We've gone over a few of the position battles for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first preseason game, but there's another way to frame the performance of a few players during the game: winners and losers. Which players helped their cause to be a starter, to get some playing time, or even to make the roster - and which players hurt their cause? Let's go over a few of them.
RB Legarrette Blount
Blount is the most obvious winner of Friday's game, and therefore the least interesting winner. But he deserves to be mentioned. He was consistent and decisive as a runner, didn't hesitate in the backfield, ran behind his pads with a low pad level and consequently played with more power than he has throughout his career so far.
DT Roy Miller
Many Bucs fans have lamented the presence of Roy Miller on the roster, but over the past five games or so I think the fourth-year defensive tackle has proved those people wrong. While Miller has been inconsistent in his career and struggled to hold up against double teams, he looked very good the last few games of 2011 (as one of the very few players to do so), and continued that quality performance against the Dolphins on Friday. He was active, aggressive, and even showed a few pass rush moves. He will never be a factor against the pass, but he showed that he is at least the best run-defending nose tackle on the team. He did have one problem: a big tendency to jump offside, although he wasn't alone in that problem. It's something he and the rest of the line needs to get under control.
T Demar Dotson
Dotson was forced to play in Donald Penn's stead at left tackle, and did surprisingly well. Last preseason the inexperienced tackle looked disastrous at left tackle, while he did a solid job at right tackle, especially against the pass. Throughout the 2011 season he got some experience as a sixth lineman, and even got some playing time at right tackle in the team's final game. He showed steady improvement, and has apparently carried that over into the season. He wasn't beat in pass protection despite playing basically the entire first half and facing Cameron Wake on several snaps. Another thing he showed was power as a run blocker, especially on Legarrette Blount's four runs near the goalline. With veteran right tackle Jeremy Trueblood likely leaving in free agency next year, the Bucs may have found their replacement in house already - provided Dotson can keep up his level of play.
WR Tiquan Underwood
Two catches put Tiquan Underwood on the radar immediately: a 23-yard sideline catch against Cover 2 Man, behind cornerback Vontae Davis, in front of safety Reshad Jones. He fooled Davis on the route, got by him, and the pass was right on time. It was a good play, and one that is a staple way to attack any Cover 2 defense. The second catch was a lot more impressive: he got down the middle of the field, ran by cornerback Sean Smith, then caught the ball despite getting sandwiched by Smith and safety Jimmy Wilson. He wanted that ball, and took it away. Very impressive, and Underwood looks like he could be a difference maker this season.
LB Lavonte David
The second-rookie game had a very good game, both as a run defender and as a special teams player. He appeared to be down the field quickly on punt and kickoff coverage teams, while he was often in the right place at the right team on defense, with his interception obviously being the high point of the evening. But that tipped interception aside, he was quick and active in run defense and didn't appear to overrun any plays - which would be the biggest difference between him and Geno Hayes.
CB Myron Lewis
All week long we heard about Myron Lewis newly found dedication and quality play during practice. With an injury to Aqib Talib, Lewis got the chance to prove his worth as a cornerback - and failed miserably. He looked to be out of place consistently, made no plays in coverage, and didn't appear to be comfortable at all. While he is at least a physical player who isn't afraid to make a tackle, he had a horrid game in coverage - and he has to play better than that to make the roster - I hope.
WR Preston Parker
Parker was a revelation in the slot last season, and he performed as arguably the team's best wide receiver in 2011. But we didn't see much of that on Friday. While Parker didn't really do anything wrong as a receiver, but he did two things that Greg Schiano hates: put the ball on the ground and cause stupid penalties. Parker nullified a first down with a stupid fifteen-yard personal foul penalty, and muffed a punt in the rain. While neither of those things is likely to hurt his status as a receiver, he will likely lose reps as a returner, especially so with Michael Smith's explosive kickoff returns late during the game.
WR Sammie Stroughter
Wait, Stroughter? How is he a loser? He barely played. Well, there's your answer. He barely played. Stroughter was targeted all of once - with the third team. Stroughter did not get a chance to return a ball either on punts or kickoffs. Overall, it wasn't a bad game for Stroughter, but the fact that he didn't even get a chance to prove his worth does not bode well for his chances to make the roster.
Second and third-string offensive line
Outside of Demar Dotson and Jeremy Trueblood, who both got some reps with the second-string offensive line, the backups along the offensive line were disastrous. These are the numbers for the players running behind those lines:
De'Anthony Curtis: 5 carries for 20 yards (19 of them on one carry)
Michael Smith: 9 carries for 10 yards.
Mossis Madu: 5 carries for 6 yards.
That is godawful, and that was not the fault of the running backs. It was the result of an offensive line that just couldn't block anyone. So, hey, we'd better hope that the starting offensive line stays healthy this year.
LB Najee Goode
The Bucs' fifth-round pick did not have a good game, either on defense or on special teams. He played with the third-string defense, and didn't make an impact in the run game. More significantly, though, he looked slow in coverage. He was a step slow on a couple of throws, and easily allowed tight end Charles Clay to get behind him for the only Dolphins touchdown of the game. That could have been offset by a stellar special teams performance - but I didn't see him jump off the screen there, either.