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Publisher Scott Reynolds
"Cornerback Aqib Talib is already paying off dividends for the Buccaneers. After getting burned for a touchdown by David Patten in New Orleans last week, Tampa Bay's 2008 first-round pick recorded his first NFL interception against Atlanta's rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw his first NFL pick to the former Jayhawk. That play set up Tampa Bay's first touchdown and gave the team a 7-0 lead over the visiting Falcons. The Bucs hope that this is a sign of things to come for years and years – Talib picking off Ryan – given the fact that the two will be seeing each other twice a season. In his football career, Ryan has now thrown interceptions to three Buccaneers – Talib, linebacker and Geno Hayes and practice squad defensive end Dre Moore, although the picks to Hayes and Moore occurred when Ryan was at Boston College and Hayes and Moore were at Florida State and Maryland, respectively. It is believed that Talib was the fastest to record his first interception of any Bucs rookie cornerback – coming in just his second NFL game. In 1996, cornerback Donnie Abraham picked off quarterback John Elway in Denver for his first interception in the third game of his rookie season."
"The biggest reason why Jon Gruden wanted to make the change at quarterback to Brian Griese? Third down conversions. Jeff Garcia was awful on third downs at New Orleans, evidenced by the fact that Tampa Bay did not convert a third down until the fourth quarter. Griese converted three third downs through the air in the first quarter against Atlanta, and picked up another first down on a third-down throw to start the second quarter. Griese was at it again later in that same second quarter drive on third-and-10, throwing a shovel pass to Warrick Dunn for a 12-yard gain. Tampa Bay averaged converting 51.5 percent of its third downs as it went 3-1 in the preseason, but saw that percentage dip to 16.7 last week in the 24-20 loss to New Orleans. Against Atlanta, the Bucs converted 43 percent of their third downs (6-of-14), which was a marked improvement over a week ago, and Griese's efficient play was a big reason why. He managed the game well, and deserves to start next Sunday at Chicago after getting the win."
"In last week's SR's Fab 5, I pointed out how Tampa Bay would be using more draw plays after Earnest Graham picked up nine yards on third-and-23. The reason why is the arrival of mobile center Jeff Faine, who can quickly snap the ball and get out to the second level and trap linebackers. We saw more draw plays and shovel passes against Atlanta on Sunday with Warrick Dunn making the most of those opportunities. On third-and-10 in Atlanta's red zone, Brian Griese threw a shovel pass to Dunn for 12 yards, and Dunn also scored on a 17-yard draw with Faine and Graham leading the way up the middle as blockers. Faine's quickness and mobility not only helps Tampa Bay's perimeter running game because he has the speed to get outside and block on the edge, but also in the middle of the defense. Dunn also did a great job of running patiently behind his blocks on both the shovel pass and the draw play that went for a touchdown. Look for more shovel passes and draws behind the blocking of Faine as the season goes on."
"I owe apologies to two players – Bucs running back Earnest Graham and rookie linebacker Geno Hayes. Heading into the season opener against New Orleans, I suggested that running back Michael Bennett was the only running back capable of ripping off a run longer than 29 yards. Prior to this year, Graham's longest NFL carry was 28 yards, which came last season. But after a 46-yard jaunt last week against the Saints and a career-high 68-yard touchdown run against the Falcons today, I withdraw my previous statement, which knocked Graham's speed. Through two games, Graham has rushed for 207 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries, averaging an astonishing 8.28 yards per tote. Graham's nifty power running blows my argument out of the water. I like the fact that this guy is backing up the Bucs' faith in him and that Graham is earning his newfound riches from his contract extension. As for Hayes, I was baffled that the Bucs spent a sixth-round draft choice on a linebacker after drafting both Quincy Black and Adam Hayward last year and signing Matt McCoy and Teddy Lehman in free agency. I thought it was a wasted pick. But Hayes opened my eyes in the preseason with two things – his instincts and his striking ability. He reminds me of a younger, slightly less talented Derrick Brooks – the player he idolized at Florida State, wearing Brooks' number 10 jersey during his Seminoles career. With so much attention this week on whether Hayward or Black would be entering the lineup to make up for Brooks, who was hobbled by a hamstring injury, Hayes deserves a lot of credit for beating out both second-year linebackers and seeing a lot of action on Sunday. Although he only recorded one tackle and didn't make any impact plays, he didn't play like a rookie and make any mistakes, either. I think Hayes has a bigger upside than either Hayward or Black on defense, and it seems that is in line with what the Bucs coaches think, too."
