On the day after news broke that Buccaneer Great Lee Roy Selmon has suffered a major stroke (follow the latest developments on our story stream here) its difficult to concentrate on this week's 10 Things.
Anyone who is a true Buccaneer fan and a citizen of the Tampa Bay community felt as if they were kicked in the gut when news broke on Selmon's condition. They didn't name an Expressway after the man because he was good at sacking the quarterback - they did it because he is a pillar of this community.
Here's hoping that LRS can recover from this health emergency and still be the man we admire and adore as Tampa's gentle giant. Get well, Lee Roy! There's still a lot left for you to do.
With Lee Roy's condition sobering us up into realizing how trivial our little game of football really is - we still have a job to do and SB Nation Tampa Bay is here to do it.
Without further ado, the 10 Things We Learned About the Tampa Bay Buccaneers This Pre-Season
1. The lockout hurt Josh Freeman.
We know Josh has put as much time in as anyone working on his craft. We know we can believe in FIVE. Still, this lockout robbed Josh and his targets a golden opportunity to really make the jump to greatness in their second full season together. Sure, Josh did his best to put together camps and mimic what they would have done in OTA's but without the watchful eye of the coaches it simply wasn't the same. Josh's accuracy has come and gone this pre-season and even he has shown signs of frustration on the sideline. We know FIVE will work that much harder to get it right - but we can't help feel that the lockout may have stunted his growth - at least temporarily - into one of the game's best.
2. The lockout hurt the offensive line even more.
Even more concerning than Freeman's struggles is the play of the offensive line. While blitz pickup adjustments and line calls can be primarily the responsibility of the quarterback, it was a little disconcerting to see the offensive line struggle with imposing their will on their opponents.
There were times this pre-season when the o-line looked like a dominant, veteran group that will keep all comers away from their franchise quarterback. Then there's been other times when the only blocking scheme should be called "Hey Josh, Lookout!"
Add to that the inability to open holes for the running game and right now the one area the team that shouldn't have been a concern is their biggest.
3. It may be too late but...
We're hoping that the Bucs will at least extend a practice squad invitation to Week 4's player of the game. While Gant impressed against guys that are likely on the waiver wire with him he did show a distinct ability to catch the football and make something happen when he has it.
4. After three years, the Bucs run defense may FINALLY be fixed
While I know it's only pre-season - the Bucs' work on their defensive line and middle of the defense may finally be paying off. The Bucs have been terrific at stopping the run in all but one game this pre-season (the debacle against the Patriots) and finished statistically ranked 12th in the league (a far cry from their 30th ranking last season).
5. The Pass Rush might be fixed, too
Tampa Bay put consistent heat on the quarterback with their front four, making big time plays in the backfield all pre-season. The addition of Keith Mallard and Grady Stretz has certainly made an impact. The Bucs' defensive line doesn't wait around for the ball to get to them, they attack their gaps, penetrate and try to reek havoc for the offense.
6. The Bucs are being underestimated yet again.
Last year, skeptics scoffed at Raheem Morris' "Race to Ten" slogan for 2010. They mocked him by saying the Bucs are more likely to be in a race to ten losses. Yet, when the season was over, the Bucs finished with 10 victories and were a bad official's call away from 11 and a playoff berth (which would have kept the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers out of the playoffs).
This year, the "experts" are citing Tampa Bay's schedule as to why they believe the Bucs will fall back to 8 or 9 wins this season. Few pick the Bucs to win the NFC South or make the playoffs.
If there's one thing we've learned about this football team it's that they love it when the "experts" tell them they can't do something. Thanks "experts", you just provided Tampa Bay additional motivation to prove you wrong, yet again.
7. Raheem looks like an NFL Head Coach now
When Raheem first took the job in 2009, you could tell he wasn't quite ready for the big chair. His press conferences were figity, nervous things where he relied on cliche's and crutch words like "you're talkin' about" to get through the questions from media.
Moving into his third season, Raheem's personality has finally shown through. He's personable, funny and downright entertaining in his press conferences and you can tell the confidence he's build within himself and his team.
8. Still nervous about the backend of the running back rotation.
Both Allen Bradford and Kregg Lumpkin made the 53 (at least for now) but neither were really impressive in the pre-season.Bradford had just 47 yds on 24 carries (a 2.0 average) and 1 touchdown while Lumpkin 58 yds on 16 carries for a 3.6 average. Neither showed vision or the ability to make their own yardage like we saw with LeGarrette Blount. Neither are as versatile as Earnest Graham.
You have to wonder what value they bring to the team at this point.
9. Surprising Roster Decisions
So am I the only one surprised the Bucs got rid of all of their tight ends with the exception of Kellen Winslow, Jr. and Luke Stocker? What about the MLB core with only Mason Foster as a true Mike (Adam Hayward can play Mike in a pinch)? How in the world did James Lee keep his job after his god awful pre-season? Tyrone McKenzie was supposed to be the next Hardy Nickerson according to some experts...now he's on the street?
10. So Long Ahmad Black
I was doubled over with excitment when the Buccaneers selected Ahmad Black in the 5th round of 2011 draft. Having watched his Florida Gator career I felt the Bucs were getting a steal. Early in camp, Ahmad struggled to impress and didn't display those ballhawking skills he had at Florida.
I think he was thinking to much, not using his superior football instincts and trying too hard not to make a mistake. After getting injured early in the pre-season, Ahmad never got his chance to show what he could do.
The Bucs are likely trying to sneak him on to the practice squad for a "red shirt year" but I wouldn't be surprised if another team (Bill Belicheat is on line two, Mr. Black) would come calling.
Now that the Pre-Season is behind us, we can start our regular season coverage of the Buccaneers. It should be a fun, exciting season that is sure to have more than a few interesting story lines.