was also sacked three times. But the pressure he faced didn’t seem to bother him much and he was quite composed.”
“Tampa Bay’s lack of quarterback sacks and pressure was concerning. Nose tackle Chris Hovan actually got the most consistent pressure out of all of the defensive linemen from what I could tell. Hovan caused Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Cassel to move around the pocket, but couldn’t bring either passer down. The Bucs used a little bit of the 3-4 defense, but the Patriots typically ran into the 3-4 front. New defensive linemen Kevin Carter and Gaines Adams had some decent rushes, and under tackle Ellis Wyms registered the Bucs’ lone sack. The one thing to keep in mind was that New England’s offensive line is quite stout, especially the starters. While the Bucs didn’t get to the quarterback as much as the coaches would have liked, they didn’t allow the Patriots signal callers to have all day to throw, either. The Bucs did a better job of getting off the field on third down, though. Hovan pressured Brady into an incompletion on third-and-4 in the first quarter, Adams batted down a Cassel pass on third-and-7 and Cassel was stopped after a 12-yard scramble in a third-and-13 situation after being flushed from the pocket. Still, head coach Jon Gruden was not pleased with the lack of pressure against New England and wants to see more of it next week against Jacksonville.”
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn “Is anyone else worried about Jeremy Trueblood’s pass protection? He has struggled against defensive end Greg Spires throughout training camp. Until tonight, I thought it was more of a credit to Spires and not so much a knock on the second-year offensive tackle. But after watching Trueblood give up sacks on consecutive plays in the second quarter to stall a promising offensive drive in New England territory, I’m starting to think the Bucs are glad that quarterback Jeff Garcia isn’t left-handed and that Trueblood isn’t protecting his blindside.”
“Tampa Bay needs to build some momentum heading into its first regular season game of the year, which is at Seattle. Defeating the Patriots on Friday night was a good start, but I’m still concerned about the Bucs’ offense. The first-team offense, led by quarterback Jeff Garcia, played two offensive series, and it went three-and-out both times. The first-team defense, on the other hand, was left in the game for three series. Now, I can appreciate Bucs head coach Jon Gruden wanting to keep his players healthy through the preseason, but he needs to leave the offense on the field until they actually accomplish something. Tampa Bay’s offense struggled during the 2006 preseason, and those woes carried over into the regular season. In fact, the Bucs offense went almost three regular season games without scoring a touchdown and scored a total of just 20 touchdowns in 16 regular season games. Tampa Bay has scored a total of 13 points in its last two meetings vs. Seattle. The Bucs will need to score points in Seattle to defeat the Seahawks in Week 1. They need to take some confidence into the regular season, and if that means playing the starters longer, so be it.”
“If you didn’t believe Chris Simms was in danger of not making the 53-man roster before Friday night’s game, you’re probably a believer now. While Jeff Garcia was unimpressive in his debut, Tampa Bay’s backup quarterbacks, particularly Luke McCown, fared quite well on Friday night. McCown completed 7-of-7 passes and tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to WR Paris Warren. It’s unfortunate, but Simms will be hard pressed to play another game for the Bucs at this point.”
“You can accuse the Bucs of not being a classy organization for parting ways with fan favorites like safety John Lynch, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and defensive end Simeon Rice, and preventing assistant coaches who are under contract from leaving Tampa Bay for promotions, but give the Bucs credit where credit is due. Allowing fullback Mike Alstott, who was placed on injured reserve with another neck injury on Thursday, to be the last player introduced out of the tunnel with his No. 40 jersey on was quite classy. Having Alstott’s teammates huddle around Alstott at midfield after he was introduced was even better. Very classy move, Bucs.
Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez “With the injury of tackle Luke Petitgout during training camp, the revamped left side of Aaron Sears at left guard and Anthony Davis at left tackle got its first game action together. Sears and Davis did a good job of keeping the pass rush off of quarterback Jeff Garcia’s blindside, compared to the right side where right guard Davin Joseph and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood allowed some pressure on Garica on the first drive. On the first drive of the second quarter, the Bucs ran three consecutive running plays behind the starting offensive line and recorded the first first down of the game. On the second running play of that drive, running back Michael Pittman gained eight yards running to the left side behind Davis and Sears. Davis was seen blocking 10 yards downfield on the play, which is what the Bucs need this season to be successful in the running game. During the drive that featured Pittman and Ernest Graham, Graham had a 16-yard running play behind Joseph and Trueblood. The offensive line, however, went backwards when the Bucs got into the red zone and it was the right side of the line where the Patriots got their pressure. Quarterback Luke McCown was flushed out of the pocket on second down and was sacked on third down after defensive lineman Mike Wright got passed Trueblood. Late in the second quarter, the Bucs made substitutions with Davis moving to guard and Donald Penn taking over at left tackle. Jeb Terry came in to play right guard and Dennis Roland took over at right tackle. The success of the second offensive line unit can be measured with one word: Touchdown. The second unit was responsible for the only touchdown in the first half for the Bucs. They helped led a 10-play, 69-yard drive that took up 3:38 seconds off of the clock. The drive culminated with a 11-yard touchdown where Roland did a good job keeping the rush out of quarterback McCown’s face.”
“The linebacking corps might be the deepest position on the defense, much less the entire team. With Barrett Ruud out with a knee injury, Ryan Nece stepped in to start at the middle linebacker position along with Derrick Brooks and Cato June. The starting corps wasn’t impressive in their performance in almost one half of action. Nece was solid in the running game and did a good job with his drops in pass coverage. Brooks missed an interception opportunity in the first quarter and was slow getting to hole inside the 5-yard line and Patriots running back Sammy Morris barreled over Brooks for the touchdown. June didn’t record a tackle in the contest and made little noise on defense. Jamie Winborn was around the ball most of the night and made a big stick midway through the fourth quarter to keep the Patriots out of the end zone.”
“The competition at wide receiver during training camp has been a fierce one between Ike Hilliard, David Boston, Maurice Stovall and Michael Clayton. Clayton didn’t suit up for the game with a pulled muscle in his leg. Galloway dropped the only pass that he saw on the night from quarterback Jeff Garcia. Boston and Stovall had one catch apiece, but the receiver that had the most impressive performance was Parris Warren. Warren, who is battling with six players for a roster spot, had four receptions for 46 yards and one touchdown. Warren displayed good hands and showed crisp route running for the Bucs.”
Contributing Writer Jenna Laine “For an organization that received a lot of flack in the past regarding its approach to releasing players, retaining fullback Mike Alstott for another year, despite a season-ending injury, was one of the best moves this franchise has made. General manager Bruce Allen and the Glazers could have easily turned Alstott loose and freed up over $1 million from their payroll – not because he showed up to play after a few months work in the offseason or because they think there’s a slight chance he may be back after this year, but because no one has meant more to this franchise or more to this community than number 40. Alstott is the heart and soul of this team. You could see it the moment he took the field as the last player person introduced in team introductions tonight and the stadium erupted into sheer pandemonium. Not a single fan was seated. While it’s far too early to predict how the Bucs will end up after a dismal 4-12 season, one thing is for sure – fans in Tampa will remember this long after the pangs of a losing season.”
“This year, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has been much more lenient in giving players, particularly veterans, days off during training camp. However, his methods have yet to be proven successful. I can’t help but wonder if the added rest is, in fact, a wise choice. Last year, some of the starters claimed they 'didn’t feel as prepared' heading into the regular season. Despite having two years left on his contract, it’s a make or break year for Gruden, and he can’t afford to be wrong this time.”
“Speaking of 'make or break,' no one feels the clock ticking more than wide receiver David Boston. A first-round draft pick in 1999, Boston spent the last four years as a ghost in this league. Three teams and two knee surgeries later, and being released by the Bucs last year, folks are saying he’s back to his old ways. Will it be enough? Boston wasn’t too productive on Friday night with one catch for 5 yards, but it’s still early, and he did earn the starting nod over Maurice Stovall, who was named as the starting flanker earlier this week. Boston needs to stay healthy long enough to have an opportunity to prove himself during the regular season.”
"New starting quarterback Jeff Garcia had one lone completion out of four pass attempts, although you can attribute that to a number of factors. Given Garcia’s successful track record, including his one-year stint in Philadelphia last year, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt … for now.”
“Tampa Bay’s offense remained scoreless until quarterback Luke McCown came in and completed all seven of his passes for 68 yards and rushed for 19 yards on three attempts. The highlight of the night came with 31 seconds remaining in the second quarter when McCown threw an 11-yard pass to wide receiver Paris Warren for the game’s only touchdown.”
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