Copyright 2009

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Publisher Scott Reynolds
“Kudos to new Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson for designing a well-executed game plan for his debut as Tampa Bay’s play-calle, just 10 days after Jeff Jagodzinski was fired. The Bucs racked up 450 yards of total offense against the Cowboys, which was a larger output than any game last year except for Tampa Bay’s 454-yard outburst at Chicago. But that contest went into overtime and the Bucs amassed 84 plays in that game. Against Dallas in the 2009 season opener, Tampa Bay accomplished that yardage total in just 73 plays. There is certainly room for improvement as the Bucs generated only 14 points when the game was on the line, in addition to a garbage-time touchdown, and Tampa Bay left six points on the field when you factor in a blocked field goal and Mike Nugent’s missed 46-yarder right before halftime, but not bad for a first outing with several new players. Aside from having a new quarterback in Byron Leftwich, Tampa Bay’s offense also featured a new running back in Derrick Ward and also a new tight end in Kellen Winslow. This group is just now getting in sync and should only improve over time. ‘I haven’t played longer than a quarter with those guys when you think about it,’ Leftwich said. ‘None of those guys played longer than a quarter together. That was really our first time playing together. I won’t use that as the reason why we had a few mistakes here and there, but we are capable of doing anything on that football field with the players that we have. We know that, we understand that, and we’ll get better.’ My only real complaint about Olson was him limiting Cadillac Williams’ carries in the third quarter. Ward did a great job, rushing for 45 of his 62 yards in the second half, including his touchdown, but Williams was on a roll after rushing for 77 yards on eight carries in the first half, averaging 9.6 yards per tote. He deserved more than five carries in the second half.”

“I have been critical of Byron Leftwich during the preseason for being inaccurate and prone to sacks and interceptions during training camp, but he played much better than I anticipated against Dallas in the season opener. Leftwich, who finished the preseason with a 48.8 percent completion percentage, completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 276 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions against the Cowboys. Leftwich was not perfect, fumbling a snap from Jeff Faine and get bailed out by fullback B.J. Askew, who recovered the ball, and luckily having an interception by Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins get nullified by a defensive penalty, but he did show incredible toughness. Although Leftwich was not sacked by the Cowboys on Sunday, he did take a beating, and earned praise from head coach Raheem Morris for his poise and leadership. I give him credit in both of those areas, too. The one play I didn’t like was Leftwich opting to run the ball out of bounds for a 1-yard gain on second-and-11 from the Tampa Bay 13 with 1:12 left before halftime. He displayed a very unveteran-like moment and stopped the clock when the Cowboys only had one timeout left before halftime. That play gave Dallas an extra timeout. Had Leftwich slid down in bounds, another 40 seconds could have been run off the clock before running the ball on third down. When the Cowboys took over at their own 44-yard line after the Bucs’ punt, they didn’t have timeout left, but they did have 1:02 left on the clock. Without Leftwich’s gaffe, Dallas would have only had 22 seconds in which to operate before halftime. However, considering the fact that Dallas wound up scoring a touchdown to cap off a two-play, 56-yard drive in only 16 seconds, perhaps I am making too much out of Leftwich’s ill-fated decision.”

“Three Buccaneers that were under a good deal of skepticism from some fans and the media, including Pewter Report, heading into the regular season were cornerback Ronde Barber, running back Cadillac Williams and wide receiver Michael Clayton. One game does not a season make, but all three of those Bucs bucked the critics and had sensational games. Barber, who many figured would struggle in Jim Bates’ new man coverage scheme due to his lack of elite foot speed, had Tampa Bay’s lone sack in the game and provided blanket coverage all game in addition to breaking up a pass. Williams, who is coming off a second torn patellar tendon injury, rushed for a game-high 97 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Clayton, who has battled dropped passes and injuries in his career and was the victim of criticism when the Bucs signed him to a five-year contract extension worth close to $26 million, was phenomenal against Dallas, leading the Bucs with five catches for 93 yards. His two signature plays were a 47-yard pass play right before halftime that allowed Tampa Bay to attempt a 46-yard field goal. He also showed his toughness with a 20-yard catch down to the Dallas 18 at the end of the third quarter. Clayton went across the middle, broke free from middle linebacker Keith Brooking and hauled in a strike from Byron Leftwich, colliding with Gerald Sensabaugh and knocking the Dallas safety to the ground and ultimately out of the game. Clayton popped up, beat his chest and walked of the field as the fans roared with delight. It was good to see these three maligned Buccaneers turn in star-worthy performances on Sunday.”

“If you would have told you that the Bucs would have racked up 450 yards of offense, including 174 yards on the ground, I would have told you there was no way Tampa Bay would have lost to Dallas. Unless you told me that the Bucs defense gave up four passing plays of 40 yards or more, including three which went for touchdowns. Then I might have hedged my guarantee. What’s worse, Bucs fans, having your team’s defense get carved up on the ground like it was last December in giving up 756 yards rushing, or getting sliced and diced through the air for 353 yards against Dallas? Just curious.”