"To all the fans who thought the sky was falling last week after a close loss to New Orleans, which Pewter Report predicted, I hope you feel better about this team now that the Bucs' record has improved to 1-1 with a big win over Atlanta, which Pewter Report also predicted. Allow me to use a cliché when I say that the NFL season is a marathon – not a sprint. The Bucs started off the 2002 and 2007 seasons with a loss, only to wind up with a win the following week. Both of those campaigns ended up being winning ones with Tampa Bay claiming at least a playoff berth and the NFC South title. The key was winning that second game as only 19 teams have gone to the postseason after a 0-2 start. The Bucs defense had a much better showing on Sunday with four sacks and a couple of interceptions, while the running game continues to drive the offense with 164 yards on 28 carries (5.9 avg.) and two touchdowns. As Pewter Report has said since the team added tight end John Gilmore, center Jeff Faine and running back Warrick Dunn in free agency, the running game will carry this team. This is a team that is built to run the ball and with 310 yards in the first two games, averaging 6.5 yards per tote, the Bucs are off to a good start and an expected 1-1 record. A 10-6 season is not out of the realm of possibility, especially if the Bucs can get by Chicago next Sunday."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"Tampa Bay's defense got after Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan early and often on Sunday, notching four sacks. The pass rush was led by Bucs second-year defensive end Gaines Adams, who sacked Ryan twice en route to the Bucs' 24-9 win over the Falcons. Adams' production should come as no surprise as he recorded three of his six regular season sacks vs. the Falcons. Adams now has five sacks in three career games vs. Atlanta. Adams was held without a sack in Week 1 vs. New Orleans, but played a significant role in the Bucs' ability to hold the Falcons out of the end zone on Sunday."
"One of the most disappointing aspects of Tampa Bay's offensive production, or lack thereof, has been the penalties committed by its offensive line. This unit, which is without starting right guard Davin Joseph (foot), has committed seven penalties in the first two weeks of the 2008 regular season. Those infractions have put Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden's offense in some long down-and-distance situations. Last week, Bucs right tackle Jeremy Zuttah and left guard Arron Sears were each flagged for two penalties. Against Atlanta, Bucs rookie guard Jeremy Zuttah, who is filling in for Joseph, was flagged for holding and a false start. Tampa Bay's offensive line must find a way to play penalty-free football."
"Bucs quarterback Brian Griese was somewhat effective in place of Jeff Garcia, but Tampa Bay's offense needs to sustain more drives and prove that it can drive the field instead of relying on the defense to create turnovers inside the opponent's territory. With the exception of running back Earnest Graham's 68-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay's longest drive of the game was 61 yards. That came on a 14-play drive engineered by Griese and Co. that was capped off by RB Warrick Dunn's 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Tampa Bay's defense needed two interceptions and four sacks to hold Atlanta's offense out of the end zone. The defense will have to put together these types of efforts until the offense can find a way to consistently move the football and score more points."
"Let's give credit where credit is due. After going 7-of-12 on field goal attempts in the preseason, Matt Bryant is 3-of-3 on field goal tries through two regular season games. Bryant drilled a 33-yard field goal vs. the Falcons on Sunday."
