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Publisher Scott Reynolds "Wide receiver Brian Clark and rookie running back Clifton Smith made a great first impression by teaming up to make the tackle on the opening kickoff. You could see the hunger in their play and their drive to make the team against Houston. I also saw that type of performance from second-year defensive tackle Greg Peterson. If a roster decision were to come down between Peterson and rookie Dre Moore, who was Tampa Bay's fourth-round pick this year, I would take Peterson. While Peterson is still raw, which can be expected coming from tiny North Carolina Central, he has the physical tools necessary to compete in the NFL in addition to his hustle. He had three tackles and was really active against Houston – as he has been during the entire preseason – while Moore had a reputation for being out of shape and not as driven at the University of Maryland. Yes, most teams don't cut their fourth-round draft pick in their first season in the NFL. But Peterson deserves a roster spot more than Moore does. Peterson was a fifth-round pick last year, so any embarrassment over cutting a fourth-round pick should have no bearing on this decision due to Peterson's similar draft status from the previous year."
"Kicker Matt Bryant has really struggled in the preseason by missing two more field goals in Tampa Bay's first drive. Bryant's field goal percentage through the preseason is now 7-of-12 (58.3 percent) after Thursday night's 3-for-5 performance. Bryant's first quarter miss from 54 yards was forgivable. Despite the fact that he set a franchise record with a 62-yard game-winning field goal against Philadelphia in 2006, Bryant isn't known for making kicks beyond 50 yards. Last year, he was 0-for-3 in this department. The encouraging thing about Bryant's miss from 54 yards in Houston was the fact that it was straight down the middle and only a yard short. But Bryant's next attempt, a 36-yarder that he pushed right, is unforgivable. Bryant has now missed three kicks to the right this preseason, including a woeful 26-yarder last week against Jacksonville right before halftime. Bryant did come through with a 40-yard field goal with 13:28 left in the fourth quarter, followed by two more potentially confidence-building field goals. Although Bryant has been a reliable kicker over the last three years making 84 percent of his field goals in 2005, 77 percent of them in 2006 and a team-record 84.8 percent of his kicks last season, the Bucs have to strongly consider bringing in free agent kicker Jay Feely, a Tampa native, or another kicker for a workout this week as an insurance policy."
"Recently re-signed defensive end Patrick Chukwurah made a good impression for Tampa Bay against Houston. He was very quick off the ball and quite active in the first half. Chukwurah made a nice tackle for loss in the running game and was a half-step away from a sack while rushing from the right end spot. He also made two great open-field special teams tackles in the fourth quarter. In hindsight, Tampa Bay should have kept Chukwurah around for training camp and released Marques Douglas instead back in June. Of course the front office was not going to cut a newly signed veteran without giving him the chance to win a roster spot in camp. But Douglas, who is slow and fat, looked bad in the OTAs and mini-camps and didn't make many plays. It should have come as no surprise that he didn't make many plays in training camp or the preseason. I don't know if Chukwurah will make the final cut or not, but it's hard to get an accurate read on him after he missed all of training camp and only played one half of the preseason finale. He certainly put out some good film on Thursday night."
"One quick note about the quarterbacks. I wonder if Brian Griese doesn't give the Bucs the best chance to win in New Orleans. I think Jeff Garcia should start the game, but if he's rusty in the first half, Jon Gruden shouldn't hesitate to turn to Griese, who has had an incredibly hot hand in the preseason. The fact that Garcia has missed virtually all of training camp and the preseason with a calf injury is worrisome. Luke McCown made some strides this preseason, but still has more strides to make. I still think he's the best bet to become the future starter in Tampa Bay. It just might take a while as it did with Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle. Josh Johnson has a long, long, long way to go to even get into the conversation about being the quarterback of the future. It was nice covering Chris Simms and he's an incredibly great guy, but it's obvious that he is moving on this weekend. I think Simms has the tools to play in the NFL, but not as a starter. He seems to play the game half a second too slow with his feet and his arm. I wish him well, though."
