Bucs Game Grades

August 12 - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Miami Dolphins on Monday night in Jon Gruden's debut as the Pewter Pirates' head coach, 14-10. Which players fared well? Which players didn't? Pewter Report has distributed grades based on the Buccaneers' performance against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.

QUARTERBACKS
Tampa Bay starting QB Brad Johnson completed 2-of-5 passes for just 8 yards, but these numbers are a bit deceiving. Johnson had two of his passes dropped by receivers and he didn't get a pass interference penalty called on a throw to Bucs RB Michael Pittman. He played the first two series of the game before being relieved by Bucs second-string QB Rob Johnson.

Bucs QB Rob Johnson entered the game at the end of the first quarter. He completed a 20-yard pass to TE Ken Dilger. On the next play, Johnson scrambled for an 11-yard gain. Johnson hit WR Keenan McCardell in the back of the end zone for the offense's first and only touchdown of the game on the first play of the second quarter. Johnson did a terrific job of selling the play-action to Mike Alstott on the play, which allowed him to roll right and bide time to throw to McCardell. Johnson also used his legs to move the offense down the field. He rushed two times for 10 yards, including an 11-yard rush. Rob Johnson took three sacks against Miami, all of which could be attributed to him holding onto the football too long. Rob Johnson completed 3-of-5 passes for 33 yards.

Tampa Bay third-string QB Shaun King played the entire second half against Miami. On Tampa Bay's first drive of the third quarter, King threw a perfect strike downfield to WR E.G. Green in the end zone, but Green couldn't hold onto the ball. King showed some elusiveness by using his legs to move the chains on several plays. He rushed three times for 28 yards, including a 12-yarder. King was sacked four times, but like Rob Johnson, King held onto the ball too long, which contributed to those sacks.

*Tampa Bay's quarterbacks threw for a total of just 97 yards against Miami.

GRADE: B-


RUNNING BACKS
Bucs RB Michael Pittman took his first carry as a Buc 38-yards upfield to Miami's 21-yard line in the first quarter. Bucs FB Mike Alstott, left tackle Roman Oben and Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson all threw good blocks on the play. Pittman showed outstanding cutting ability and explosiveness on the run. Pittman left the game after two offensive series and rushed for 42 yards on two carries (21.0 average).

Alstott didn't get any carries on the first two offensive series, but he received three consecutive handoffs in Miami's red zone on the third series, the third of which gave Tampa Bay a first down at Miami's four-yard line at the end of the first quarter. The "A-Train" rushed three times for 12 yards (4.0 average). His longest run was an 8-yarder.

Bucs second-team RB Aaron Stecker gained 24 yards on a pitch from QB Rob Johnson in the second quarter. Johnson pitched to the left and Bucs C Jeff Christy and LT Roman Oben pulled and made great downfield blocks. Bucs FB Jameel Cook made a nice lead block to allow Stecker to run to the strongside for a nine-yard gain during the second quarter. Stecker finished the game with four rushes for 39 yards (9.0 average). He also hauled in one pass for nine yards.

Bucs RB Travis Stephens didn't show great blocking ability, but he took a pitch from Shaun King up the weakside of the field for a nice yard gain. On the next play, Stephens gained nine yards. Stephens led the Bucs' offense into field goal range, but Bucs backup K Rob Hart was wide right on a 47-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. Stephens' hands were suspect on Monday night. He dropped a perfect pass from QB Shaun King in the flat in the fourth quarter. Stephens did, however, pull in a 15-yard pass from King a few plays later. Stephens fumbled in the fourth quarter, which halted a Tampa Bay drive in Miami territory. Stephens picked up a huge fourth-down conversion late in the fourth quarter on a pitch to the strongside for an eight-yard gain. Stephens finished the game with 12 rushes for 59 yards (4.9 average). He also caught two passes for 20 yards.

*Tampa Bay's offense rushed 30 times for 182 yards (6.1 average) against Miami's defense on Monday night. The Bucs' rushing attack produced 103 yards of offense in the first half.

GRADE: B+


WIDE RECEIVERS:
Bucs WR Keenan McCardell hauled in his first pass as a Buc on a third down play in the first quarter. The play went for eight-yard gain, but the Bucs were short of a first down. McCardell hauled in his first touchdown as a Buc on the first play of the second quarter when Rob Johnson play-action faked to Mike Alstott and rolled right to hit the former Jaguar in the back of the end zone. McCardell caught two passes for 12 yards against Miami.

Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson didn't catch a pass, but he threw some terrific blocks in the running game, including a great block upfield on Pittman's 38-yard run the first quarter.

Bucs rookie WR Marquise Walker came up with a huge third-down catch in the fourth quarter, which moved the team 12-yards upfield and into Miami territory. Walker caught another third-down pass on a drag route late on the same drive in the fourth quarter, but the Bucs were short of the first down. Walker caught two passes for 15 yards.

GRADE: C+


TIGHT ENDS:
Bucs TE Ken Dilger's first reception as a Buc was thrown by QB Rob Johnson in the first quarter. It went for a 20-yard gain.

Bucs backup TE Todd Yoder threw a key block on fourth down late in the fourth quarter, which allowed Stephens to go eight yards upfield for a first down. The Bucs' tight ends threw some effective blocks in the running game.

