2008 Bucs' Schedule: PNG

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bucs Over Texans 31-24

Well, I had a chance to review the game on DVR after watching the game live at Ray Jay, and I think I can now back-up what I thought I saw at the stadium with the TV broadcast. The game was very entertaining, but had a somewhat bittersweet ending when Paris Warren, who had clearly been the most productive receiver during the Preseason, ended his chances to play with the dislocation of his ankle. It was pretty gruesome to see it on the TV broadcast as you could see that the foot wasn't aligned with the leg anymore. It was good, to see the entire team come out to wish him the best and show their support, and I think the camaraderie of this team looks to be very strong. Paris got a good send off from his teammates and the fans. But let's look at the performance of the team.

On offense, the Bucs started out horribly bad when Luke McCown got sacked while scrambling to the side and the ball got knocked out of his hands. That ball was picked up and run back for a TD, which put the Texans up 14-0. But then the offense came back on the field and went no-huddle. From that point on, the offense moved the ball with regularity with McCown on the field. The Bucs established the run in the first half with 65 yards, but then kind of backed off running it, ending up with 40 passes versus 24 rushing attempts. But the make-shift line held up pretty well after initially looking to be pretty poor. The ability of the offensive line in this game, and all games this Preseason, to protect the passer with just the 5 linemen, has allowed the Bucs to really open the playbook and really start moving the ball at will, which happens when your Tight Ends and running backs can get out into pass patterns instead of staying behind to block. You can really start to see just how dangerous Gruden's offense can be once it's free to let loose all of its receiving threats. When the Bucs went down by 14, I though this game might get ugly, but I waited to see the next drive. Once the Bucs marched right down the field and put it in the endzone, I knew the Bucs would likely score a lot, and only needed the defense to show up some to win the game. Stevens, being freed to run routes, was instrumental, along with Warren, with both catching 7 passes for over 100 yards each. The running backs caught big pass plays over the middle, and the whole field seem to be a sieve with so many threats running to open spots in the secondary. The Bucs could have added 4 more points to the score if not for a bobbled snap to McCown at the 1 yard line, where the drive eventually went backwards and only went for 3 points on the FG. Bruce was not as effective as McCown, and looked horrible on his deep route passes. If Bruce has any hope of becoming a starter in this league, he MUST get to the point where he can accurately hit receivers in the 30-40 yard range. If not, teams will just continue to come up tight on him and take away the short passing game. He did, however, lead the Bucs down the field on the winning drive, hitting several intermediate routes for long first down making catches. Overall, the offense was, again, explosive and shows signs of being able to score almost at will. Whether or not that carries into the regular season...

On defense, the Bucs opened up the game doing their best matador impersonations. Zemaitis looked horrible in coverage, and the pressure failed to do much during that first drive. I will say that the third down TD pass was not a TD as the second foot of the receiver clearly hit the chalk and the play should have been reviewed and ruled no TD, but it's the Preseason (the Refs missed a few things that night, including a tackle out of bounds that should have been flagged). After the first drive, though, the defense tightened up and regularly forced the Texans' QB's to make throws on the run, which they sometimes could not do. The Bucs got 2 sacks, but created disruption for most of the night. They got a little sloppy on a couple of drives late, one of which the Bucs ended by forcing a fumble, with another being ended after a couple of nice plays that forced a fourth down where White hit the QB's hand causing the 4th down incompletion. Sabby looked amazing at times, and shows that he may be the fastest safety we've had here in some time, which was on clear display on one screen pass where he came from the deep middle and flew to the running back and took him down. Jackson was alright as well. Philips and Allen must know that they can't afford to slack off at all, because it's easy to envision both Sabby and Jackson starting in their place. The linebackers were so-so, missing some tackles on run plays. The corners were alright for most of the game, making it at least a little hard on the often scrambling QB's to make passes. Overall, the defense did OK, but they still have drives where they just can't seem to stop teams, then turn around and have a couple of 3 and outs in a row. I think inexperience and not talent is the key factor, which is a good sign. It means this defense will get better over the course of the year and start dominating about half way in. If the offense can put the points up early, for once, they may be able to carry the defense until the experience comes around.

On Special Teams, you saw a mix and match of players, and the coverage and return teams were equally mixed in terms of results. Torrie Cox was clearly the best player on the coverage teams making several great plays. Punting and Kicking were solid.

Overall, this game showed the resolve of this team and it's ability to spread teams out and score almost at will. It also showed that this defense can, at times, be dominating, but is too inconsistent, and needs to improve the speed of the pass rush to actually get to the QB's a step or two quicker and get them down on the ground. I think this Preseason shows that this team may be the deepest the Bucs have had in several areas since Gruden has been here. It's got a lot of talent, but it also has a lot of inexperience. That's going to hurt us early, but if they can win some games during the tough opening stretch, the schedule gets easier just when this team will start hitting it's stride. A fun game, save for Warren's season ending injury.


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