By Jeff Berlinicke
After a lackluster preseason opener last Friday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are
expected to wheel out some of its heavy artillery against the improving
Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday.
Game time is 7 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.
Bucs coach Jon Gruden surprised Bucs fans last week in a 20-17 overtime victory
over the Tennessee Titans when he played Cadillac Williams for only one play, a
decoy rout early in the first half. Instead, he let Earnest Graham and Derek Watson, two players battling for the No. 3 spot, play most of the game. Watson
and Graham had similar numbers, but Graham played most of the first half while
Watson went in the second. First round draft pick Williams – the No. 5 player
taken overall - and incumbent starter Michael Pittman are expected to see the
majority of the playing time in the first half while Watson supercedes Graham as
the No. 3 guy.
The Bucs are also expected to give backup quarterback Luke McCown more snaps,
taking over for starter Brian Griese sometime in the second quarter. Chris Simms
played until well in the fourth quarter against Tennessee and appeared rattled
at times. McCown played against a bunch of players who will be on Tennessee's
released list next week, so he hasn't gotten a chance against at least a second
team defense. McCown started three games for the Cleveland Browns last year and
has impressed Bucs coaches with his ability to pick up the offensive system.
Simms will likely see mop up duty late in the fourth quarter.
Once again the Bucs are entering the game with a piecemeal offensive line. Jeb Terry, Anthony Davis, Sean Mahan, and Derrick Deese are all out with injuries
and the Bucs have been scrambling through the waiver wires trying to find anyone
with a pulse to play the role of practice dummy until the team gets healthy.
Except for offensive line, third string halfback, and backup quarterback, few
spots are up for grabs, but the kicking game is dead even between Matt Bryant
and Todd France. Both were one-for-one last week against Tennessee and both have
impressed in training camp. Bryant, who had the game-winner against Tennessee,
likely, will kick first tonight, but the Bucs will be scanning g the waiver wire
until the last minute.
Jacksonville is coming off a 27-10 win over the Miami Dolphins in its exhibition
opener, but the Jaguars first team offense was unimpressive. Starting tailback
Fred Taylor is out until the beginning of regular season, and rookie Brett
Pearman and LaBrandon Toefield are battling it out to be Taylor's backup.
Pearman, out of Virginia, was impressive against the Dolphins and has the upper
hand. The Jaguars first round pick, Matt Jones, should see a lot of time at wide
receiver tonight. He played quarterback at Arkansas, and the Jaguars are trying
to convert him. He's been sloppy with his routes all summer and the Jaguars can
only hope he doesn't turn out similar to last season's first-round flop, wide
receiver Reggie Williams.
Jacksonville went 9-7 last season and had control of its destiny until Taylor
was lost for the final three games of the season.
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