GRADE: B


OFFENSIVE LINE:
Todd Washington started the game at right guard in place of Cosey Coleman, who injured his knee during pre-game warm-ups. He filled in admirably. Kenyatta Walker started the game at right tackle. Walker was flagged for a false start penalty in the beginning of the second quarter, but played fairly well throughout the game.

The first-team offensive line was in the game for the entire first half.

Bucs starting left tackle Roman Oben and starting center Jeff Christy made great blocks downfield on Stecker's 24-yard run in the beginning of the second quarter. They also threw key blocks on Pittman's 38-yard run in the first quarter.

Bucs third-team left tackle Brian Gruber allowed King to get sacked on the team's first offensive drive of the second half. Gruber allowed King to get sacked again in the fourth quarter.

Bucs second-team right tackle Jerry Wunsch struggled. His inconsistent play contributed to QB Shaun King getting sacked on two consecutive plays during the third quarter.

Bucs backup left guard Russ Hochstein threw some nice blocks in both the running and passing game. Tampa Bay's quarterbacks were sacked seven times on Monday night, but the offensive line did a nice job of protecting its quarterbacks and opening up holes in the running game.

GRADE: B-


DEFENSIVE LINE:
Bucs nose tackle Anthony McFarland made a nice tackle on a Miami screen play in the first quarter. "Booger" made another tackle on the next play when he stuffed Miami RB Ricky Williams. The Bucs first-team defense held Williams to nine yards rushing on five carries (1.8 average).

Ellis Wyms played right end when the second-team defense entered the game after two series. Wyms was called for being offsides at the end of the second quarter, but the Dolphins refused the penalty and took the first down. Wyms finished with two tackles.

Bucs backup DT Buck Gurley made a nice tackle on scrambling QB Ray Lucas on third down in the first quarter. Gurley recorded four tackles.

Bucs backup right defensive end Ron Warner stopped Miami's running back in the backfield on third down to force Miami to settle for a field goal in the fourth quarter. Warner made two tackles on Monday night.

GRADE: B


LINEBACKERS:
Second-team LB Joe Todd made a nice pass breakup on WR Deion Dwyer. He also made several big stops against Miami's rushing attack. Todd was called for pass interference late in the third quarter, which moved Miami to Tampa Bay's 23-yard line. Todd notched four tackles against Miami.

Bucs backup MLB Nate Webster was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on the quarterback in the third quarter, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty. Webster broke up a third down pass intended for WR Jeff Ogden in the third quarter. Miami attempted a field goal, but K Olindo Mare hit the right upright and missed. Webster led the team in tackles with 11 on Monday night.

Both Webster and starting MLB Shelton Quarles played extremely well against the run on Monday night. Quarles recorded two tackles.

Bucs second-team linebacker Ryan Nece recorded a sack in the third quarter, but Corey Smith was offsides, which negated the sack. Nece recorded three tackles.

GRADE: B+


SECONDARY:
Bucs second-team free safety Jermaine Phillips showed Lynch-like ability against the run and was all over the field on Monday night. Phillips made a touchdown-saving tackle at the five-yard line. Phillips recorded a whopping eight tackles.

Bucs second-team strong safety David Gibson left the game in the second quarter after he suffered a lacerated jaw. He returned in the third quarter and recorded two tackles. Phillips moved to strong safety and made a tackle on the first play. John Howell replaced Phillips at free safety. Howell recorded three tackles.

Bucs CB Dwight Smith had a rough night. He allowed Miami WR Robert Baker to get wide open toward the right sideline and haul in a 33-yard pass in the second quarter, which set Miami's offense up at the Bucs' 24 yard line. Baker hauled in a 19-yard pass on the next play. Smith had nice coverage on Dedric Ward on third down in the second quarter, but Lucas threw a perfect strike to Ward to complete an 80-yard drive for Miami's first score of the game. Smith allowed a 24-yard pass to Baker on the next drive. But the second-year cornerback out of Akron rebounded with two terrific goal line plays, the second of which caused a fumble and allowed Howell to recover on Bucs' 1-yard line. On the first stop, Smith up-ended Miami's running back.

Bucs CB Corey Ivy intercepted a pass intended for WR Jeff Ogden on the first drive of the second half. Miami QB Zak Kustok threw the pass, but Ivy read it perfectly. Ivy didn't record any tackles.

Tampa Bay's defense allowed Miami to gain 235 yards in the air on Monday night.

GRADE: B-


SPECIAL TEAMS:
Buccaneers wide receiver Frank Murphy returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Bucs running back Aaron Stecker made a nice block at the 20-yard line and tight end Marco Battaglia made the key block around the 30-yard line. Both blocks helped Murphy get to the end zone for the score.

Tom Tupa's first punt was an ugly 33-yarder in the first quarter. Tupa turned in a 55-yarder in the second quarter.

Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica missed a 34-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter. Gramatica's miss blew Pittman's 38-yard run, which set the team up in field goal range.

Bucs backup K Rob Hart was wide right on a 47-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter.

Bucs rookie CB Tim Wansley was called for a false start on a Tampa Bay punt in the second quarter.

Bucs rookie S Jermaine Phillips had a great showing on defense, but he didn't fare as well on special teams. Phillips failed to hold two blocks on punt returns for Aaron Lockett.

Bucs LB Jack Golden made a nice open-field tackle on the second half opening kickoff.

Bucs rookie tight end Tracey Wistrom was called for holding on a kickoff return in the third quarter, which pinned Tampa Bay back on its own 11-yard line.

GRADE: B-


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