Beat Writer Writer Charlie Campbell
"The Buccaneers wide receivers had a ho-hum debut in the first game of the season, and looking at the stat sheet the wide receivers were consistent in being underwhelming. Against Atlanta the receivers hauled in seven passes for 75 yards. The only receiver that has been consistent after two games is veteran Ike Hilliard. All of Hilliard's four catches resulted in first downs; three of those receptions were on third down. Galloway caught a 12-yard pass on the first third-down that Tampa Bay faced, but was held to one catch for six yards for the rest of the game. Michael Clayton was active and caught one pass for six yards. He contributed as blocker and on special teams, but also was called for a holding penalty on offense. Starting opposite Galloway was Antonio Bryant. The veteran Bryant was held without a catch in his home debut as a Buccaneer. He had one bad drop and a questionable drop on a pass that was thrown behind him. There were plays were Bryant broke off his routes and was open but the ball was not thrown his direction. There are two sides of the coin in looking at the receiver's performance. On one side, the Buccaneers wide receivers were getting open regularly throughout the game. Galloway and Bryant both got open deep but Griese overthrew his receivers. If either pass were complete the receivers would have been able to coast into the end zone for long touchdowns. The receivers also contributed a good game blocking. Galloway actually had some nice blocks and sprained his foot on play when he was blocking for running back Warrick Dunn downfield. Bryant assisted Earnest Graham's 68-yard touchdown run with some blocks in the final 25 yards. But the negative is that outside of Hilliard, the other receivers made three catches for 24 yards. The Bucs are going to have to get more production out of this unit over the course of the season. Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese will also have to make sure to press the opposition's secondary. Even though he overthrew Bryant and Galloway on their bombs downfield those plays helped to keep Atlanta's safeties at bay and be wary of the deep ball. Still, if the wide receivers do not start supplying more catches, yards, and touchdowns the running lanes are going to be fewer and far between."
"Tampa Bay's pass rush was somewhat slow to develop but eventually broke out late in the game. Early in the game the Bucs defense was stifling, there were stretches were the pass rush was definitely lacking. Tampa Bay blitzed on numerous occasions and the majority of the time the blitzers didn't get to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and the defensive lineman did not win the one-on-one matchups. In the first half of the game there was one play that was particularly glaring. On third-and-13 the Bucs sent a jailhouse blitz at the Falcons. There were more pass rushers than Falcons there to pick it up, but the Bucs somehow couldn't pressure Ryan and he completed a 19-yard pass to receiver Roddy White. A few plays later the Bucs pass rush showed signs of life when defensive end Gaines Adams recorded his first sack of the game going through tackle Tyson Cabo and running back Jason Snelling to bring down Ryan. In the second half of the game the Bucs started laying some nice hits on Ryan. He took some big shots and was forced to throw a number of balls away. Cornerback Ronde Barber got pressure on a blitz and almost sacked Ryan for a safety. On the Falcons second field goal drive, the Bucs knocked-down Ryan on a few plays. One of them though was a personal foul penalty on defensive end Greg White. Defensive tackle Ryan Sims followed that play with a great pass rush beating two Falcons and pin-balling Ryan with end Kevin Carter. Late in the fourth quarter Adams got his second sack and White tallied his 1.5 sacks late in the game. Adams has two sacks and White has 2.5 thus far through two games. With Adams and White back at their best pass rushing positions, right and left end respectively, the Bucs appear to be better and more consistent getting pressure from the edges."
"What the Buccaneers are lacking right now is an interior pass rush. Defensive tackle Jovan Haye missed a lot of training camp and the preseason with a groin strain, and he has appeared rusty in the first two games from a pass-rushing standpoint. Haye had six sacks last season and is being counted to be the three technique under tackle that pushes the pocket. It hasn't happened so far, and for the Tampa 2 to be most effective it needs a pass rush from the inside. Defensive tackle Chris Hovan had one pressure, and Sims and Jimmy Wilkerson also had some pressure. If Haye can not start to show signs of bringing the pass rush he flashed last season, the Bucs will have to consider giving more snaps to Sims and Wilkerson at the under tackle spot in obvious pass rushing situations. Both Sims and Wilkerson have recorded some pressures and knockdowns, the same cannot be said for Haye at this point. Defensive tackle Greg Peterson was inactive and he has some pass rush ability. Hopefully in the weeks to come Peterson will get an opportunity if the starter in front of him continues to struggle. Right now the only thing that is holding the Bucs back from having a shutdown defense is the inconsistent pass rush."