The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now 0-2 in the 2014 NFL preseason after losing to the Miami Dolphins, 20-14. Mike Kafka saved a little face late in the game with a last-second touchdown drive, but it was still pretty bad, overall. Vincent Jackson notched the Bucs' first touchdown in the game after Gerald McCoy forced a fumble to give Josh McCown some great field position.
The Bucs did show an improved first-team offense and another quality performance by the first-team defense, but their backups looked pitiful against a Dolphins team that simply outclassed them when the second- and third-string players got on the field. Except for that final drive, I guess.
Still, it's just preseason and individual performances are a lot more relevant than the overall team result, so let's talk about the key takeaways from this game.
First-team pass rush needs to be better
Gerald McCoy can't carry this defense on his own, and he'll need some help from Michael Johnson, Clinton McDonald and Adrian Clayborn to create an effective pass rush. That was missing today, with none of those players beating their opponents. Michael Johnson needs to do better than he's done the first two games. He came close a few times, but no cigar.
That said, Gerald McCoy is still really, really good. McCoy got a sack at the start of the second quarter where he blew past the right guard like he was Oniel Cousins. He then forced a fumble, which Michael Johnson picked up. Bottom line: McCoy is ridiculously good.
Oniel Cousins is still bad, but not disastrous
Oniel Cousins didn't look good for the second straight game. This time he was paired with Patrick Omameh at guard, who looked okay-but-not-good. Omameh wasn't asked to do as much as Cousins, but he didn't look bad doing what he was asked to do, mostly -- though he was responsible for a sack late in the second quarter.
But Cousins improved as the game went on and didn't look totally hopeless once the Dolphins' backups came on. It wasn't exactly a good performance, but it was a slight improvement on the disaster we saw last week. It gave me a little confidence the season might not be a waste with Cousins at left guard. But only a little.
Josh McCown is pretty good when he has halfway decent guards
While Cousins was still bad, he wasn't the total disaster he was last week and Patrick Omameh wasn't horrible himself. That gave the Bucs some extra time in the pocket and a fighting chance, and Josh McCown immediately looked better. Not that he was dominant, but he was patient in the pocket, didn't panic under pressure, and completed a few good passes. He ended the game going 5/7 for 46 yards with one touchdown, one sack and no turnovers.
Lots and lots of injuries
The Bucs avoided the injury bug for most of this offseason, but that changed in this game. A slew of backups managed to knock themselves out for at least this week. Rashaan Melvin with an ankle injury, William Gholston with a shoulder injury, Mike James with a shoulder injury and Major Wright with a back injury. None of those injuries looked overly serious, but none of those players ever returned after suffering their injuries, either.
One injury did look bad, though: linebacker Brandon Magee got hurt on the final kickoff return of the first half, and did not return to the game. Magee had to be carted off after writhing in pain for several minutes.
Jeff Tedford likes the no-huddle
The Bucs basically spent the entire first half practicing a no-huddle, high-tempo offense with their first team. Results were up and down, though certainly more competent than what we saw last year. Tedford has said that he'll play around with various tempos in the regular season, but we'll probably see a lot more no-huddle than we're used to.
Mike Evans is good, but raw
Mike Evans had two catches for 53 yards, one of them a pretty good catch-and-run on an out route where the defender just fell off his big frame. But he also showed some rookie traits: he fumbled the ball a yard before he got to the endzone, causing a touchback due to the stupidest rule in the rulebook.
Luke Stocker is going to make this roster
The primary first-team tight end? Not Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Not Brandon Myers, who actually had a catch in this game. No, it was Luke Stocker. Not that he did anything as a receiver, but he lined up with the first team as a run-blocker and did pretty well in that role. It really looks like he'll make this roster as the team's primary blocking tight end.
This run defense is slightly ridiculous
The Miami Dolphins managed a total of -5 rushing yards on nine carries in the first half. Nine carries. Negative five rushing yards. The pass rush may not be getting there, but they're destroying the run.
The backups suck
For the second straight week, a backup quarterback just gashed the Bucs' second-string defense. To be fair, most of the secondary and defensive line consisted of third-string players due to various injuries, but allowing Matt Moore to walk down the field on subsequent drives is a bad, bad look.
And the backup offense didn't do any better either. Aside from one good/bad play by Mike Evans (see above) it was pretty much a re-hash of last year's offense, at least in terms of results. The Bucs look like a solid football team with their starters, but the backups just haven't done much.