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Publisher Scott Reynolds "Michael Clayton was inactive for the season opener at New Orleans. But before anyone jumps to conclusions about Clayton's role in Tampa Bay this upcoming season it should be pointed out that Clayton injured a chest muscle in the preseason loss to Jacksonville and did not suit up for the preseason finale at Houston. Clayton was on the injury report this week and was listed as questionable prior to the game. However, if Clayton returns to full health and is not active on Sundays, then it will become clear that he is not a part of the team's future plans. Clayton, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2009, could be a candidate to be traded prior to the NFL trading deadline on October 16. One thing to keep in mind is that Bucs general manager Bruce Allen has made a trade on the trading deadline each year he has been in Tampa Bay. In 2004, Allen traded away disgruntled wide receiver Keenan McCardell to San Diego for third- and sixth-round picks. In 2005, the Bucs traded a sixth-round pick for quarterback Tim Rattay. In 2006, Allen traded defensive tackle Anthony McFarland to Indianapolis for a second-round pick. Last year, Allen acquired running back Michael Bennett and a 2009 seventh-round pick for a sixth-round pick. We don't know how valuable – or not – the team views Clayton right now. But when he is healthy and off the injury report we will surely find out."
"At the 5:00 mark in the first quarter, Jeff Garcia and Joey Galloway didn't connect on a third-and-9 situation from the New Orleans 37. Galloway was running a drag pattern and would have picked up the first down if the pass had been on time. All week, I talked about the possible chemistry problem between the two, who have missed an awful lot of time due to injuries, and that manifested itself on Sunday. We also saw Galloway and Garcia misconnect on a deep throw with 6:26 left in the fourth quarter and on a key incompletion on a stop route on third-and-11 with 4:46 left in the fourth quarter. Garcia failed to get a deep pass to Galloway at the New Orleans 5-yard line with 44 seconds left on the Bucs' final drive, too. No one should have been surprised with the lack of chemistry between the two Bucs stars."
"Dexter Jackson's nerves were on display on Sunday. At least I hope they were nerves. On his first two punt returns (the second of which was negated due to a penalty on the Saints) he simply ducked and dove for the ground before getting hit. The last time I checked, Jackson had a helmet and shoulder pads just like the rest of the players. I know that Jackson isn't the biggest guy in the NFL at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, but his disturbing allergy for getting hit is somewhat reminiscent of Jacquez Green and Reidel Anthony. And what was with his second official return? Did I actually see him loop back around and go backwards? This isn't Appalachian State nor is it Florida State. This is the NFL. That stuff doesn't work in the big leagues. Jackson looked every bit like a rookie on Sunday and will need a talking to from special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. That type of freelancing will only result in negative yards or blocking in the back penalties (which occurred on that play, by the way). Jackson needs to quit freelancing, stick to the assigned blocks and turn upfield to get as many positive yards as possible. He also needs to learn when to call for a fair catch. Jackson got rocked by Jo-Lonn Dunbar with 4:45 left before halftime. Jackson finished the game with 29 yards on five returns (5.8 avg.). The rookie performed much better on kick returns, averaging 28 yards on three attempts."
"Sabby Piscitelli's first NFL tackle on defense was a big one. He collided with wide receiver Marques Colston after a 5-yard gain on third-and-6 in the second quarter. That big hit forced a three-and-out and a punt by New Orleans. Piscitelli was subbing for starter Jermaine Phillips on the play and his presence was by design. Piscitelli had such a great season that he has earned some playing time on defense this year, especially on passing downs because the second-year safety has more range in coverage than Phillips. Look for Piscitelli to get more snaps on defense in future games."
"What were the NFL officials thinking only flagging right tackle Jeremy Trueblood for a personal foul at the 9:00 mark in the second quarter? Did they not see that Saints defensive end Will Smith kept delivering forearm shivers to the chest of former New Orleans center Jeff Faine? Yes, Trueblood's penalty was stupid because the second player always gets caught, but he's not going to stand there and let Faine get pummeled. That was a terrible no-call by the officials that rivaled the obvious holding penalty (or take down) by Saints left tackle Jamaal Brown on Bucs defensive end Gaines Adams. That play occurred on a 26-yard gain by Reggie Bush. Another obvious, blown call by the officials that went against Tampa Bay."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn "No one should have been surprised by the fact that Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia and wide receiver Joey Galloway looked rusty in Sunday's 24-20 loss to New Orleans. They did, after all, miss a significant amount of playing time in training camp and preseason due to a calf and groin injury, respectively. One can only hope that Garcia, 38 and Galloway, 36, are not starting to show their age. The Bucs will need them to rebound from this loss and take care of business next week vs. Atlanta. The biggest surprise of the game might have been the poor performance turned in by Tampa Bay's offensive line. Sure, this unit was without starting guard Davin Joseph (foot), but the team is high on third-round draft pick Jeremy Zuttah, who filled in for him. Garcia was sacked twice and hit several other times. The offense was inept for three quarters. To its credit, the offensive line played much better in the second half, but having five penalties and two sacks in a regular season opener leaves plenty of room for improvement, especially for tackle Jeremy Trueblood and guard Arron Sears. This line was handpicked by head coach Jon Gruden and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Muir, and it severely underperformed on Sunday. This offense won't be productive at all if the play in the trenches doesn't substantially improve."
