Friday marked everyone's first glimpse of the 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the overall results were impressive. Freeman lead the team to 3 scores on his 4 possessions of the night, and save for some questionable play calling and one or two drops, the offense fired on all cylinders. The Defense turned in two early take aways and pitch a shutout. At first glance, these are fantastic statistics, but when you look a little bit closer at the game film, just how good were the starting units for the Bucs? The answer is unsurprising, they were very good.
Offense: Freeman turned in a very solid outing, and was tip toeing the line between solid and spectacular. He controlled the huddle well, as we all knew he would, and his throws were crisp and on target. He had three big incompletions, all of which should have been caught balls. The first, a 3rd down pass to Purvis on the opening possesion, was catchable, but difficult due to the defender holding onto him. Regardless, I could not see any noticeable sign of the defender touching the ball, and if it were Winslow in instead of Purvis, I'm inclined to believe it would have been a catch. Interestingly enough, Blount was running well, and should have been able to get that 1st down, yet offensive coordinator Greg Olson seemed to make a questionable call to pass instead. The incompletion seemed to cause Freeman to lose faith in Purvis, whom later demonstrated his lack of trust in the TE during the touchdown scramble. Purvis was running with separation in the back of the endzone before Freeman crossed the line of scrimmage. A 3rd down throw to Brisco was his next incompletion, the pass being slightly behind Dez, but it had to be because the defender was attacking his outside shoulder. The passed was placed were only Dez could catch it, but he failed to make the play. The third incompletion should have been a Freeman to Williams TD, but bounced of the hands of Williams. It was perfect placement, yet Williams let it go. That is a catch Williams needs to make if he wants to be considered elite. Overall, Freeman played very well, and is showing last year was no fluke.
Blount, on the other hand, was a mixed bag. His play looks good at first glance, but only due to his ability to break tackles. On his first run, he missed a wide open cut, and may have broke a longer run, yet instead bounced the ball outside and had to fight for 4 yards. He also seemed to want to dance before hitting the hole near the goaline. The play before Freemans TD run, Blount had a fairly sizable lane, yet seemed to juke in place before hitting the hole, allowing the defense to close some of the gap and possibly shave yards off of the carry.
The receivers, with the exception of Williams, played very well, showing a cohesion with Freeman and frequently getting decent separation. Williams did not play terrible, but was targeted only twice, and let one sure TD bounce from his hands, as mentioned earlier. With such a small sample, its hard to tell if Williams really had a bad game, or if he just wasn't in long enough to show his skill. I tend to lean towards the latter option.
The O-line played excellent, frequently opening up holes for the RBs and never letting Freeman feel pressure. Though, take the performance with a grain of salt, because neither Hali nor Dorsey, KCs 2 starting DEs, played even one snap.
Defense: The defense starts up front, and save for one player, the D-line was not very impressive from a starters standpoint. Clayborn was the sole D-lineman that put up good film. He was frequently around the ballcarrier, and even though he didn't record a sack, he consistently beat his man and cause some havoc. He played very solid against the run, and would have had a possible sack if Cassel had not fumbled the snap on the second KC possession. On the play, Clayborn instantly beat the LT and shot into the backfield. Assuming the play was a pass, Clayborn would have gotten a sack, but instead, Mason Foster was the rookie who garnished the praise for the play. Clayborn had only one snap where he was beat of the ball, and was spun around by the Olineman. Outside of the play, he showed why we picked him with the 20th overall pick. The rest of the D-lineman who "Started" played poorly. Wilson and Woods played at DT, with Miller playing only 2 snaps and McCoy out with the shoulder injury. Woods seemed to consistently get lost while trying to beat the LG off of the snap, while Wilson both overran and allowed himself to be blocked out of plays. Bennet, the D-end, also overran 2 plays against KCs "first" team, but againts the 2nd team, played decent, getting credit for a half sack. Bowers played with the 1st team for a few snaps, but looked late off the ball and lost during some plays.
The Linebackers (Foster, Hayes, Black) played well, rarely looking out of position and turned in the two turn overs of the night. The first was less skill, and more being in the right place at the right time, as Foster found himself a loose ball with only a running back to beat. The second came from a great play by Black. On the play, Black put a forearm right over the ball and jarred it loose from KC running back Jackie Battle. The fumble was recovered by SS Sean Jones. The Linebackers were never caught out of position, save for one designed cutback play. Overall, a solid first outting for the young Linebacking Core.
The Defensive backs played very well, though Cassel threw no passes. Backup QB Palko threw two passes, one a short hitch that gained only 2 yards, and an incompletion which came close to being intercepted by Jones, but fell just outside his arm span. Judging the secondary against the pass with have to wait until NE rolls in on Thursday. Against the run, they played well, Barber being the standout in the group. His play against McCluster was a thing of beauty, and showed the old dog still has some bite left in him. Grimm also played decent against the run, though not to the same extent as last season. It seems he isn't 100% just yet. Hopefully, he gets there before week 1.
Overall, the starters that played looked very solid, and shown to be steadily improving. Granted, this was a preseason game, and KC did not play all of their starters, but what the Bucs turned in on tape was impressive none the less.