(Image from USA Today)
The third preseason game is often the one that teams use to play their starters the most. Such was the game plan for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they took the field Saturday night in Maimi.
With a mindset like that, fans most likely had one thing — or player — on their mind: Josh Freeman. Freeman looked shaky in the team’s first two preseason games, but this was his chance to play more than just one or two drives and actually get into a rhythm with his first-team players. However, to much dismay, Freeman’s performance wasn’t as comforting as fans would have hoped it to be. He threw for 59 yards, completing 6 of 16 passes, but his struggles were not all on his shoulders.
The offensive line was bad, and I mean BAD. It seemed as though with every snap, Freeman would complete his three or five step drop and immediately be force to shuffle back to the front of the pocket. Even All-Pro tackle, Donald Penn struggled to contain the edge rushers for the majority of the night. You can’t expect a quarterback to complete passes to receivers that haven’t even finished their routes yet.
Speaking of receivers, Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson weren’t as reliable as we’re used to seeing either. Both sure-handed receivers dropped two passes a piece and didn’t look as precise as they need to be on a few routes.
With all that said, most of the #BucsNation twitter universe threw up their arms as said “Looks like Doug Marin will be the entire offense this season.” I certainly hope they’re wrong, because if that’s the case, the Bucs won’t even smell the playoffs in 2013 — especially in a division with the Saints and the Falcons.
BUT, IT’S NOT ALL GLOOM AND DOOM!
The first team defensive line played well, and where Da’Quan Bowers’ lack of starting role is a bit troubling, the rest of the line played very well.
Gerald McCoy is the real deal; he gets push on multiple O-Lineman with every snap. This opens up the middle of the trench which should give our blitzing linebackers plenty of room to get straight to the quarterback. Akeem Spence is also performing very well. He’s learning alongside McCoy and is showing his brute strength consistently. If Spence and McCoy can stay healthy, the Bucs are looking at another dominate defense against the run.
Additionally, new defensive end Trevor Scott racked up three sacks in his Buccaneers debut. The 6th year man from New England provides more depth for Tampa in case Bowers proves he can’t handle a starting role.
And finally, Adam Hayward (pictured) may not be able to handle a full-time linebacking position, but there is another position he can handle very well: Special teams captain. Hayward was all over the field Saturday with two fumble recoveries while on the punt team. Hayward is one of those “Mr. Everything” players that every team needs. Special teams is often a component of football that is overlooked, but preseason games prove executing it well is vital to victory. Good teams have disciplined special teams, and Hayward commands that discipline.