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Publisher Scott Reynolds
"One of the things I was really impressed with on Saturday night was the toughness that Bucs halfback Michael Bennett showed running between the tackles in short-yardage situations. At 5-foot-9, 207 pounds, Bennett is not a big back and is not known as an inside runner. Instead, he has been quick to bounce plays outside with his 4.35 speed, as he did on his 31-yarder down the right sidelines in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins. But that wasn't necessarily the case against Miami. Bennett had two 2-yard runs on a pair of third-and-1 situations to pick up first downs. He also had a 3-yard carry on fourth-and-1 to get another first down. And then on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, he powered off right tackle to score a touchdown. In all, Bennett accounted for six of Tampa Bay's 21 first downs in the game, and many of those came with surprising power between the tackles."
"Statistically, quarterback Brian Griese outperformed quarterback Luke McCown tonight. Griese completed 10-of-14 passes (71.4 percent) for 59 yards and threw a touchdown pass, earning a QB rating of 103. McCown owned a 71.5 QB rating due to 9-of-15 passing for 70 yards (60 percent). He also was sacked once. Griese also out-dueled McCown in the clutch, big-play department, hitting receiver Brian Clark with a 3-yard touchdown with no time remaining in the first half, while McCown overthrew a wide open Michael Clayton in the end zone on third down in the first quarter. But the one thing that bugged me about Griese's play was that of his 10 completions, only one was longer than 10 yards and that was Maurice Stovall's 14-yarder. Griese had completions of 10 yards to Alex Smith, nine yards to John Gilmore, eight yards to Antonio Bryant, six yards to Bryant, five yards to Kenneth Darby, three yards to Clark, two yards to Clifton Smith, one yard to Smith and one yard to Darby. Griese was lucky that Stovall was able to do something after the catch as he caught the pass only four yards past the line of scrimmage, otherwise the Bucs would have had to settle for a field goal with time running down. I know Griese was efficient and wound up getting a touchdown on the board, but his nature of quickly dumping the ball off underneath reminded me too much of former Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson. Perhaps Griese has become the new Captain Checkdown. Yet a couple more outings like this and Griese will become the backup behind Jeff Garcia – whether I like it or not."
"Fifth-year quarterback Chris Simms really helped himself Saturday with a sterling performance. Simms was 8-of-10 for 60 yards and led Tampa Bay on a touchdown drive, going 4-of-4 for 40 yards on that scoring march. He was accurate and seemed in control of the offense. The only knock on his play in Miami was the fact that he didn't show any mobility in taking two sacks. However, Simms showed the Bucs – and the other 31 NFL teams – that he could play competent football again almost two years removed from losing his spleen. The Bucs have to be thrilled on two fronts. First, Simms now has some potential trade value and that will only increase with another game or two like this in the preseason. Second, if the Bucs suffer a serious injury to Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese or Luke McCown, they would feel comfortable keeping Simms as the their number three quarterback if he continues to play this well. All in all, this was a very good night for Simms personally."
"By far the worst position in Tampa Bay last year was punt returner, especially after Mark Jones was lost to a torn patellar tendon injury in the first month of the 2007 season. Not only did the Buccaneers address this position in the offseason with the drafting of Dexter Jackson in the second round, but they also signed undrafted free agent Clifton Smith out of Fresno State. Smith, who was one of Pewter Report's training camp sleepers and a guy I have liked since the OTAs. Smith, who had five career punt returns for touchdowns for the Bulldogs, showed great quickness and speed on an electrifying 30-yard punt return against the Dolphins in the fourth quarter. Jackson had a 15-yard return on his lone punt return, and Micheal Spurlock averaged 15 yards per return on his two attempts on Saturday night. In all, the Bucs averaged 18.8 yards on four punt returns, which is a far cry from their 6.0-yard average from a year ago. Jackson has a roster spot sewn up due to his draft status, but I think Smith may wind up being the better return guy by the end of the preseason, forcing Tampa Bay to find a way to have him make the 53-man squad."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"Tampa Bay's defense dominated Miami's offense on Saturday night. It only allowed the Dolphins quarterbacks to complete 55 percent of their passes. Miami produced just 198 yards of offense and allowed Tampa Bay to notch four sacks while the Dolphins converted 4-of-12 (33 percent) of their third down tries. Even though Tampa Bay did not allow Miami to score a touchdown, its defense failed to do what it has been emphasizing all offseason – create more turnovers. The Bucs defense did not create one turnover vs. the Dolphins, and you can bet defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will remind his players of that as they prepare to play their second preseason game of the year vs. New England Patriots on Aug. 17."
