Each week, BucsNation will go to the game film (or TV broadcast if the game film is unavailable) to give you more insight on what transpired in this week's game.
Pre-season is an odd sort of thing. If you look at the final stat sheet and score - it can tell you one story. When you look at each play individually as we did - it can say something entirely different.
Indeed, going through the Bucs' horrid 30-7 loss would temper the enthusiasm of even the most faithful fan. However, when you step away from the emotion and choke back the urge to retch all wasn't quite as bad as it may have seemed.
The one thing we all have to remember is Pre-season is when you try new things and attempt stuff you normally wouldn't do in the Regular Season.
For example, if you want to make a concerted effort to get the ball to a certain player in a passing situation - no matter the coverage or situation, you make every attempt to do that.
You focus on a certain aspect of your package - running the offense or defense as you may not otherwise do in a regular season game.
Finally, you've scouted your opponent fully in the regular season, knowing their myriad of blitzes and coverages or routes and running plays. In Pre-season, there's only a cursory scouting (if that) as you are focused on your team and who is performing well rather than your opponent.
Friday night's game wasn't the worst performance I've ever seen at Raymond James Stadium by a Buccaneer team in the pre-season. That honor goes to the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the third game of the pre-season (you know, "the important one"), the Bucs were waxed by Steve Spurrier's Washington Redskins on national television, 40-10.
The offense looked terrible, the defense looked leaky and Spurrier seemed to run rings around Gruden. As you know, that team went on to do okay so if you're getting too high from a performance in pre-season or too low, just try to keep the final score in perspective.
We don't really know what the coaches are working on, so what you focus on in pre-season are individual performances.
After the jump, we provide you some observations after gutting through the game tape.
- We lauded Demar Dotson for an excellent performance in Miami. As great as he was against the Dolphins, he was wretched against Tennessee. Going against Titans DE Kamerion Wimbley, Dotson needed help from the chip blocker most of the game but when he was one-on-one he struggled at keeping Wimbley away from Freeman.
- RT Jeremy Trueblood also struggled against Derrick Morgan, losing containment on him regularly.
- Davin Joseph had a terrible game, not handling the bull rushes of Titan defenders well at all. Much of the pressure up the middle came from him.
- Communication wasn't good on the line, either. Several times in the ball game, a blitzer would come straight up the middle of the line untouched as the seas parted, delivering hits on both Freeman and Dan Orlovsky.
- While we have been bagging on the line, we can also say that Freeman wasn't doing to well on his drops, especially in play action. Most of the drops were of the 7-step variety and during play action, it seemed to take Freeman too long to pull the ball back and set up to throw.
- It may have seemed like Freeman was running for his life, but of his pass attempts, only three times did he truly get some pressure off the snap. Freeman had a bit of the case of happy feet in this one, bailing out a little too quickly when it wasn't needed. On several occasions had he stood strong in the pocket, his running back outlet would have come wide open without a defender within ten yards.
- The Bucs were pushing their deep routes with the wide outs. There were very few underneath routes run in this one. One of the reasons Freeman struggled with this was that because a lot of the routes were either streaks or deep hooks, it played right into the teeth of the Cover Two. I'd have to imagine that in a real game situation, the routes would be adjusted.
- LeGarrette Blount struggled before he got injured. The Bucs' starting back was tentative and wasn't reading the holes (and there were many) behind the Bucs' offensive line. One thing that I definitely noticed was the cut back lane seems to always be there for the Bucs' backs. For a north-south runner like Blount, that's not that beneficial, but for a back like Martin, it's deadly.
- Carl Nicks is without question the best player on offense. He continued to be dominant and when he pulls, he simply engulfs the defender.
- Doug Martin is the Bucs' best running back - period. Not only does he bring the entire package (running, catching and pass pro), he displayed excellent vision behind the Bucs' massive line, finding the cut back lane for some big pops. Not only that, this kid has some elite make-you-miss moves that made several Titans look rather silly. He runs with power, speed and elusiveness. Regardless of whether Blount is hurt or not, I can't imagine the Bucs not wanting to get the ball in Martin's hands early and often.
- The holding call on Jeremy Zuttah during Martin's scintillating 16 yard run was complete baloney. Not only did Zuttah not hold on the play, he lost his man, fell down and was no where near anyone as the play developed. I looked hard at the blocking during the play to see if perhaps the officials just got the number wrong - the only player who could have been considered holding was WR Mike Williams who was blocking down field - and even that would have been an iffy call.
