August 17, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams (19) is congratulated on a touchdown by running back LeGarrette Blount (27) against the Tennessee Titans at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Griffith-US PRESSWIRE
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their first home preseason game to the Tennessee Titans in rather embarrassing fashion: a 30-7 scoreline brought back memories of last season's devastating 10-game run of losses, and some of the undisciplined play reminded Bucs fans of that run of inept play. The defense displayed some bad run fits and problems getting to the quarterback, while the offense looked stagnant and confused. Yet despite that, this game wasn't actually similar.
This game wasn't nearly that bad, in part because it was a preseason game, in part because it wasn't the starting defense and offense that gave up all those points. In fact, when the Bucs' starting offense and defense left the field, the score was 7-7, and the defense had forced two three-and-outs and a turnover before they gave up one touchdown. The offense was struggling, though, and most of that was on Josh Freeman who looked a little out of sorts and less comfortable than he did the week before. But the running game was actually working, to an extent, and Doug Martin looked especially explosive. Tight end Danny Noble's blocking helped him out, although Dallas Clark caused some problems for the running game.
On defense, the team looked outstanding early on. The defensive line was shutting down the running game, while there was push and pressure in the passing game. IN addition, they didn't get a single offside penalty - so they addressed that problem pretty quickly. The presence of Mark Barron helped in run defense, but his coverage on tight end Jared Cook really stood out. With Aqib Talib back the secondary looked much better as well, while Ahmad Black was gifted a pick with a terrible decision and throw by Jake Locker. Overall, the first-team defense's performance was actually very encouraging - despite the eventual scoreline.
The offense was much less encouraging, and the blocking on offense was one part of the problem. Jeremy Trueblood and Demar Dotson both struggled at times, while Dallas Clark showed that he should not be used as a run-blocker. That's not news, but until recently the Bucs only had Luke Stocker as a reliable blocking tight end on the team. Stocker wasn't available this game, so Danny Noble took his place - and actually looked really, really good. The undrafted rookie out of Toledo was a quality blocker and got the opportunity to catch a couple of passes as well.
Overall, there were many problems, but there were many encouraging elements as well. The starting defense played well, while the starting offense struggled - but there were positives on that side of the ball too. The play of the backups was definitely concerning and despite the many drills there were still problems with run fits on defense. The team has depth problems on both offense and defense, especially along the lines, but this game is no reason to lose faith.