(Image from TampaBay.com)
ESPN sportscaster and former NFL lineman, Mark Schlereth has a wise NFL saying: “Preseason games don’t count, but they do matter.”
What he means by this is that the final score may not have an impact on a team’s regular season record, but the effort, progress and adaptation to live play shown in the preseason will have an impact that may change the result of some of those regular season games.
Preseason games are all about the lower tier guys. The reason fans watch is to see what kind of talent their team has in its depth chart. The most important quarters are normally the 2nd and 3rd — this allows viewers to evaluate players that will have an impact on substitutions and injuries — but there is a certain trait that should stick out when watching these early games. It’s not speed, athletic ability or even knowledge of the play book. The trait I’m taking about is confidence.
As stated before, the preseason tends to focuses on players that are trying to either make the roster or move up on the depth chart, but the biggest takeaway from Thursday night’s game could have very well been the confidence shown from the starters.
After the first few conservative plays, the Bucs offense seemed to oppose its will on the defending Super Bowl Champions. Josh Freeman was able to move the ball fluently, throwing all kinds of passes for positive yards including a beautiful over the should pass to Vincent Jackson that, had he not bobbled it, would have been an ESPN top play. Kevin Ogletree and Brian Leonard also played well. When their numbers were called, they delivered and I believe those two made significant progress towards solidifying their spots on the roster — However, If I may, stop comparing Leonard to Alstott. I know we love the instant comparisons, but let’s allow the kid to form his own name, and respect Alstott’s at the same time.
The first team defense also played effectively; they were able to contain Joe Flacco and Ray Rice fairly well. With no Darrelle Revis, the starting corners Danny Gorrer, Leonard Johnson and Johnthan Banks showed they all have the confidence to play. Gorrer was even able to intercept Flacco before suffering a minor injury later in the game. Da’Quan Bowers will be under a microscope all preseason and his performance was a bit spotty on Friday. He set himself up to rush more from the inside even though we’ve heard Schiano say he wants Bowers to be more of an outside rusher. The games to follow will reveal whether that was planned or just Bowers being natural.
As the 2nd string came into the game, the confidence was maintained, but not sustained long-term. Mike Glennon showed off his cannon arm, but also showed off his inconsistent one; he went 11-23 with 169 yards and an interception.
Unfortunately, it was a poor special teams and lack of discipline that took over in the second half as the Bucs let a 13-10 lead fall to a 24-13 deficit with less than a minute left in the first half. Schiano opened the team’s next practice working exclusively with special teams’ discipline. But, it wasn’t all bad with the special teams as new kicker Derek Dimke hit 3 FGs with his longest at 45 yards.
Tampa’s next game is Friday, August 16 at New England.