Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook and Eric Dellaratta each pick two topics from Friday night’s loss to the Jaguars and share their thoughts in this weekly post game feature. What was encouraging? What is concerning? Read what the staff of PewterReport.com thought and see if you agree.PEWTERREPORT.COM PUBLISHER SCOTT REYNOLDS• Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ NFL debut was a mixed bag of success and disappointment in Jacksonville during the team’s 16-10 loss to the Jaguars. Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay’s second-round pick in 2014, dropped a pass from backup quarterback Mike Glennon inside the Jaguars red zone in the second quarter and had two holding penalties in the third quarter that negated two Charles Sims runs totaling 22 yards.
But then Seferian-Jenkins finally showed off his receiving ability, catching a 23-yard pass from Glennon on a broken play down the left sideline. The Washington product also showed some nifty run-after-catch ability on a 48-yard reception on a pass from third-string quarterback Mike Kafka, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty.
As he gains more experience and develops more consistency as a run blocker, I firmly believe that Seferian-Jenkins will supplant Brandon Myers as the starting tight end position before the Bucs’ bye week. Tim Wright will be the team’s H-back and his job is not in jeopardy, but Myers hasn’t stood out during training camp and he’s carrying a big salary. I think he’s vulnerable if Seferian-Jenkins continues to make plays in the passing game and eliminates the holding penalties.
• Tampa Bay’s offensive line was incredibly disappointing in the preseason opener at Jacksonville, committing nearly half of the team’s 11 penalties with holding and false starts, in addition to an illegal hands to the face infraction that was declined. The Bucs’ starting line couldn’t get the running game going, evidenced by Doug Martin rushing for just six yards on three carries in the first quarter.
But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the offensive line play was the shaky performance by new left tackle Anthony Collins, who surrendered two sacks. Collins gave up his first sack to Chris Clemons in the first quarter on third-and-5 that set up a Buccaneers punt. Collins then allowed a sack and a forced fumble by defensive end Tyson Alualu and failed to recover the loose ball.
Clemons is a good, but not great pass rusher, and Alualu has average pass rush ability. How is Collins going to perform against Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy, who had 15 sacks last year, in Week 1? How will he fare against the NFL’s leading sacker, St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn, in Week 2? Quinn had 19 quarterback captures last year.
I documented Collins’ matchups this year in Friday’s SR’s Fab 5 column, and it’s a daunting task for the Bucs’ new left tackle. After Friday’s preseason opener, it’s perfectly okay to express some concern about how a player like Collins, who has never started 16 games in a season, will perform this season. It wasn’t necessarily a big gamble to cut venerable left tackle Donald Penn, whose play has clearly slipped at age 31.
But replacing Penn with a player without a lot of experience as a starting left tackle may prove to be a huge gamble. If Collins doesn’t pan out this year as McCown’s blindside protector there is no way the Bucs offense will be efficient enough to make the playoffs.
PEWTERREPORT.COM EDITOR MARK COOK
• While the performance of quarterback Josh McCown on Friday night was the last thing I expected after watching him since last March, I have to admit, it was a bit concerning. But after watching the first few drives again, I am not sure how much you pin on McCown, the offensive line or even the receivers. The bottom line is, it was a total disaster. But does it really mean anything? I say let’s hold off judgment of McCown and the Bucs offense – for now.
The casual fan that has heard the name Josh McCown in the news over the last few months and then watched last night’s game will be quick to scream, “Why didn’t the Bucs draft a quarterback?” They will look at how well Blake Bortles played, Jimmy Garappolo’s solid Thursday-night debut and even Teddy Bridgewater’s performance on Friday night, and be jealous. And 10 years from now they might be right, if one or more of those quarterbacks have Super Bowl rings.
But again, for now, it was one game. One game in a brand new offense, with an offensive line starting four new players. There is a reason McCown had bounced around the league, no doubt, but panicking after one quarter of preseason football is ludicrous. PewterReport.com has seen it with our own eyes. Many other media outlets have raved about McCown. His teammates all talk about the leadership he brings and the talent he possesses, and the front office and coaching staff obviously are sold on his ability or he wouldn’t even be here.