"Once again, Tampa Bay's preseason TV game coverage was littered with approximately 10 commercials for individual game ticket sales. The Bucs have yet to sell out any of their home games and could be faced with the prospects of having some of their contests at Raymond James Stadium blacked out this year."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn "Since Oct. 28 (Week 8), the Bucs have played 14 games, including four exhibition contests. Quarterback Jeff Garcia has missed half (seven) of those games (three preseason contests) and played in one half of three others (Washington, San Francisco and Jacksonville preseason game). He also missed over half of training camp with a calf injury. Garcia, 38, completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 2,440 yards and tossed 13 touchdowns and four interceptions en route to making the Pro Bowl as an alternate in his Buccaneer debut in 2007. But since Week 8 of the 2007 regular season, Garcia has completed 110-of-195 (56 percent) of his passes for 1,222 yards and tossed eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. I realize the Bucs are attempting to keep Garcia healthy, but what's the point of protecting your signal caller if he isn't going to play well? Tampa Bay should have played Garcia in the preseason finale in Houston. Instead, Tampa Bay opted to sit him and started Luke McCown. The Bucs offense has failed to score a touchdown in their last two regular season openers in losses to Baltimore and Seattle, respectively. If Garcia and the offense struggle out of the gate for the third straight year, this time in New Orleans, which has a suspect defense, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden will have to live with that decision and the criticism that should come with it."
"Tampa Bay's toughest roster cuts/decisions will come on the defensive side of the ball, where several players put forth their best effort on Thursday night. Bucs defensive linemen Charles Bennett, Greg Peterson and Patrick Chukwurah were just a few of the players that turned in solid performances. Even rookie DT Dre Moore had his best outing of the preseason. Sure, it's only preseason, but Tampa Bay's defense has simply dominated opposing offenses, evidenced by how the Bucs held three of their opponents – Miami, New England and Houston – to under 200 yards of total offense. The Texans produced 195 yards and converted just 17 percent of their third down attempts. Jacksonville managed to produce 202 yards of offense while handing Tampa Bay its only loss of the preseason last Saturday. The Bucs will have a big test to start the season when they take on the Saints and their potent offense, but if the preseason is any indication, Tampa Bay's defense is ready for the challenge."
"I had some doubts as to whether tight end Ben Troupe would make the 53-man roster heading into tonight's game, but it would be somewhat surprising to see the Bucs part ways with him after watching him perform vs. the Texans. Troupe isn't Tampa Bay's best tight end, but he's athletic and possesses good hands. He caught four passes for 52 yards while receiving plenty of playing time on Thursday night. With Jerramy Stevens being suspended for the first two games of the regular season, expect Troupe to stick around."
"It was nice to see Dexter Jackson show why the Bucs used their 2008 second-round pick to select the former Appalachian State star in April. On Thursday night, Jackson fielded a punt and returned it 83 yards for a touchdown. It was the only touchdown scored in the game. Jackson isn't big enough to break tackles, but when he gets a crease, look out. What made Jackson's punt return for a touchdown even more impressive is the fact that his hamstring is only about 90 percent healthy. Once that injury, which he sustained during Tampa Bay's rookie mini-camp in May, is fully healthy, expect Jackson to be even faster with the ball in his hands. He's also shown some potential at the wide receiver position on offense, which is good news for the Bucs since they might have to call on him at some point if veteran WRs Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton can't stay healthy."
