Sunday, August 16, 2009

Game Review: Titans Preseason Game

Ok I have taken the time out to go through the film and here are my thoughts on the game last night going postion by position.


Quarterback: Obviously this will be one of the most scrutinized battles of this year. First up we had Josh McCown. I am firmly in the camp that think this is his job to lose. I don't think he did anything to hurt himself last night and he managed the game well. He also did a great job of escaping the rush a few times and making something out of nothing. I really think that in the end his mobility is what will help McCown keep a hold on that starting position. In this league these days, the pass rushers are just too good and the blitzes are too exotic for teams to afford to have a guy pulling the trigger who can't elude the rush.

Which of course brings us to Byron Leftwich. He showed off his cannon last night big time, taking several shots down the field. He also threw a laser to Brian Clark for a touchdown. But later on one drive he showed what to me will be his downfall when he lost a ton of yards trying to elude the Titan's pass rush. His mobility or lack thereof is going to be an issue, especially in an office like this one that uses so many bootleg and play action passes. Still he will be a great asset as a back up should McCown falter.

Josh Freeman isn't ready but then most rookies aren't. He didn't look shaken by the moment though and he does have a big arm. Bottom line is that if Josh Freeman starts this year that will mean that the team is in BIG trouble.

I was excited to see Josh Johnson get in the game and make some plays. Im telling you that TD run of his when the protection broke down was pretty Vickesque in my opinion. He took off and nobody could catch up to the kid. I really think he is a long shot at best to make the team and with the drafting of Freeman I'm not sure he should even want to be here but I hope he catches another team's eye so he can get picked up on waivers and possibly contribute.

Running backs: This will be one of the strongest and deepest groups on the team. Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward, and Clifton Smith all ran relatively well aside from Graham's fumble. And they all kind of bring a little something different to the table.

The wildcard to me in this group is Kareem Hudgins. I should say he is the wildcard for Cadillac Williams. Hudgins looked REAL good last night, and even though he was going against backups the kid showed up on film. What you have to keep in mind is that its a rarity for a team to ever keep four tailbacks in the first place. So even if Hudgins were not in the mix what you have in front of Caddy is last years' starter, this years' free agent pickup, and last years' Pro Bowl kick returner. How exactly does he overcome all that? And if Hudgins is servicable and knows his assignments how can the Bucs justify carrying Williams on their 53? As a former first round pick coming off 2 consecutive seasons with major knee injuries I don't forsee Cadillac being a contributor on special teams which is what most back up running backs have to be. And I don't know that he is as good a runner at this point as the three guys in front of him let alone Hudgins. So I am predicting that if the other guys stay healthy all preseason you will see Williams either traded or cut. That's not necessarily what I want to happen but it is what I believe will happen. Its a business.

Tight Ends: Nothing notable with this group other than, of course, the first action of Kellen Winslow as a Buccaneer. I thought all of the guys did a pretty good job and I think this is a group that is pretty much set in who will be making the team.

Wide Receivers: The commentators last night had a lot of good things to say about Sammie Stroughter but the guy I think flashed the most was Brian Clark. It wasn't just that he caught a TD and created a safety on special teams. It was also how polished he looked as a receiver. A big receiver at that. His combination of size, speed, and quickness is going to make the Bucs take a long look at him as a number 3 receiver if not better.

Maurice Stovall is a guy I have been a fan of for a long time didnt show me much last night but in a preseason game its hard to gauge that for a wideout. Ill reserve judgment on where he is at until I see more of him.

Stroughter definitely made a good impression last night making some good catches and showing some speed and wiggle on returns. Not sure he will make the roster since we already have a Pro Bowl returner in Smith but I can see him being on the practice squad.

Dexter Jackson is out of here. Not really sure what Gruden ever saw in the kid but he just isn't getting the job done down here and he is frail or soft or both. You can't make the club in the tub and he seems to be there all the time.

Of the rest of the group nobody stood out. I like Mario Urrutia's potential but as a good friend of mine always said "potential just means you haven't done shit yet".

Offensive Line: I thought this group did well for the most part but Sean Mahan got his ass kicked several times by the nosetackle who ended up making several plays in the backfield. Jeremy Zuttah did a good job in my opinion replacing Aaron Sears who is still missing in action. Doesn't look like they will miss Sears much if Zuttah keeps playing to his potential.

Of the backups the one guy who stood out to me was Julius Wilson. A few years back I noticed Donald Penn mauling guys in the preseason and I told everybody at the time that he was going to be really good. Turns out I he got an opportunity early on that regular season and he proved me right. And since that time Penn has played at pretty close to a Pro Bowl level.

