TAMPA, Fla. -- The starting offense and defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played about as well as anyone could have hoped for in the first half of Friday night’s 30-28 preseason victory against the New England Patriots. But they also might have suffered a big loss.
With 1 minute, 5 seconds left in the second quarter and the Bucs leading 17-7, Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph went down with a right knee injury. Joseph was carted off the field.
Coach Greg Schiano said Joseph's injury "doesn't look good'' after the game. He said the team will get a full evaluation Saturday when more tests are performed.
If Joseph is lost for an extended period, it could have big consequences on a Tampa Bay offensive line that has the potential to be a big strength. The Bucs brought in All-Pro Carl Nicks and the hope is that he and Joseph could form the league’s best guard tandem. If the Bucs have to use Ted Larsen or Derek Hardman in Joseph’s place, there’s a big drop off.
Some other observations on the Bucs:
In what may have been a sign of things to come, the Bucs started rookie Doug Martin at running back. LeGarrette Blount had started the first two preseason games. Blount sustained a minor injury in the last preseason game, but didn’t miss any practice time. I think this was a case of the Bucs wanting to get an extended look at Martin with the first-team offense because that might be where he’s at in the regular season. Martin had 13 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 12 yards. Blount carried seven times for 22 yards and didn’t get his first carry until the second quarter.
Speaking of first-round picks, the Bucs had two of them score first-quarter touchdowns. Safety Mark Barron, the seventh overall pick in the draft, returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown near the end of the first quarter. Credit veteran defensive back Ronde Barber for deflecting the Tom Brady pass.
Quarterback Josh Freeman's overall stats (10-of-19 for 102 yards) weren’t that spectacular. But the first drive of the night was extremely encouraging. Freeman seemed in rhythm with Vincent Jackson, who the Bucs added as a free agent to be their No. 1 receiver. On the opening drive, the Bucs drove 68 yards on eight plays and 49 of those yards came on three completions from Freeman to Jackson.
Left tackle Donald Penn, who missed all of training camp with a calf injury, got the start and his first playing time of the preseason.
Speaking of the pass rush, I think linebacker Adam Hayward is, at very least, earning himself some playing time as a situational pass-rusher. Hayward sacked Brady with a little more than six minutes left in the second quarter.