- Josh Johnson: Johnson turned in another strong performance in his first start of the preseason. He went 9-14 for 122 yards with one touchdown pass to Earnest Graham. He made quick decisions and seemed to throw it to the right guy even if the passes weren't always perfect. He also again made a play with his legs gaining 18 yards and a first down on one carry. I don't know about anyone else but if Josh Freeman can't start against the Browns I believe Johnson has shown he can get the job done if need be.
- Quincy Black: Black was literally all over the field against the Jaguars. He was officially credited with 7 tackles and remember that's for just one half of football. I also had him down for a couple tackles for loss and several pressures on Jaguars quarterback David Garrard. He really has stepped his game up since Coach Morris has taken over as defensive coordinator and I think a lot of it has to do with the act that Raheem is using him in roles that are more suited to him. I can't wait to see what kind of year this guy is going to have provided he stays healthy.
- Gerald McCoy: McCoy was in the backfield all night, getting penetration and harassing the quarterback. He has really improved substantially with each game and that's what you want to see. I know better than to get my hopes up too high for his rookie season, but the guy showed me a lot on Saturday.
- Stylez G. White: Myself and a lot of other people called Stylez out this last week for not flashing much this preseason. Well he had the game we have been waiting for and of which we know he is capable of. He had a really nice spin move and got a hit on Garrard on that pass rush. He also forced a holding penalty on a big 3rd down. When he plays like that the whole defense works better. Now we just need to see some consistency.
- Mike Williams: I'm still waiting on someone to try to logically explain to me why this guy can't be a star this year. I can't think of a reason and he's well on his way.
- Barrett Ruud: After hearing all the negativity thrown around at Ruud it was nice to see him make that big interception down by the goalline. Of course that wasn't all he did on Saturday night. He was once again good on his run fits and his effort was outstanding. He did get stuck on one block too long and the guy kind of ran him towards the sidelines but other than that he was on point.
- Sean Jones: Jones gave Bucs fans a reason to be optimistic about our fortunes this season. Its not so much that he made some spectacular plays, but rather he made the routine plays routinely. He was physical in his tackling and he didn't get shook in the open field. Sometimes you don't need a guy to be a superstar, you just need them to be able to reliably do their job. Jones appears to be able to fill that role and then some.
- Ronde Barber: The old guy showed that he still has it tying Black for the team lead in tackles. Several of those tackles were one on one situations where if he had missed the runner would have gone for a big gain. But in each situation he found a way to get the guy on the ground. One play in particular though is what compelled me to put him on the list this week. On the goalline the Jaguars tried to run a counter play with a guard coming to kick out the end man on the line of scrimmage. If the guard had made his block the running back likely would have walked into the endzone. Unfortunately for him the end man on the line of scrimmage was Ronde and although he was outweighed by almost 100 pounds he went in and spilled the play making the running back bounce outside and then had the wherewithal to spin back and get in on the tackle.
That is the kind of play that doesn't really show up on any stat sheet but shows you why Ronde is still a part of this team and why the Bucs should be thankful to still have him out there as a leader.
Derrick Ward: I give credit where its due. The guy had a rough couple of weeks and he bounced back to have some really nice runs on Saturday. Not sure whether it will be enough to keep him as number 2 on the depth chart though.
- The Running Game: I thought that there were two problems with our running game on Saturday. The first problem was play calling. All of a sudden we were back to running a bunch of zone plays instead of the straight ahead power stuff we had been so successful with for most of this preseason. The second problem was Jeremy Zuttah being in for Davin Joseph. Zuttah got pushed around too much on Saturday and wasn't able to get much if any movement on the Jaguars' defensive tackles. I'm not sure how serious Joseph's quad injury is, but we better all hope its not that big of a deal.
- Kickoff Team: For two weeks straight we have given up big returns on kickoff. That's something that has been unheard of in recent years as our special teams have become a strong point of the team. I know that on Saturday the principle problem was that our safety guy, E.J. Biggers who is supposed to prevent breakout runs went inside of a block instead of staying outside to turn the ball back in. Whatever the problem is it needs to get fixed in a hurry because even though our defense should be much improved this year, no defense is built to perform well when the offense is already starting close to mid field.
- Mark Dile and Xavier Fulton: Both of these guys were liabilities in the running game and pass protection. At least with Fulton he was switching sides which may have been a factor but Dile has been a disappointment for most of this preseason. He just doesn't seem to be strong enough to be effective as an offensive guard, especially against bigger defensive tackles. Its kind of scary too because if you do the numbers its highly likely that Dile will make the team and be 2nd string on the depth chart. Thankfully with Fulton at least there are other guys in front of him.
- Reggie Brown: Brown let two opportunities for big plays literally slip right through his fingers. He has shown that he has the speed to stretch defenses but at some point he is going to have to actually make the catches on those deep balls when they are thrown to him. I felt pretty confident going into camp that he was a lock to make the team. I still believe he will be on the roster but I'm not nearly as confident now.
- Michael Clayton: The guy didn't get into the game on offense and I didn't notice him on any special teams either. Enough said.
- Defensive Blitz busts: Too often on Saturday when we blitzed either somebody forgot to cover the back out of the backfield or we didn't have a contain element away from the blitz or both. If we are going to send pressure a lot, and its obvious that we are, we can't afford to have those kinds of mental breakdowns because they can be the difference between a win and a loss.
- I think what we are about to see is that in order to keep four tight ends with Ryan Purvis being that fourth guy, the Bucs are not going to carry a backup fullback. That's why you haven't really seen Chris Pressley or Rendrick Taylor much the last two preseason games. I can tell you this much, we DEFINITELY need to upgrade our run blocking from the tight end position from last year. So if Purvis can help do that I'm all for it. I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to keep Taylor around on the practice squad though if for no other reason than to be able to give the defense a good look on scout team.
- I'm not sure why the Bucs decided to flip Xavier Fulton and James Lee but Lee looked just as comfortable on the right side as he had been looking on the left. The kid can play and I think he is going to be a helluva backup for us on either side. Fulton on the other hand will have me holding my breath if he ever has to play a down for us.
- Keydrick Vincent played relatively well but he did seem to have a problem passing off pass rush stunts. It will be worth keeping an eye on for the rest of the season.
- I hate 3 man rushes. I can't say that enough.
- Some people took issue with Coach Morris calling out a few players this last week. It was kind of funny to me because last year Morris talked about replacing his starting defensive linemen while the season was still going on and he had some sharp words for Antonio Bryant as well. But I guess people's memories are short so for them this seems like something new. But its not. And when you look back at the game everybody he called out seemed to play better. I'll take that.
- I'm officially taking the over now for the Bucs. If you know anything about playing spades I'm taking them for 7 and a possible. Right now I believe we can and will beat Cleveland, St Louis, Carolina at least once, Arizona, Washington, Detroit, Seattle and its possible we will beat Atlanta once.
I believe that we now have a defense that will be stingy when it comes to points, an offense that can run the ball but also has some game breakers in the passing game, and we have a kicker who is very consistent (knock on wood). I have watched all of the teams that I have said we will beat and I feel pretty confident in my prediction. Of course we still have to see how Josh Freeman comes back from his broken thumbs and we will have to stay health as a team to have success. But I have seen enough at this point to give me confidence. Now we just have to go out and play the games.
Don't worry, I'll be doing a post later this week more fully explaining my reasons for optimism for be on the lookout for that.