Turning the Page

In the first pre-season game the starters aren't expected to play much, so it wasn't a surprise that, before the New York Jets could finish their first drive on offense, the first team Buc defense was on the sidelines.

Jet quarterback Chad Pennington victimized safety John Howell when he connected with his newest receiver, Curtis Conway, on a 42-yard completion. The big play exploited a Buccaneer blitz that eventually led to a 1-yard touchdown run by LaMont Jordan. With the extra point, the Jets took an early 7-0 lead. Pennington completed all four of his passes for 60-yards on this impressive opening drive.

Quarterback Brad Johnson lead the Bucs to a field goal in their first possession thanks in part to a key third down pass to tight end Ken Dilger, who turned up-field barreling his way for a 16-yard gain. However, the Bucs were unable to score a touchdown and had to settle for a 37-yard field goal from Martin Gramatica bringing the Bucs to within 7-3. 

Johnson worked a lone series with the first team offense, but threw some balls in the direction of fourth year wide receiver Charles Lee (from Central Florida). Lee's 6'3, 227-pound frame is a nice target for any quarterback and with Keenan McCardell sidelined, Lee made the most of his opportunities. Displaying his good hands, he made a great catch from Johnson to sustain the opening drive. Lee caught a total of four passes for 50 yards in a strong effort to gain a roster spot. 

Shaun King came out and looked as comfortable as he did in training camp, completing his first three passes. King made quick decisions and was extremely accurate with his throws. He ended his day completing 11 of 14 passes for over 100 yards solidifying, in my opinion, his second string position. He led the Bucs to a field goal in the second quarter to cut the lead to 7-6. On the Bucs ensuing possession King would start where he left off, engineering an 80-yard drive that was capped off by a four-yard run by running back Thomas Jones. Charles Lee would again play a role in the scoring drive, catching a ball in traffic on a third down, giving the Bucs a first and goal inside the five with 17 seconds left in the half. Seemingly stuffed in the backfield, Jones made some great moves and darted into the end zone. Jones did an excellent job avoiding deep penetration by the Jet defensive line, making his run all the more impressive. With a successful extra point the Bucs took a 13-7 lead into the locker room.

Rookie Chris Simms played the second half for the Bucs. He was 8 of 11 for 79 yards, and in the fourth quarter threw his first touchdown pass as a pro. So how did the rookie look outside the numbers? Although nervous to begin with, I thought he settled in nicely. I saw that he was knowledgeable with the playbook and in executing the plays, pointing guys in different directions correlating with formations. I also loved the fact that the rookie wasn't afraid to call some audibles. Sure he looked a little tentative with some of his throws, but that's to be expected.

With just over two minutes to play, the Jets scored on an 11-yard pass from rookie quarterback Brooks Bollinger to Gabe Reid, cutting the score to 30-14. Otherwise, the Buccaneer defense shut down any Jet attack in the second half.

Impact Performances:
With a defense filled with playmakers, Tim Wansley proved he has the ability to make big plays. Not only did the second year cornerback have excellent coverage when he was tested, he also chipped in with a few tackles. In the fourth quarter, Wansley was sent on a blitz and made the most of his opportunity. Tim sacked the quarterback, forced a fumble, recovered the loose ball, and scampered 47-yards for a touchdown. I'm sure the veterans admired his awareness and poise to pick up the ball after the sack, and surely that made a huge impact with Monte Kiffin.

Thomas Jones report:
In Japan, Jones showed glimpses of why he was a first round draft pick. His footwork and power were both on display. Jones was patient for the holes to develop and when he hit them, he lowered his shoulder and got every inch he could of out a play. He ended the day compiling 45 yards on 11 carries but most of those yards came on sheer determination and elusiveness in the backfield. He seems gifted enough to challenge Michael Pittman for the starting running back position. But regardless, in my estimation even as the number two back, you can't keep a guy with that talent off the field.

Earnest Graham also did a nice job impressing the coaching staff, accumulating 46 yards on eight carries including a 16-yard gallop. Earnest is sure to get more carries in the next pre-season game, but played well in his limited action.

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