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Quarterly Report Card: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Progress Report

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are (3-1) and that means it’s time for quarterly grades:

Quarterback:
The sole loss on the season belongs to our 3rd string Quarterback. Brian Griese is undefeated in three attempts by the skin of his teeth. Had one of those ball games gone the other way we’d be looking at a ‘D’ or worse here. The play needs to improve considerably if a playoff run is the goal this season.

Running Back:
Outside of the Chicago Bears game, this unit has really done a great job thus far. You get the feeling that Earnest Graham has yet to gain respect across the league, though he continues to turn in 100 yard rushing games complete with several 40+ yard runs. Warrick Dunn is probably completing a spin move as I type this.

Wide Receivers:
They’ve had their fair share of drops this season, but nobody thought this unit could make it with Joey Galloway, much less without him and they’ve done just that. Griese didn’t orchestrate game winning drives all his own. Hilliard continues to be a go to receiver when a catch is needed. Mike Clayton is actually producing and Antonio Bryant is making a name for himself again.

Tight Ends:
They’ve done the job they were brought In to do. Alex Smith and Jerramy Stevens are proving their worth in the passing game and John Gilmore continues to be the great run blocker that he was said to be. You’d like a bit more consistency in the penalty department, but these guys are playing well.

Offensive Line:
They are a lot more cohesive than I expected with a new Center and Right Guard entering the fray. The pass protection has been first class with Brian Griese having not been sacked in his last 97 pass attempts (last 2 games). The run blocking has been above average with Graham and Dunn both averaging over four yards a carry. Jeremy Zuttah has really shined while being thrust into a starting role as a rookie. Jeremy Trueblood has also taken his game to another level in Davin Joseph’s absence. This unit is feisty, mean, and growing together.

Defensive Line:
This unit has really grown from a year ago. We’re finally seeing the playing instincts that Gaines Adams was said to of had. Two interceptions for the 2nd year Clemson Tiger? One returned for a touchdown? Nonsense! Chris Hovan continues to be one of the more underrated defensive tackles in the league by coming to the job and putting in his work. It appears salary escalators for Greg White and each sack he attains was a smart move by G.M. Bruce Allen. Did I just complement Allen? Kevin Carter has been active and Jimmy Wilkerson was a fine addition as well. The D-Line is consistently getting in the back field. My only question is, where is Jovan Haye? I miss his enthusiasm after recording a sack

Line Backers:
Barrett Ruud is the team MVP this far through the season. He has two interceptions, leads the team in tackles, and I don’t know how many QB hurries. He’s done a phenomenal job taking over for Shelton Quarles in his second season as starting MLB. His production tailed off a bit toward the end of last season so it will be interesting to see if he can keep the motor going as the season progresses. Derrick Brooks has turned it on in recent weeks as he shared player of the week honors with K Matt Bryant for last Sunday’s performance in which he caused a fumble, intercepted a pass, and almost intercepted another. Playing alongside Brooks and Ruud can be hard in terms of personal recognition and that’s been the case with Cato June as the mouthy LB has faded into the background a bit. Cato where you at?

Secondary:
You were getting accustomed to all of those ‘B’ grades weren’t you? This unit has been solid for the most part, but the receiving yardage that’s been given up in chunks throughout the season is a bit alarming. Ronde Barber’s been getting owned a lot lately, due in large part to his footing as he slips and the receiver is off! He’s not the only one as Phillip Buchanon tends to give the receiver s huge buffers to catch the ball, he does have a interception return for a touchdown however. The safety’s have really outperformed themselves thus far though. Especially 2nd year player Sabby Piscitelli, he’s got an interception and a forced fumble to his credit. Jermaine Phillips has a fumble returned for a touchdown and Tanard Jackson continues to improve his game, he may have taken over the reigns as the defenses hardest hitter.

Special Teams:
This unit was a question mark coming into the season as Kicker Matt Bryant was only connecting on 40% of his field goal attempts in the Pre-Season and nobody knew what 2nd round draft pick Dexter Jackson would provide in the return game. Matt Bryant has proved that the Pre-Season (as we initially thought) does not matter, as he’s been flawless thus far through the season. He turned in a masterful performance Sunday after burying his three month old son a day before the game. Dexter Jackson was hearing it from the fans through the first three games, with his cowering and lack of decent returns. He turned a corner Sunday however by eclipsing 100 yards on three returns for the kick return unit. This unit will only get better as the season progresses.

Coaching:
Despite horrendous coaching in Week 1 against the Saints, the coaching staff has since rebounded. There’s no coincidence that this team is (3-1) despite Brian Griese throwing six interceptions in the last two ball games. Coaching has pushed the offense to new heights. Receivers have been wide open in patterns, the head coach actually sticks with his running game, and the offense hasn’t been a complete bore to watch. I’m almost to the point where I expect the offense to answer whenever the opposing team scores which is a lovely, yet cocky feeling. Obviously there’s room for improvement, but considering the circumstances (damn you injury bug) they’ve passed with flying colors.

Front Office:
How much better would this team be with Brett Favre? Let me stop. Ben Troupe and Dre Moore got cut, Jeff Faine, Antonio Bryant, and Warrick Dunn have been great additions. There’s really not much to complain about here, obviously the quarterback situation isn’t where you would like to see it, but considering this is the Bucs, the mediocre play from the position is expected. Bruce Allen has done a nice job though...