- Freeman was staring down Vincent Jackson on nearly every throw. There was no doubt there was an edict from on high to get the prize possession the football. Because of the focus, Freeman didn't progress through his reads and missed some easy outlets.
- Freeman did a decent job at decision making most of the game. Getting out the pocket, throwing the ball away when he had to - but there was one particular play that was just down right terrible. On a 3rd down, Freeman was flushed to his right and had a clear running lane to the first down marker - no one within 15 yards of him (other than the lumbering defensive lineman behind him that he could easily outrun). Instead of taking the easy first down and continuing the drive, Freeman inexplicably threw across his body to Mike Williams who was double covered. The pass sailed high over the middle of the defense and could have easily been intercepted. The play was very reminiscent of the play Titans young QB Jake Locker attempted that was intercepted by Ahmad Black. The major difference - Locker is entering his first season as a starter. Freeman is a 4th year veteran.
- As performances go, the first team defense was solid on Friday Night. They began the game with a three and out, then an interception, followed by another three and out. The lone drive for the Titans offense against the Bucs first team defense came on their fourth drive. That drive featured a 15 yard personal foul penalty on Ahmad Black (a stupid penalty by the young safety), Locker broke loose on 21 yard run and then Chris Johnson scored on 14 yard scamper. The Bucs defense shook that off, bounced right back with another three and out and then backed up on their own 10 yard line thanks to an Orlovsky fumble, they held firm, surrendering just four yards and forcing a field goal. All in all, a good day by the first team defense.
- While the Bucs were victimized by a phantom holding call on offense, the replacement refs allowed the Titans to get away with bloody murder on their series. On each of Chris Johnson's big runs against the first team offense, there were blatant holding calls that went unflagged. I'm not talking the fanboy iffy calls, folks. I'm talking practically ripping off the jersey, tackling the defender type holding that on any other night would have been called. It's a bit difficult to keep containment when the offensive lineman or tight end was dragging you down by your jersey.
- The secondary was simply awesome Friday night. Locker had no where to throw most of the night as Aquib Talib, Myron Lewis and Eric Wright blanketed the receivers. Even when the Buccaneers blitzed, both Ronde Barber and Mark Barron stepped up and provided excellent coverage.
- A scary moment occurred in the second quarter when Chris Johnson was swarmed by Buc defenders. As he was going down, Adrian Clayborn headed to the pile to help out. Out of nowhere, a pewter, red an white streak flew in and simply obliterated Clayborn. That streak was Mark Barron, who inadvertently friendly fired to finish off the play.
- Speaking of Barron, in just a quarter and half - the rookie made more of an impact than Sean Jones did his entire tenure with the Buccaneers. Barron brought thump, he was excellent in coverage and was a sure open field tackler. He was credited with just one tackle in the ball game, but Barron was around the football making plays. He also nearly had his first interception on a deflection.
- It was certainly nice having Aquib Talib back in the secondary. With Talib's return, everyone else seemed to be slotted to their appropriate positions.
- The Bucs pass rush was a little better Friday night but still not where it needs to be. Michael Bennett seems to be the only rusher who is consistent in getting pressure on the quarterback. Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller both flashed but for the most part were handled. The concern I have is Adrian Clayborn, who seemed to rarely get close to Locker and was essentially neutralized throughout the game. LT Michael Roos made the Pro Bowl in 2008 but I'm not sure he's considered an elite left tackle. Yet Clayborn certainly was not effective as he failed to generate much pressure and several times was blown off the football.
- Mason Foster was flying to the football, reading and reacting well and getting off blocks.
- Quincy Black was not.
- Lavonte David was victim to multiple holds throughout his time in the ballgame and could not shed from those jersey munching grabs.
- While I know the Bucs current special teams unit is comprised of guys who likely will not be on the 53 man roster come September 9th, you can't help but worry a little bit about their coverage units. When Michael Koenen isn't aiming for the Mars Observer with his punts, the unit has permitted long gains that threaten to break out for a big one. Kickoff coverage has equally been suspect.
- Koenen is just killing the ball this pre-season - his leg seems stronger than ever.
In summary, as terrible as Friday Night's debacle seemed to be there were some brights spots, especially defensively.