Last night Wilson kind of gave me the same impression. He didn't look as athletic as Penn did back then but he just looks mean and agressive which to me helps to make up for any physical shortcomings. I will definitey be keeping an eye on that guy.


Defensive Line: I didn't see much pass rush out of the group last night but watching it again this morning I noticed that Ryan Sims got some good push up the middle and collapsed the pocket a few times. He didn't really make any moves per se but he has an excellent bull rush. But other than he I didn't see a lot out of the first group. I don't think any of the starters touched Kerry Collins all night. Several times it was a 3 step drop so thats is a part of it, but when you have those kinds of quick passes you have to bullrush your guy and get him pushed back into the QB's face.

I didn't see much from Gaines Adams last night and honestly I expected more. I have been hearing that he is putting in good work at practice but when the lights go on you have to find a way to make plays. It is what it is. He didn't do anything wrong but he just didn't make anything happen either. He didn't show up in the stat sheet at all.

Now on the other hand, Greg White (I refuse to call a grown man Stylez G)made all kinds of plays. An interception, a sack, a tackle for loss. The guy showed up on film and in the stat sheet. Don't get me wrong, on the interception and on the sack, White had been stoned in his pass rush. But some how some way he still made something happen. And to be fair he had a few great rushes even after all that where he got to the QB just a step late.

Which brings me to another question. Could White possibly unseat Gaines at RE?

Head Coach Raheem Morris hasn't been shy about calling Gaines out and raising his bar. He has said several times that for Gaines its double digit sacks or bust. There was also a recent article in the local paper about how Gaines had gone Chuck Smith's pass rush camp and had gotten a lot better. Now understand this, I am a fan of Gaines' and full disclosure I tried to give him a little bit of pass rush advice of my own during his rookie year. Don't know how much it helped if at all but I tried.

But this is bigger than how I feel about him. Its about who is the best RE for the Bucs and honestly Greg White is and has been the best pass rusher on the team for the last couple of years. In my mind if you have two REs who are similarly able to play the run then you go with the better pass rusher and I am just not sure that anybody can say credibly that Gaines is a better pass rusher than White at this point.

However when I asked around about whether White could unseat Gaines it seemed pretty clear that that was not an option. So we shall see.

Now a major concern for the Bucs should be the depth on the defensive line. I really didn't see anybody other than the top 3 defensive ends and top 3 defensive tackles who I feel comfortable saying can play at this level. Now thats good enough going into a game I suppose, but with just one injury that can put a major strain on the group. But its early in preseason and they do have a chance to develop but if i were the Bucs I would be watching the waiver wire to try to bring in at least one more veteran on the defensive line.

Linebackers: This is another group that looks to be pretty deep. I was particularly interested to see how Jermaine Phillips held up last night playing linebacker for the first time. I really didn't get to see him in a lot of situations where he had to fend off blocks but he moved pretty well and made one really good read when he shot the gap into the backfield and just barely missed Chris Johnson. Well he didn't actually miss him but his initial blow didn't bring the guy down. The Bucs used Quincy Black in a variety of roles last night including rushing the passer as a LE. He looked pretty good over all. Back up Adam Hayward was all over the field though. He made a really good impression last night.

One guy who didn't make a good impression at all to me was Niko Koutouvides. On the Javon Ringer TD run the guy looked like he just gave up and made a piss poor effort to make the tackle. Ill be honest, it looked like he didn't want it. And that's not the kind of guy I would want on my team.

Secondary: The secondary might have had the best day of everyone as a group. The corners were excellent in run support, particularly Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber, and Sabby Piscitelli was all over the plays making tackles and also reeling in an interception in the endzone. They also have a lot of quality depth going almost three deep at each position of guys with a lot of ability. I was a little worried about Will Allen's injury last night. He is definitely a hitter but sometimes that works against him. I thought he had a good chance to make a play on the ball on a deep seam pattern but he chose to hit the receiver instead. The only problem is the guy caught the ball and hung on to it. At some poing Will has to learn that breaking up the pass has to be more important than making the big hit every time.

Special Teams: Special Teams did some good things and some bad things last night. A 50 yard field goal, a safety, and some pretty good returns were the good things. Way too many penalties on returns and a missed field goal was the bad thing. Definitely need to get those penalties corrected.

One more thing in closing, the Offense obviously needs to preach ball security. The ball was on the ground way too much last night and that's the quickest way to lose the game. He who makes the fewest mistakes usually wins.

That's it for this review, see you again next week.

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