1.) The Offensive Line came prepared
Shortly after the game against the Patriots, Coach Raheem Morris stated that his team will be better equipped and prepared to face their next challenger. Freeman backed up the coach’s comments in a press conference. If you compare the offensive production between the Patriots and Dolphins games, you can see how critical preparations are for the lineman. The O-Line was able to hold the Dolphins to zero sacks the entire game. On several plays, the Dolphins were able to generate some pass rush, and even knocked down Freeman a few times, but the big-bodied quarterback proved hard to bring down. Left tackle, Donald Penn, dominated in his match up against defensive end, Cameron Wake. A couple of false starts and other penalties pushed the Buccaneers back, but the battle in the trenches was won, and provided ample time for Freeman and the offense to convert 21 first downs in the game. Fourteen of those first downs came from the air. This is the most important area of improvement going from their last game to this game and they did spectacular. When it came to aiding the run, however, the offensive line looked poor. They will need to greatly improve if they still want Blount to be a thousand-yard rusher this season. Demar Dotson looked sharp in protecting Josh Johnson, and could challenge Trueblood for the starting role when the season starts. Trueblood, Ted Larsen and James Lee need to step it up for this last preseason game or each could face replacement in the near future.
2.) Regus and Kelli, and other debuts
Wide receiver, Arrelious ‘Regus’ Benn, and tight end, Kellen ‘Kelli’ Winslow, both got to see the field for the first time in preseason this past Saturday. Both players bring concerns with their knees. Winslow looked his normal self. He never seems to be the recipient of the most catches, even though he is Freeman’s favorite target, but when the ball was within reach, he completes his catches. Unfortunately for Winslow, he hurt his ankle early in the game, and that was the last we saw him. However, it is good news to hear that if he did sustain an injury, it wasn’t to his already weakened knees. Winslow recorded 2 catches for 18 yards before leaving the field.
As I mentioned in another recent article, Benn had trouble getting in sync with Freeman at first. On his first pass, Jeremiah Bell almost intercepted the ball, but Benn managed to preventBellfrom getting a grip on the ball. Once he did shake some rust off, he reminded us that he is the best #2 receiver on this team. Benn looked just as physical as he did in his prime last season, and showed no restraint due to his recovering knee. He caught one pass for 12 yards and rushed for 11 on a reverse pitch.
Luke Stocker also made his debut for the Buccaneers and looked good. Although he didn’t receive a lot of passes, he contributed with drawing coverage to himself and provided good blocking when needed.
3.) Running Game still a concern
Legarrette Blount had an awkward game compared to what we are used to seeing from him. He had very little success on the ground, averaging 2 yards per carry. A lot of that is due to how poorly the offensive line did in opening up lanes for him. Blount hasn’t looked his self this preseason, and has been out preformed by rookie, Allen Bradford, who isTampa’s current leading rusher. However, Blount has shined in another category, especially in this past game. Blount provided Freeman with a reliable receiving target and even caught a short pass and zigzagged 52 yards on a play. He recorded the most receiving yards of the game with 3 receptions for 62 yards. Blount seems to be most comfortable once he passes the line of scrimmage. If the offensive line can give him a gap to burst through, we could see him gaining huge yardage on the opposition.
Graham looked like he is the best option for a 3rd down back. On most 3rd downs with the starters, Graham played almost every 3rd down and provided Freeman with good protection and an extra set of hands. Graham proved useful in converting a 1st down on a 3rd down attempt, and recorded the Buc’s first TD of the game with just 25 seconds left in the first half.
Rookie, Allen Bradford, really does remind me of Blount. Aside from his physique, it seems that if Bradfordcan manage to get past the first line of defense, he could be very dangerous. Although, he didn’t have any big plays, Bradfordmade several 3rd downs manageable with consistent forward progress in his running game. He also showed a lot of aggression and physicality when being brought down. Mossis Madu had a great short pass for 19 yards and weaseled through the defense very well. It appears that only one of these two running backs will stick around on the active roster. The Redskins game could be their last chance to show the coaching staff that they are worthy.