Some quick observations on Tampa Bay after the Buccaneers lost their preseason opener to Miami, 10-7, on Saturday night.
Forget the final score. This one was a victory for the Buccaneers. They controlled the game when the starters were in, and even through a long stretch with the second teams playing. It wasn’t until the benches really got cleared that the Dolphins won the game.
I thought quarterback Josh Freeman had a very strong outing. He completed all four of his passes, and his touchdown throw to Sammie Stroughter showed how much his patience and maturity have grown. It's also obvious that he has developed chemistry with rookie receiver Mike Williams. Freeman also ran the ball a couple times, which is nice and certainly will help in the regular season. But I’m not so sure it was such a great idea to have him scrambling around on a rainy and muddy night in Miami.
Tampa Bay’s defense did something it couldn’t do last season. It got the Dolphins off the field. Geno Hayes busted up a screen pass, E.J. Biggers made a nice play against receiver Brandon Marshall and Sabby Piscitelli came through with pressure on a blitz to force the Dolphins to punt on their first three drives.
Backup quarterback Josh Johnson threw an interception and lost a fumble on a sack. But he threw the ball pretty well overall. I’ve questioned why the Bucs haven’t brought in an experienced backup. But I’m going to back off that a bit. Johnson has some talent, and might be able to be effective if he can take better care of the ball.
I know the playbook is a lot more sophisticated with offensive coordinator Greg Olson. But there was one moment when I had to laugh out loud as the Bucs ran a play that reminded me of the mid-1990s. Derrick Ward took a handoff and ran straight into fullback Chris Pressley’s back. It was just a one-time thing. But there was a time back in the dreary old days when Errict Rhett taking a handoff, running into Mike Alstott’s back and plowing for a yard or two was Tampa Bay’s signature play.
Speaking of Ward, who’s fighting to earn more carries, he looked good at times. He even was having a nice run on a third-down draw play, until he fumbled. Turning the ball over probably will wipe out the rest of the good stuff he did Saturday. The Bucs aren’t going to be a team with a big margin for error, so they’re not going to give a lot of carries to a guy who puts the ball on the ground.
Running back Kareem Huggins, who has had a nice camp, continued to impress. This guy’s going to make the roster, but he’s going to do more than that. He’s got a shot at some playing time in the backfield and on special teams.