"The Bucs did not score their first offensive touchdown of the game until the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay's offense produced just 145 yards and was 0-of-5 on third downs in the first half. Perhaps this woeful start to the 2008 regular season shouldn't come as much of a surprise seeing as Tampa Bay failed to score an offensive touchdown in its two previous regular season openers in losses to Baltimore and Seattle. The Bucs were held 11 straight quarters without an offensive touchdown if you include Tampa Bay's last three regular season openers. That's just embarrassing. Despite the fact that several key members of his offense were held out of much of camp and the preseason with injuries, including Jeff Garcia, Joey Galloway, Antonio Bryant and B.J. Askew, head coach Jon Gruden opted to rest his starters in the preseason finale vs. Houston. That decision and the offense's rust and poor performance played a significant role in Tampa Bay's 24-20 loss to New Orleans on Sunday."
"What made Earnest Graham's 46-yard run in the second half so impressive? Last year, Tampa Bay's longest run of the season was just 31 yards, and that play was turned in by quarterback Luke McCown. Graham finished Sunday's game with 91 yards on 10 carries (9.1 avg.) and the Bucs rushed for 146 yards on 20 carries (7.3 avg.). Are you still trying to figure out why head coach Jon Gruden called for rusty quarterback Jeff Garcia to throw the football 41 times in a game where the Bucs never trailed by more than one score? Join the club."
"I don't want to make excuses for Tampa Bay's defense allowing New Orleans to torch them for a few big plays on Sunday because I know defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin won't, but I can't help but wonder if some of the Bucs players had trouble getting their footing in the Louisiana Superdome. Cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib appeared to slip and fall on quarterback Drew Brees' touchdown passes to David Patten and Devery Henderson. Return specialist Dexter Jackson also struggled to get his footing in the game."
"All of the sudden, Tampa Bay's regular season home opener vs. Atlanta doesn't look so easy. The Falcons jumped out to a 21-0 lead over the Lions and defeated Detroit, which went 4-0 in preseason, t at home on Sunday, 34-21. Tampa Bay simply cannot afford to fall to 0-2 on the season, especially since both losses would be to NFC South opponents."
Beat Writer Charlie Campbell "The stat that jumps out to me is the 146 yards rushing on 20 attempts for Tampa Bay. That is excellent, but the downside is there were only 20 attempts. Through the first three quarters when the game was predominantly a three-point game, the Buccaneers only ran the ball 16 times. One of those rushes was Jeff Garcia running for one yard after not finding an open target downfield. For a number of reasons it seemed that a running based offense was the best strategy for the Buccaneers. It looked obvious from the start of the game that Garcia and Joey Galloway were rusty and not on the same page. The offensive line was having much more success in run blocking than pass blocking, that was clear with the Bucs longest play from scrimmage being Graham's 46-yard run. Running the ball also would take more time off the clock and keep the Saints offense on the sideline. Their offense is too potent to keep giving them chance after chance. With the ground game having so much success and Garcia clearly struggling, it seems strange that the play calling was so lopsided. The Buccaneers had 20 rushing attempts and 41 passing attempts. There were six lead changes in the game, and it was always a one score contest, so their was no need to abandon the run in favor of the pass."
"In 2006, the Buccaneers pass rush struggled. Last year it improved, but was still not a strength of the defense. Against New Orleans, the pass rush does not seem to be any better than it was last year. In fact, it could be worse considering the Bucs had five sacks against the Saints last season in two games and had just one sack in Sunday's contest. The Bucs rarely got to Drew Brees. The first time they did was on Barrett Ruud's blitz that forced an interception and defensive touchdown by cornerback Phillip Buchanon. Cornerback Ronde Barber almost recorded a sack but was just late as Brees was able to complete a pass for a first down to tight end Jeremy Shockey. The only real pressure from the Bucs front four came from end Greg White rushing from the right defensive end spot. The sack came in the third quarter and helped to stall a Saints drive that resulted in a field goal that tied the score at 10. If the Buccaneers front four continues to have games like it did against the New Orleans than Tampa Bay will have to seriously consider going to a more blitzing attack on passing situations. Defensive end Gaines Adams and defensive tackle Jovan Haye are relied on to be impact pass rushers and neither stood out in the first game. The Saints offensive line had a lot of success protecting Brees last season, so hopefully for the Bucs sake they will have more success against other teams. If they don't it will be hard for the Buccaneers to stay a top 10 defense. The Saints had 337 yards passing and 438 total yards on offense, the Bucs' lack of pass rush is highly culpable for those totals."
"SR already hit on the Michael Clayton situation, but there is one more thing to add. In training camp, Clayton was the receiver that most consistently produced separation from defensive backs. The Buccaneers wide receivers had a hard time gaining separation from the Saints defensive backs on Sunday. If the Bucs receivers continue to post pedestrian numbers like they did against the Saints, it would be worth giving Clayton a shot at producing. Joey Galloway and Hilliard are older veterans and at some point they will lose a step, perhaps they already have. Antonio Bryant still has a lot to prove as well. Clayton had a strong offseason and training camp. He could possibly carry that over into the regular season if given the opportunity."
"It was interesting to see the Buccaneers sub in linebacker Matt McCoy when Derrick Brooks went out with a hamstring injury. McCoy has been a Mike (middle) linebacker since coming to Tampa Bay. When Brooks went out, it was surprising that McCoy went in a position (weakside linebacker) that he played at before coming to Tampa Bay, but had not seen practice reps there in the preseason. Adam Hayward was the original sub. Perhaps he was injured or ineffective and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin wanted to make a change. If Brooks is out for any period of time a lot of issues will be figured out. Brooks' replacement will indicate how effective the veteran Brooks still is. If his replacement fares better than the Bucs will have an idea that it is time to move in another direction. The view of young linebackers Quincy Black and Hayward should also become more evident. Will one of them enter the lineup? If not, then they are thought of as not ready for the base defense or they are viewed as just backups."
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