Beat Writer Writer Charlie Campbell
"There a few things that stood out to me in the Buccaneers victory over the Texans. The first thing that stood out to me was this was the first game that the offense or special teams recorded a big play for a touchdown. Rookie wide receiver Dexter Jackson electrified the Bucs with his 87-yard punt return for a touchdown. Outside of Jackson's return, the longest play the Buccaneers recorded in the preseason was a 33-yard catch by wide receiver Antonio Bryant. After last season, one of the perceived weaknesses of the team was their lack of explosive plays. This preseason did not promise much of a change in this department. If Jackson is able to provide some spark in the return game that will go along way, but looking at the offense, it appears to be more of a grinding offense that moves down field in a series of runs and short passes. The Buccaneers had few offensive plays go for longer than 20-yards and here are the four longest plays the offense had from scrimmage. Bryant's 33-yarder, a 31-yard run from Michael Bennett, a 29-yard run from Luke McCown, and a 29-yard catch from Ben Troupe. That is over the four preseason games, and the Bucs will need to attempt to stretch the field more once the games count. The only quarterback to throw a go-route throughout the preseason was quarterback Josh Johnson. The pass was intended for Jackson and was incomplete, but Jackson running the route caused the defense to interfere with him and draw a 15-yard penalty. Hopefully for the offense, the Bucs were just being conservative and vanilla for the sake of the preseason. During the regular season, Tampa Bay will need to stretch the field more. Having a healthy Joey Galloway will help, but if the Buccaneers are going to rely on their running attack and short passing game to move the ball then they will need some deep threat to make the base of the offense effective."
"The Buccaneers may want to consider upping their offer to veteran tackle Fred Miller. Backup left tackle Anthony Davis struggled again in the preseason contest against Houston. After a rough performance against Jacksonville, Davis repeated the effort against the Texans. Davis was called for a 10-yard holding penalty that erased a completion that gained positive yards. The holding put the Bucs in a third and 17. They came up short for the first down, and Bryant proceeded to miss a 36-yard field goal. The Buccaneers ran behind Davis and guard Brian Johnson on numerous occasions and those runs did not produce much. On fourth and two in their second drive of the game down by three, the Bucs ran behind their left side but Davis and Johnson were unable to move their men and the run was stuffed for a turnover on downs. The Bucs have quality depth all along the offensive line except at left tackle. Davis does not look like the same player that was a two-year starter there. If the Bucs are unable to find an upgrade they will need a return of the Davis of old to ensure depth incase starter Donald Penn goes down with an injury."
"A bright spot throughout training camp and the preseason has been the play of the Buccaneers young linebackers. Against Houston, Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes had particularly strong games. Hayward did a great job in the game and looked good when he was subbed in at the Mike (middle) linebacker spot so Hayes could get some extra reps at the Will (weakside) linebacker spot. Hayes turned in a fantastic game, and after his strong preseason he sure made it difficult for the Bucs to cut him. Entering the NFL draft, many thought Hayes would go well before the sixth round. He undoubtedly had the talent to go earlier, and after the quality tape he produced over the preseason it could be hard for Tampa Bay to keep Hayes on the practice squad, let alone sign him there at all."
"Pewter Report wrote prior to training camp that sources indicated that Hayward was further along in his development than fellow second-year linebacker Quincy Black. The Sam (strongside) linebacker Black was in a more secure position as the team had a third-round pick invested in him. The sources appear to have been proven correct as Hayward has had a more productive preseason and has been much more noticeable on the field. Hayward has also been a key contributor on special teams. Black is viewed as one of the building blocks on special teams but he may not be the first linebacker off the bench. If starting Will linebacker Derrick Brooks goes down with an injury, the Bucs may have to consider putting Hayward in and keep the starting Sam, Cato June, at his position. The belief entering camp was that June would move to the Will and Black would be in at Sam if Brooks were to go down. Backup Ryan Nece has been in the thick of the competition and is a key cog on special teams. However there are up to four other backup linebackers that could be ahead of him on the depth chart: Hayward, Black, Hayes, and Matt McCoy. With cut down day hours away, it looks as if the choice is between Nece and Hayes. The Buccaneers will have a very tough decision to make. Go with the young, talented rookie with a high ceiling in Hayes, or Nece, a reliable veteran that that has topped out as linebacker. Both are good players, and either one will stand a great chance to be signed by another team."
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