"The Bucs offense needs wide receiver Joey Galloway (groin) back in action. The speedster is Tampa Bay's deep threat, and the offense sorely misses him when he's not in the lineup. Tampa Bay's quarterbacks completed 28-of-40 (70 percent) of their passes vs. Miami, but the Bucs averaged just 4.2 yards per completion, which resulted in the offense's longest pass of the game going for just 15 yards. However, it also contributed to the Bucs' ability to dominate the time of possession vs. the Dolphins, 36:11 to 23:49."
"It's still early, but Dan Buenning showed me a lot as the backup center vs. the Dolphins. Entering this game, I thought Buenning was battling for a 53-man roster spot with rookie Jeremy Zuttah. While that still is the case, I'd be surprised if Buenning did not make the team as it appears as though he's made substantial progress at the center position, which he attempted to transition to last year as he recovered from an ACL injury. Buenning saw a significant amount of playing time vs. the Dolphins and fared quite well. At this point, he looks poised to earn a roster spot as Tampa Bay's backup center behind Jeff Faine."
"One thing I've noticed throughout the first two weeks of Bucs training camp is the fact that this is the lightest training camp I have ever seen run under head coach Jon Gruden in his seven years in Tampa Bay. That's not to say it's an easy camp, but there haven't been as many practices in full pads. There also haven't been as many afternoon workouts, and most of the afternoon practices have been held in an air-conditioned tent in walk-thru style. Tampa Bay really emphasized physical play during last year's training camp, and it showed during the regular season, especially in the trenches. I haven't seen that emphasized as much this year, and I have to wonder if that is one of the reasons why Tampa Bay's starting offensive line struggled to get a consistent push up front vs. Miami., which ranked 32nd in the NFL vs. the run last year. I suppose we'll find out over the next few preseason games. There are some other areas that need to get cleaned up as well, including dropped passes and kicker Matt Bryant's two missed field goals, which were a bit odd seeing as how well he's kicked during camp. It was the first preseason game, so mistakes can be expected, and the fact that the team was not called for a single penalty was a pleasant surprise. But the Bucs should take this preseason win over the Dolphins for what it's worth. It was, after all, against a team that went 1-15 during the 2007 regular season. Certainly a decent start, but there were too many missed opportunities on Saturday, which is a clear indication that there still is of room for improvement for the Bucs as they prepare for the Patriots."
Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"There were a few things that really caught my eye from Saturday night's preseason opener. The first thing was what a night it could have been for two Buccaneers. Two players that have had big training camps after strong offseasons were quarterback Luke McCown and wide receiver Michael Clayton. Both players beat out others at their positions for the right to start in place of injured veteran starters. If a few plays had ended differently, McCown and Clayton would have had huge nights. The first play was a dropped pass by Clayton. On first and ten from their own 20-yard line, Clayton got separation and was open 21 yards downfield. McCown threw a perfect strike that hit Clayton in stride and was right in his hands. Clayton dropped the ball, and would have been able to run for more yards had he hauled the pass in. The next play that was a near miss for the duo was from the Dolphins 19-yard line Clayton got open on a slant and was running free in the end zone. McCown overthrew the big receiver and the Bucs proceeded to miss a field goal on fourth down. For the night, McCown was 9-15 for 70 yards and Clayton had two catches for 22 yards. If those two passes were completed their numbers would have been huge. McCown's would have been 11-15 for 110 yards and one touchdown. Clayton's would have been 4 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.
"Both players looked like they were pressing, and not playing as relaxed as they have been in camp. In order for them to hold on two their positions in the depth chart, they are going to have to capitalize on those opportunities and play with the same looseness that they have exhibited in training camp.
"While Clayton and McCown were close to having a huge game, the Bucs starting defensive line was not in the same category. The starters played deep into the second quarter but had a very quiet night. The only starter on the defensive line to register anything on the stat sheet was defensive end Gaines Adams who recorded a tackle. In some third and long situations, the line failed to generate any pass rush, as the Dolphins were able to convert a few of those attempts. In order for the Buccaneers to have any success over what they did last season, they will need the pass rush to improve.
"The preseason debut was not a good start, but hopefully for Tampa Bay the players will pick up their play when it counts. The other side of the line had a ho-hum night as well. The Bucs starting offensive line played the majority of the first half with the exception of center Jeff Faine who left the game earlier. Starting guard Davin Joseph got off on the wrong foot as he allowed the initial penetration. Defensive lineman Jason Ferguson got the sack on the Bucs first offensive play of the game. After that though, they did a good job of protecting the passer. The starting line also did not have much success opening holes for the running backs. In the first half the Bucs ran for 28 yards on 12 carries. Over half of the yards came on two attempts. The second string unit fared a little better. It allowed two sacks, but also contributed to 86 yards of rushing in the second half. They also provided some good pass protection on a few third and long conversions. For the game the Bucs ran for 114 yards on 33 carries with one touchdown and an average of 3.5 yards per carry."
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