The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the Lovie Smith era with a loss, but we'll forgive them that seeing as how it's preseason. The Bucs struggled on offense but looked really good on defense, which basically fits what we've been expecting.
"We're not ready yet," Lovie Smith said at half time. "I mean, this first game, we kind of see where we are a little bit. Had some protection issues, didn't protect the quarterback well enough. That's pretty much it."
And that's certainly what we saw on offense throughout the game, although at least the Bucs' second-team offense got a decent amount of movement against the Jaguars' third-team defense late in the game. This offense simply couldn't get anything done, with the exception of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who managed to put up some quality production late in the game.
Predictably, the defense looked pretty good throughout the game. By which I mean: it looked dominant when the first-team defense was in and competent when it wasn't. Which is why the Jacksonville Jaguars scored a grand total of 9 points on offense while the Bucs scored 10 -- the difference being a Josh McCown pick-six.
Here are some key observations from the game, with an eye to the Bucs' regular season plans. That's what preseason is for, after all.
The defense is really good
And Gerald McCoy is a beast. He just is. First play of the game, he blows up a running play. Third play of the game he hits Chad Henne and forces a three-and-out. It's going to be so much fun to watch him play this year.
The entire first-team defense looked good, as the only real play they allowed was a fluke catch after Lavonte David batted a ball into the air. The pass rush got the quarterback, the linebackers stopped the run and the coverage looked tight. What more could you ask for?
The guards still suck
Here's what I tweeted after one series.
First four plays: 1) everyone blown up. 2) Meredith blown up 3) Holding on Dotson 4) Cousins blown up.— Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) August 8, 2014
None of that changed on later series. It's not good. The guards were about as bad as we thought they'd be, and the Bucs have to find a way to fix this. Now to be fair, the Jaguars defensive line is pretty good. But they're not dominant, and the Bucs are going face a lot of very good pass-rushing teams this season.
The Bucs appeared to be running a zone scheme in the running game, which may help the Bucs get by without maulers -- but they still need athletic linemen with good chemistry. And they just don't have that.
Josh McCown looked bad
Josh McCown didn't get much of a chance thanks to a disastrous offensive line, but given those limitations he actually looked pretty good on the first two series. He stepped up under pressure, kept his eyes downfield and got the ball out of his hands. The highlight was a first-quarter run where he got, lost the ball, picked it up and he scrambled for a first down.
But then McCown overthrew/threw behind Mike Evans when a free blitzer got to him, leading to a pick six. That's not good, either. And that wasn't even the fault of the offensive line, really. And on the next series he got one good completion -- before being sacked and losing a fumble after holding on to the ball too long. McCown would end the day with an ugly statline of two completions in four attempts for 20 yards with one interception, plus two sacks and one lost fumble.
Mike Glennon for his part looked a little better and even a little improved over last season. While he wasn't playing against the Jaguars' first-team defense and saw a lot less pressure, he made a couple of solid throws and showed flashes of quality play, even leading the team to a touchdown with a six-yard throw to Tommy Streeter in the fourth quarter. Glennon's stats looked pretty good, too: 11/19 for 140 yards, one touchdown and one sack.
Da'Quan Bowers working hard to make this team
Da'Quan Bowers had what may have been his best game as a Buccaneer. Okay, that might be overstating it, but he was very, very active and looked much better from the three-technique spot than I've ever seen him look. He was playing hard and making plays. He didn't look dominant, but he certainly looked like a quality rotational player.
The rest of the second-team defensive line was less impressive. William Gholston flashed a couple of times, but Steven Means and Akeem Spence couldn't get anything done in pass rush. We'll see whether they can fix that, as they're all talented enough to get to the passer, but the depth along the defensive line may be less than advertised.
Blake Bortles is pretty good
Sure, it came against the Buccaneers' mostly third-string defense, but Blake Bortles looked like he was well ahead of Chad Henne. He moved the offense down the field, got them a score (well, a field goal) and consistently managed to find open receivers with accurate throws. It wasn't a dominant performance, but it was good for a raw rookie.
No significant injuries
There appeared to be no injuries throughout the game, with one exception: Robert Herron landed awkwardly at the end of the game and had to come out of the game. Whether that's serious remains to be seen.