McCown may have settled QB quandary

August, 22, 2009
8/22/09
11:21
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

We'll wait until Sunday afternoon for Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris to officially name his starting quarterback, but it sure looked like the decision was made for him Saturday night.

Luke McCown finally did what the Bucs had been waiting for any of their quarterbacks to do the last few months -- step up and show the ability to move the ball and lead a team. It was brief -- only one quarter of a preseason game against Jacksonville -- but McCown was spectacular.

He threw two touchdown passes, which is always nice. But it was even nicer when you saw the throws he made to Jerramy Stevens and Sammie Stroughter. They weren't bombs, but they were perfectly thrown balls in situations where the coverage was very good. In both cases, McCown drilled the ball to the only spot it could have been caught.

When's the last time you saw a Tampa Bay quarterback throw into traffic with that much confidence? You'd probably have to go back to Doug Williams. I'm not saying McCown is Williams, but I think his performance made it perfectly clear he's the best quarterback on the roster and that should come as a huge relief to the Bucs.

Prior to Saturday night, the quarterback situation was very cloudy. Byron Leftwich was slightly better than McCown in the first preseason game and they were about even in training camp. The Bucs also have first-round pick Josh Freeman, but they want to bring him along slowly. Up until McCown took the field in the second quarter, it looked like Leftwich was going to win the job -- almost by default. Leftwich started and played all right, but didn't do anything special.

McCown did something special and that's probably going to make him the opening-day starter. With Freeman waiting in the wings, this may only be a short-term job. But, at long last, the Bucs can feel pretty good that they've got a quarterback who earned the job.

Some other observations on Tampa Bay's preseason performance against Jacksonville:

  • Seventh-round pick Stroughter has looked good throughout the preseason. But a lot of late-round picks have flashes in August and disappear when the regular season comes. Stroughter's not going to disappear. This guy's going to play a lot this season. He's pretty much locked up the No. 3 receiver spot and he's going to be a regular on special teams, both in the return game and on the coverage units.
  • The Bucs have been listing Earnest Graham as their No. 1 running back. But it's pretty obvious Derrick Ward's going to be the main guy. He's got the big salary and he made a couple of big runs against the Jaguars.
  • Speaking of running backs, how are the Bucs going to keep undrafted rookie Kareem Huggins off the roster? The guy's had two very strong preseason games. Yes, Tampa Bay's loaded at running back with Ward, Graham, Cadillac Williams and Clifton Smith, but I think the Bucs have to find a way to keep Huggins.
  • Defensive end Gaines Adams showed some signs of life -- and a few moves as a pass rusher.
  • Freeman had a gorgeous touchdown run. But he might want to work on his footwork when spiking the ball. He took an ugly spill as he tried to celebrate.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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