It's tough to look back at a loss objectively and try to pick out the good and bad without being jaded by personal feelings on players. That being said, let's take a look at the recipients of Buc 'Em's game balls (both good and bad) for Week One. I'm going to do my best to not name entire units or teams as winners, but try to find individuals who deserve to be singled out.
Carnell WIlliams - I'm already breaking the rules about not making it personal. But who can argue with me. First game ball has to go to Cadillac Williams. Dude was a beast yesterday. 13 carries, 97 yards, 1 TD, 0 injuries. A great stat line for Cadillac. Watching him run with determination, with force was a great thing. He looked like an NFL feature back. He hit the hole strong, he made good reads and cuts, and he finished his runs. In fact, his least impressive run was his half dive half jump into the endzone. But the fact that he has become part machine with two knee injuries and is playing in the NFL, on Sundays, and scored against the first string D, just an awesome story. I hope we have 15+ more games of that.
Ronde Barber - I'll be the first to admit I was concerned with him coming into this year. Count week 1 as a win for him. Made some nice plays, did NOT get beat deep, had a sack, a few deflections and a near pick. I'll take it.
Geno Hayes - Don't want to get all sacrireligious on the Bucs here, but we'll just say an FSU grad played the WLB spot very well today.
Honorable Mention: Byron Leftwich, Michael Clayton
Anti Game Balls
Before I get started here, I could use a better name than Anti Game Balls, just not feeling creative this morning.
Sabby Piscitelli - I'm gonna go easy on him here, because I still want to do the "Grading out the Offense/Defense" columns, where he will be roasted. But good grief. For a guy who was supposed to be a starting safety even BEFORE T-Jack got hurt, this was embarrassing. Learn to stay with your assignment.
Jermaine Phillips - Took some pretty bad angles on the ball. Decided to go back to 2006 or 2007 with all the missed tackles (I counted at least 5 at the game). Granted, he is being asked to go from LB to S, but c'mon, learn to wrap up. That horrid missed tackle on Miles Austin (but he did tackle Mack!) was a reminder of how up and down he can be. A story is also circulating that Phillips threw a cup of water and ice along with a dozen or so "F" bombs into the crowd after hearing Sabby being heckled. Keep this in mind, it may turn out to be a bigger story.
Mike Nugent - After watching Niko's highlight video, he's right, that blocked field goal was not Nugent's fault. I assumed it was due to a low kick, at least partially, but that didn't seem to be the issue. The big concern. He missed a field goal before half. The bigger concern, it missed the entire net by about 5 yards. Ugly. His kickoffs werent much better than Bryant's and on days when Folk/Buehler were finding the end zone on kickoffs, Nugent was about 12 yards short of them.
Raheem Morris - It was his debut, so expecting a Parcells-like experience was probably expecting a bit much. But here's how I see it. Through all the double talk, mishaps, and rookie head coach happenings, we ended up here. I thought the offensive game plan was pretty solid, and with all the missed assignments, its tough to make a call on how the defensive playcalling was.
But here's a fact I can't escape. Imagine you didn't know Morris, or where he was from or where he coached. But someone told you that before being head coach he was a positional coach. What position would you guess he coached based on Sunday's game? I'd guess either RB, QB, or OL. No way would I guess our head coach was the DB coach. These are his guys, there isn't one new guy in the bunch, so his coaching style and imprint is still on them. And as a head coach who used to be a positional coach, don't you think he still probably plays a tad bit more attention to them as opposed to others? I know I would.
But in the last few months we've had a player get suspended (Jackson), a player beat a cabbie, allegedly (Talib), a player miss several tackles and still take bad angles (Phillips), miss several jams at the line and be beat (Mack), and a player look like he had never played football before (Piscitelli). The only guy who didn't get lit up was Ronde. Most guys seem to stay close to their roots. Dungy, Tomlin, Parcells, Lovie, Reid, Gruden. They came from the Walsh system, Dungy system, etc and they still hold true to those roots. Morris was a DB coach, and the worst part of our team with NO new players was our DB's.
That says something to me. Maybe it's a one week issue. But with him coming from a DB background, these being his guys that he used to chest bump, pump up and coach, they were beaten badly all day long. I'm sure I'll get a mixed reaction on this, and I can't quantify it, but this seems like an issue.
Honorable Mention - Gaines Adams, Two Minute Offense
Have at it, dissect away.