Bucs win! Bucs win!
Yes it’s only Pre-Season and the results don’t mean anything. In actuality the overall gameplay doesn’t mean a whole lot as coaches are not coaching as they would in a full blooded game. Instead Pre-Season is about individual performances and group efforts.
Watching the game was a mixed bag of emotions tempered by the reality check game one of the year so rust is still being knocked off. Without much further ado, here is my snap judgments on the Buccaneers performance highlighting position groups and players.
Quarterbacks – nothing to actually say or complain about here. All three guys came out and played well, doing what they had to do and executing the plays as told to by the coaches. Timing looked good (for pre-season) and they all extended plays as needed when protection broke down. Fitzpatrick looks like he’ll be ready to lead the offense come game 1 and moved the ball well. Handoffs were clean and he completed 6 of his 8 attempts. Jameis was Jameis against the Dolphins completing 11 passes of the 13 he was asked to throw. Honorable mention goes to Ryan Griffin, yes he had the most game time and was asked to throw the most times, but his do or die drive to get into field goal range was inspired.
Running Backs – Payton Barber continues to make his case to top the depth chart. Hard running and making a 2nd effort repaid the coaches faith rushing for 21 yards on just 4 carries and bursting into the end zone. Rojo carries the ball 8 times for just 9 yards, although given the non existent gaps he showed really good grit and determination to move forward. Needs some more development time before he can challenge for a starting role. All the running back group showed flashes, but outside of the backs from last year and Jones, don’t expect to get to know the other guys as they most likely won’t stick around.
Wideouts – This group will be the ones to watch for pre-season battles as everyone made a case to stick around. This is only a good thing as competition will improve the quality of this group.
Offensive Line – Thankfully its only the first game of pre-season, but jeesh! This was a frustrating performance from the guys up front. Sometimes they looked dominant, but most of the time it was like watching an Abbott and Costello sketch. Communication was lacking on every rotation and far too many times there were Dolphins in the backfield. This unit has to improve before the season, hopefully it was just things being ironed out.
Defensive Line – Hopefully Coach Buckner was keeping the dogs on the leash. Gerald McCoy was the only name on the sack list and for the investment of this group, the returns were way below expectation. Whilst it must be noted that the line seemed to be running more containment plays, I would have liked to see more penetration and seeing the line stand more firm.
Linebackers – Pleyed well and did what was asked. Sometimes it was clearly a case of Smith wanting to see a specific look and hence sometimes the group didn’t match with what was being done by Miami on offense. Several players made a good impression last night and the battle to stick on the roster will be an interesting one. The starters were solid so the race is on to see who backs them up.
Defensive Backs – I’ve often gone on record saying a backfield is only as good as the defensive line. Last night the backfield didn’t get the most help mentioned earlier in this article. What was good to see is that they competed and weren’t burned on any plays. A few chances to change the field were missed, but Ryan Smith stepped up with a clutch interception when it really mattered.
Kicking/Special Teams – Are the kicking woes over? I’m still waiting for the jury to return on that one; however signs are pointing in the right direction. Brian Anger continues to show why he’s probably one of the best free agent signings in the last decade as Mr Consistency. Needless penalties brought plays back for both teams, but that seemed a mixture of getting up to speed and officials no longer sure what actually amounts to a penalty anymore. Overall I’m optimistic that special teams will be a strong unit this year.
I’m keeping everything crossed that the officials are also knocking off the rust as far too many flags were thrown. If this continues into the season, then football will be very hard to watch and the crews will get more TV time than the players. Looking at this first game not a whole lot can be used to assess the season so largely both teams will get a bye moving forward to the 2nd game.
Peering into the future against the Titans I’d hope to see a lot more cohesive play from both the offensive and defensive lines and extended time for the starters.