“I’m not surprised that there were wide receivers running free in the Bucs’ young and inexperienced secondary in the season opener. Cornerback Elbert Mack was seeing his most extended action in an NFL game and safety Sabby Piscitelli was making his sixth NFL start. I’m not making excuses for either player, just stating that youth and inexperience was definitely a factor. There was time when cornerback Ronde Barber and safety John Lynch got victimized in their youth, too. I’m not suggesting Mack and Piscitelli are the second coming of either player, but I have confidence that they will bounce back this year. Both players are talented. Their breakdowns in coverage were much more mental than physical, and can be corrected. I also think veteran Jermaine Phillips was also a guilty party on some of those plays, too.”

“I’ve been leading the way in reporting that third-year defensive end Gaines Adams was bettering himself with Chuck Smith’s pass rushing camp during the offseason, but I didn’t see any improvement on Sunday – and that's no knock on Smith. After giving Adams the benefit of the doubt after a relatively quiet preseason, I’m losing faith in him after he failed to record a sack or a tackle against Dallas. The Bucs have serious pass rushing problems as Jimmy Wilkerson and Gaines Adams didn’t light it up rushing opposite Adams, too. But Adams needs to live up to his draft status this year and had a lousy showing in the season opener. I also think the Bucs missed rookie Kyle Moore today, too. Not as much as free safety Tanard Jackson … but you get the point.”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"If he can stay healthy (and that's a big ‘if' considering the two major knee injuries he sustained in consecutive years), Bucs running back Cadillac Williams could be poised for a big season. Tampa Bay had a running-back-by-committee approach led by Williams and Derrick Ward Sunday, but Cadillac proved to be most productive, rushing 13 times for 97 yards (7.5 avg.) and one touchdown. Ward contributed 62 yards and a score on 12 carries (5.2 avg.). The Bucs rushed for 174 yards (5.6 avg.) on 31 carries (5.6 avg.) and two touchdowns vs. Dallas. Heading into the season, the strength of Tampa Bay's offense was supposed to be the offensive line and its stable of running backs. That proved to be true vs. Dallas on Sunday."

"Two of Mike Nugent's three misses in preseason were from 50-plus yards out. That's excusable. However, there is some cause for concern after watching Nugent miss both of his field goal tries vs. Dallas on Sunday. Nugent's first field goal attempt, a 38-yarder, was blocked by Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh. His second missed field goal, a 46-yard try, sailed wide. The Bucs could have used those six points as they went into halftime down 13-7. He's younger, has the stronger leg and is the former second-round draft pick, but if Nugent can't become more accurate the Bucs might be forced to give Matt Bryant a call sooner rather than later."

"I couldn't help but come away impressed with Greg Olson's offensive playcalling vs. Dallas, which was fairly aggressive. One of the most surprising moves was Olson's decision to attempt to move the ball downfield with 38 seconds remaining in the first half with the Bucs pinned back deep in their own territory down 13-7. Previous coaching staffs might have elected to just take a knee and go to halftime, but the Bucs came out firing, and that philosophy paid off when quarterback Byron Leftwich threw a bomb down the right sideline to WR Michael Clayton for a 47-yard gain that put the Bucs in field goal range. Olson also showed some creativity inside the red zone when he called a reverse for Clayton, who looked up field and wisely threw a pass near the sideline and incomplete due to triple coverage. The Bucs wracked up 450 yards of offense vs. Dallas' 3-4 defense, but only came away with 21 points. That obviously needs to improve. But if Tampa Bay can turn those yards and drives into more points the Bucs could win more games than people expect this year."

"Granted, Dallas has one of the league's best offensive lines, and QB Tony Romo was only sacked 20 times last year. However, Tampa Bay's pass rush was non-existent vs. the Cowboys, and it proved to be costly, evidenced by Romo's 353-yard, three-touchdown performance. The Buccaneers recorded one sack on Romo, which came off a blitz by cornerback Ronde Barber in the first quarter. That was an effective blitz called by defensive coordinator Jim Bates. Unfortunately, Bates might have to dial up more of those throughout the season due to the lack of pass rush generated by Tampa Bay's front four."

Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"Gaines Adams is in a make-or-break season. Head coach Raheem Morris said that if the third-year pro Adams does not have a double-digit sack season, he would be regarded as a bust. Adams got started on fulfilling that dubious label against the Cowboys. Last season he had two sacks in the Bucs game against the Dallas Cowboys going against the Dallas offensive tackles Flozell Adams and Marc Columbo. Adams was supposed to have a big 2009 season due to the presence of new defensive coordinator Jim Bates. The scheme used by Bates splits the defensive ends out wide and the team believed that Bates system would elevate Adams play to point of being a pass rushing force. With the first game in the books, the hopes for Adams appear to be on shaky ground. Against a team he thrived against last year, he struggled greatly. Adams did not record a single tackle. He registered one quarterback hit, and was a step late to reaching Dallas quarterback Tony Romo on a few plays. Overall Adams was a non-factor in the game. The Bucs moved him around from right end to left end to try and give Adams a favorable matchup, but nothing yielded any results. In speaking with Adams after the game he was visibly upset, but not angry. Defensive tackle Chris Hovan was livid with the defense. Adams was upset, but appeared to be sad and depressed. In talking with Adams about what the Cowboys did neutralize him, he said that they it wasn't anything they did. It was all his lack of action. His confidence seems shaken, and he seemed timid. I wonder if Adams has the killer instinct, and fire to be a great player. The Buccaneers have a lot riding on Adams. Not only is he highly paid, but if Adams fails that marks a blown draft choice of monumental proportions, the fourth-overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. The team did not bring in any proven pass rushers because they believed that Adams would be the guy to harass quarterbacks. In this reporter's opinion it is critical for the Bucs defense, and their season, for Adams to have a breakout game against Buffalo. The Bills should give Adams plenty of opportunity. With running back Marshawn Lynch suspended, Buffalo is expected to try and get the ball to wide receivers Terrell Owens and Lee Evans often. Buffalo also has somewhat of a make shift offense line. Next week is a critical game for Adams."

"The Buccaneers spent a huge amount of time practicing special teams during training camp, so it was disappointing to see these units have a terrible game against the Dallas Cowboys. Without rehashing each play here is a run down of some of the major special teams gaffes by the Bucs: bad kickoff coverage to start the game, a blocked field goal, a running into the punter penalty that gave Dallas a first down, a mistake fielding a punt on the Bucs own goal line, a missed field goal, and a penalty on an onsides kick attempt. Last season Tampa Bay got solid play out of their special teams, and spent far less time practicing it in training camp. The Bucs didn't have a notable loss to their coverage or return units. Considering how much time they spent practicing special teams in training camp it is inexcusable for the special teams units to play as badly as they did. Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia is going to give his units hell this week, and it would be surprising if they did not reserve the effort into a much better showing against Buffalo. "

"Backup quarterbacks Josh Johnson and Josh Freeman are in a very odd situation. Freeman gets all the backup reps in practice, and Johnson serves as the game-day backup without getting snaps in practice leading up to the game. Morris explained the reasoning for why Tampa Bay is doing this odd arrangement. "We talked about Josh being my Jason Garrett," said Morris. "That career backup. You may as well force him into his role right now. We talk about Freeman being the franchise around here. That is going happen in time. That will happen when it happens, but when you talk about preparing a guy who you think can be your career backup, your long-term backup, you hope you can sign him in free agency when that stuff comes up but you may as well put him in his role right now. He presents different options for the offense. He makes you prepare a little differently, so if something does happen to Byron [Leftwich] and he comes into the game he opens up a different window, a different passing game, he opens up a different running game for you. Having those two guys, different compliments, help you out on game day. During the week Josh Freeman is the number two quarterback. He prepares as the number two quarterback. We put Josh Johnson in his role that we want him to be in right now. That is his value is. That's what he means for us, and that is what he is for the next 10 years hopefully if I can get him re-signed." This sounds like it could be recipe for disaster in a game in 2009. Starting quarterback Byron Leftwich has had issues dealing with avoiding injuries in his career, and Leftwich takes a lot of hits. It is seems a likely possibility that Leftwich will go down with an injury at some point, and Johnson will come into the game. Johnson has gotten denied practice reps his entire time in the NFL. As the third and fourth quarterback last season he got the majority of his little work with the scout team, and throwing to quarterbacks coach Greg Olson after practice. This year was not much different as he was the fourth quarterback in training camp. Inserting a quarterback into the middle of a game who did not get practice reps during the week, and has gotten very little practice reps in only two years removed from college sounds to be a risky proposition for the Buccaneers. Nevertheless, the team is doing this to expedite the roles of their quarterback plan. Freeman gets the reps to develop into the starter, and Johnson gets used to the possibility of coming into a game cold."

"The Buccaneers offensive line deserves all the compliments they get. The Cowboys entered the game with one of the best pass rushes in the NFL and they got shut out. The line steamrolled Dallas on the ground for 174 yards rushing. While Leftwich got hit a lot, that was largely due to Leftwich holding onto the ball too long. Leftwich was not sacked and had time to throw the ball downfield. Considering the Bucs have installed a new rushing scheme it is very impressive that they ran so efficiently in the first game of the season against a good defense. Center Jeff Faine's triceps injury is a concern, but if he stays healthy this line could produce a phenomenal season for Tampa Bay. Faine told me after the game that Bucs ran a few man blocking plays, but the vast majority were the zone blocking plays they installed this offseason. It was an impressive start for the Bucs line, and they could be even better as they get more comfortable in the system."

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