The bottom line is, put Tom Brady behind that offensive line last night and I am not sure the conversation would be much different than the one we are having the about McCown right now. I really expect a completely different outcome with the first team offense next Saturday night. I also expect to see a reshuffled offensive line in front of McCown. If the line play doesn’t improve dramatically, the Bucs are in for a long season and the person under center won’t matter a single bit. But I get it Bucs fans, after being disappointed in the offense time and time again, the performance last night didn’t live up to the hype. But give it some time, it has to get better. It can’t get any worse than what we saw last night.
• For those expecting someone to take the lead in kick returns during Friday night’s game against Jacksonville, they were sorely disappointed. Head coach Lovie Smith has been quick to tell the media he expects someone to emerge from the large number of candidates, but no one seized the opportunity on Friday night against the Jaguars.
The speedy Jeff Demps got the first shot as kickoff returner but did very little with his chances, returning two from deep in his own end zone, but only averaging 20 yards per return. Mike James took a shot late in the game and had one return for just 15 yards. The best return of the night came via rookie free agent Solomon Patton who managed 31 yards on his one return.
The punt returner job is just as muddied, as Eric Page returned two punts for four yards and Bobby Rainey waved for a fair catch on his only opportunity back deep.
Smith’s Chicago Bears had one of the best ever in Devin Hester, and Hester was a free agent this season. Many expected the two to reunite, but for whatever reason it didn’t happen and now the Buccaneers are trying to find their own version. So far through camp and one preseason game, no one has even come close to standing out, leaving one more role – or hole – that needs to get filled before September when Carolina comes to town.
BUCS BEAT WRITER ERIC DELLARATTA• The Buccaneers offensive line was simply terrible on Friday. They didn’t give the quarterbacks enough time to throw, resulting in turnovers and poor offensive results. It might be even more important that they struggled to run the ball on the ground. Buccaneers running backs averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on 25 attempts, which is not an impressive statistic at all. A quarterback’s best friend is a strong running game, as it’s the best way to take the pressure off of the passer. If the Buccaneers offensive line can’t run the ball it will have a serious impact on the team’s offensive performance.
Doug Martin was hit in the backfield multiple times. When Bobby Rainey checked into the game, he was forced to bounce a few of his runs to the outside due to the lack of space in between the tackles. Charles Sims got his chance to make a good impression and did well as a receiver and running the ball outside, but didn’t make his money in between the tackles. There simply wasn’t much room for the backs to operate inside because of the poor play by the offensive line. If Friday’s preseason game was an indication of things to come, running the ball inside could be a real problem area for the Buccaneers offense.
The Buccaneers running back stable features four very talented backs, but if they are constantly hit in the backfield and unable to have holes created for them they won’t be very productive. Could this be a sign of things to come for Tampa Bay’s rushing attack in 2014? Friday’s performance by the offensive line was very concerning and if they don’t have all of the wrinkles ironed out in time for the start of the season the Buccaneers running backs could be in for a long season.
• The Buccaneers offense was hard to watch, but the Tampa Bay second-team defense play exceptionally well on Friday.
Second-team defensive linemen Steven Means, Da’Quan Bowers, Akeem Spence and William Gholston all made significant impacts when they were on the field. Means recorded a sack on rookie quarterback Blake Bortles in the second quarter and Bowers made a great, high-effort play on a run to the opposite side of the line. Spence and Gholston were strong in run support, suffocating running backs Storm Johnson and Jordan Todman.
Linebackers Dane Fletcher, Danny Lansanah, and Ka’Lial Glaud all performed at a high level, making big hits and punishing the Jaguars’ running backs. Depth was somewhat of a concern at the linebacker position heading into the offseason, but Friday’s performance was an impressive outing for Tampa Bay’s backup linebackers.
One of the best performers of the night was backup safety Major Wright, who started in place of Dashon Goldson in the secondary. Wright put a punishing hit on running back Jordan Todman in the backfield early on in the game and later made a strong play in pass defense. The former Chicago Bear was all over the field on Friday and looks extremely comfortable in defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s defense.
The great play of the second-team defense has to make the coaches smile. Knowing that you have capable backups that can play effectively if injuries occur makes things much more comfortable for the coaching staff. If the second-team defense can keep up their excellent play, the Buccaneers will be in good shape heading into the season.
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