The preseason opener has come and gone, but we've had an entire day to soak in and chew on what we witnessed Saturday night. To be certain, there were some eye-opening performances, by the starters and reserves alike, as guys began to showcase what they've got for roster spots and positions on the depth chart. With the nickel CB, strong safety, return men, 3rd down back, nose tackle, left DE, and flanker/split end positions up for grabs this preseason, there may not ever be a more open competition for roster spots than this year......meaning there might not ever be a more compelling and can't-miss preseason than this one.
Although some fans prefer to change the channel after the first-teamers put on their baseball caps and call it a day, the true battle emerges thereafter. Second-teamers. The guys who, if they ultimately lose out to the first-teamers, will almost certainly see the field sparingly this fall and who will be called on to step in and contribute should a starter go down, which is a near-certainty for at least one or two positions at some point during the season.
So who put a good foot forward in some of these roster battles? Who soiled the proverbial bed? Stay with me through the jump.........
1. EJ Biggers - was tight in coverage and effective agains the run, tallying four tackles. He was johnny-on-the-spot with a fumble recovery on the Bucs' 7-yard line to thwart a late first-half scoring drive. Definitely gave the coaching staff a good first impression in the race for the nickel CB spot.
2. Kareem Huggins - Hugs ripped off the longest play of the night, a 35-yard run where he exploded through the line, made a move, and dashed down the sideline. He hit the holes quickly, much more so than Derrick Ward did. It might be early in the preseason, but if he can continue to impress like this, it'll be nearly impossible to keep him off the 53-man roster.
3. Josh Freeman - He was composed and played within himself, avoiding making any rushed or forced throws. He displayed tremendous touch on the deep sideline route to Mike Williams. The TD pass to Stroughter was a product of Freeman being patient and going through his progressions. All in all, he looked good, albeit during a brief appearance. Nice tone-setter to start the year.
4. Brent Bowden - Forget the 35-yard average. Bowden can boom the football. The average was a product of where he was kicking the ball on the field. Brent flashed some of the control he's been billed to possess, killing two 30-yard punts inside the ten yard line and giving his defense a shot in the arm.
1. Derrick Ward - 20 yards rushing on 12 carries. Ugh. That was a performance to forget. Ward had next to no explosiveness to the line and he seemingly was gobbled up by whatever lineman he got near when he got there. He was clearly outshined by Kareem Huggins against a similar level of defensive competition.
2. Josh Johnson - Definitely not a performance Buccaneer fans were looking for to quash concerns about not signign a veteran backup QB this offseason. Johnson treated the football like a 4th-grader treats his notebook, putting it on the ground twice and losing it once. On the one he recovered, he pulled a Clint Stoerner, slipping and bracing himself with the football. He also sailed a go route and threw an interception in the first half. Such a litany of mistakes can't happen in the regular season, regardless of weather. We'll see if Josh can step his game up the rest of the preseason.
3. Chris Brooks - When you're a relatively unknown player fighting for a roster spot, you have to separate yourself and make a name for yourself. Dropping a potential game-winning touchdown is probably not a good way to do it. Brooks' drop of the football on a wide-open, perfectly-thrown go route in the Dolphin red-zone on a certain TD with 2 minutes to go was a bad first impression that he'll have to bounce back from.
4. Clifton Smith - Yes, I know he didn't play, but the impressive performance by Huggins makes it that much more difficult for Smith to make the roster as a 3rd back. Spurlock showing some relevance in the passing game and his already proven quality skills in the return game give him a solid shot to make the roster.
So weigh in, Bucs Nation readers. Who impressed you? Who let you down? Let's hear it.....