The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled out their second victory of the pre-season beating their cross-state rivals the Miami Dolphins 17-13. It was a solid effort by the Buccaneers a week after looking absolutely out-manned against the New England Patriots.
Without further ado, we give you this week's installment of 10 Things...
1. Thank the football gods (and Roger Goodell) that Aquib Talib isn't suspended for week one.
With all due respect to E.J. Biggers and Myron Lewis, both whom we like a lot - Brandon Marshall's terrorising of the Tampa Bay secondary had to give Detroit's Calvin "Megatron" Johnson a smile. Biggers simply couldn't contend with the bigger man and several times found himself tossed aside while Marshall rumbled down the field.
Assuming Talib is ready week one (he's been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury), his ability to battle with Calvin Johnson will not only be crucial, but allow Biggers and Lewis to return to their familiar roles of nickel and dime corners.
Without Talib, it could have been a long day for the Buccaneers secondary. Aquib Talib gives the Bucs a good chance to contain the improving Lions passing attack.
2. Week 2 was more of an aberration than reality for the defensive line.
Let's face it, the Patriots absolutely manhandled the Buccaneers front seven last week. This week, the Bucs defensive line again owned the line of scrimmage, constantly pressuring Dolphin quarterbacks and playing dominant against the run.
Tampa Bay finished with 5 sacks and surrendered just 22 yards total rushing (1.5 yds per carry). Top two draft picks Adrian Clayborn and DaQuan Bowers flashed why the Bucs spent high picks on their talents while another Dominick Diamond Michael Bennett was a force in the Dolphins backfield, registering a sack, a tackle for loss and multiple pressures.
"Everyone who gets one on ones, we challenge ourselves to never lose," Bowers told the St. Petersburg Times, "Every time we get one, we have to win. We don't get many, so we have to win."
Bowers had a sick spin move sack of Dolphin starting QB Chad Henne.
3. The Freechise is fine.
If you were like me on Saturday night, as you watch Bucs' QB Josh Freeman's errant passes during the Dolphins game, you began to wonder, "What the heck is wrong with Free?"
As he has the entire pre-season campaign, Freeman struggled with his accuracy and decision making, missing wide open receivers and nearly having several passes picked off.
If you harken back to last season's Pro Bowl worthy effort, this is nothing new, folks. The one thing Freeman has been unable to master is how to get his offense off to a fast start.
It seems to take Freeman a quarter to really get into rhythm for the game. Once he finds that rhythm, he's difficult to stop and that's what we saw last night.
Freeman's last drive was classic Josh, making some accurate throws, moving the chains with scrambles and setting up the Bucs in point blank range for a game tying score.
The more Freeman plays, the more comfortable he'll get. The one player the Bucs don't have to worry about is Number Five.
4. Be a little concerned about the running game.
The Bucs' runners once again didn't get much done in the trenches, averaging just 3.7 yards a carry (and that average was helped out by scrambles from Buccaneer quarterbacks).
We think LeGarrett Blount will be fine, after all, getting just 3 to 5 carries a game doesn't give him the opportunity to be the Blount Forced Trauma we know he can be. When the lights come on for real, Blount will be ready to amaze again.
Earnest Graham appears to have secured Cadillac's third down back role, making some big catches out of the backfield and running well.
After their top two, there's some big questions about youngsters Kregg Lumpkin and Allen Bradford. Neither has really impressed against second and third string competition.
5. That shriek you heard was from opposing defensive coordinators who are realizing that LeGarrett Blount is a bonafide threat in the passing attack.
As if Josh Freeman didn't have enough weapons, not only is LeGarrett Blount a sure handed receiver, he can also make an impact in yards after the catch. Blount sliced through the Dolphins secondary for a 52 yard gain that set up the Bucs' first points of the game.
Last season, teams could just focus against the run when Blount checked into the game - now they have to account for him as a receiver and they can't key on the run.
It means more room for Blount to do his magic and it allows Tampa Bay get more big plays out of the passing attack.
We Interupt this 10 Things to give you a quick 1 thing observation on the Bucs' Week 1 opponent, the Detroit Lions.
The Lions thrashed the same New England Patriots ballclub who embarrassed the Buccaneers last week and are talking a lot for a football team that only won six games last season. Super Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh says teams "fear the Lions" now.
"We wanted to earn respect last year," Suh told Lesley Visser of CBS. "I felt we did that. We want to continue to earn that respect. And now it’s with fear, it’s all about fear. It’s about having quarterbacks fear us, offensive linemen fear us, every single game we step into. And that’s by our play. So we want to continue to get after quarterbacks and offensive lines and wreak havoc."
The Bucs' youngsters were thinking pretty highly of themselves before they were checked by the Patriots. I don't know what happened to the Pats this week but the Lions haven't gotten that check yet.
Hopefully, they'll get a big one in Week One.
6. Offensive line protecting Freeman again.
The Bucs offensive line was under siege against the Patriots last week. Some of it was on the lineman, some of the issues were on Josh Freeman's ability to recognize the blitz and make the checks accordingly.
Freeman did a much better job at reading the defense against Miami and like the game against the Chiefs, there were times when Freeman could have counted to ten Mississippi before having to throw the ball.
If they can began to break open some holes for the running attack, the Bucs offensive line - which happens to be their most veteran group - could also turn into their most solid unit.
7. Where are the middle linebackers?
I don't know about you but I haven't heard Mason Foster or Tyrone McKenzie's names all that much this pre-season. Say what you will about Barrett Ruud, he may have made tackles seven yards down the field but he was at least making the tackle. The silence from the middle linebacker position has been deafening.
8. Who the heck is George Johnson?
If you're a player on the bubble, you want to dominate when you get your opportunity. Johnson's secured a sack in each of his first three pre-season games. The first year undrafted free agent out of Rutgers had just 12.5 sacks as a collegiate and fought through injuries throughout his collegiate career.
Johnson has been difficult to stop for opposing offensive lines. Of course, we understand that the type of players Johnson's going against probably won't make their clubs, but if you're more than "just a guy", you need to dominate when you face those type of players.
So far, so good for big George.
9. Brian Price is a big concern.
The Price has been wrong thus far for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Price battled with a hip problem most of last season that resulted in off-season surgery. In his first action of the season, Price looked slow, out of shape and unable to protect himself as he was blindsided by a block that left him down on one knee for several minutes.
Price, who has been described by Bucs coaches as "unblockable", didn't get much push in the center of the line and wasn't very effective in his first action.
10. Frank Okam is a big force.
Frank "the Tank" Okam was a disruptive force against the Dolphins and has put together a solid pre-season thus far. Okam's size makes him difficult to move out of the center of the line and his surprising quickness makes it tough for lineman to keep him at bay. Okam had a big goal-line stop on Dolphins back Reggie Bush and his penatration up the middle that set up some easy sacks for Bucs defensive ends and linebackers.
See you next week!