Bucs Game Grades

August 30 - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers concluded its preseason against the Houston Texans on Friday night. It wasn't pretty, but the Pewter Pirates were victorious, 17-14. Which players fared well? Which players didn't? Pewter Report has distributed grades based on the Buccaneers' performance against the Houston Texans on Friday night.

QUARTERBACKS
Tampa Bay starting QB Brad Johnson played two series before leaving the game. The offensive line did a horrible job of providing him with time to throw, which led to his unimpressive performance. Despite being under an enormous amount of pressure, Johnson was able to complete 3-of-4 passes for 17 yards.

Bucs backup QB Rob Johnson relieved Brad Johnson in the second quarter. Johnson made a terrific play on his second snap of the game. He was about to be sacked, but on his way down, he pitched the ball forward to RB Aaron Stecker for a 7-yard gain. But a penalty negated the play. Rob Johnson didn't have much time to throw, either and completed just 2-of-5 passes for 31 yards.

Bucs third-string QB Shaun King entered the game for Tampa Bay's first offensive series of the third quarter. He drilled WR Karl Williams on a third-and-long from near his own goal line to give the Bucs a first down. But King overthrew Williams later in the drive, which resulted in an interception. King actually was provided time to throw by the offensive line, but he wasn't able to really take advantage of it. King was inconsistent and missed wide-open receivers too often. King completed 8-of-17 passes for 89 yards.

*Tampa Bay produced just 75 yards of offense in the first half. The Bucs' offense was only able to score three points against Houston's defense on Friday night.

GRADE: C


RUNNING BACKS
Tampa Bay starting tailback Michael Pittman received quite a few touches. He carried the ball five times for just 11 yards (2.2 avg.). He caught two passes for eight yards. Pittman wasn't very effective due to the poor blocking by the offensive line. Pittman was also a bit slow to hit holes, especially on a draw play in the first quarter.

Bucs backup RB Aaron Stecker didn't have room to run, either, but he did make some nice moves that allowed him to gain some positive yardage. Stecker gained 16 yards on seven carries (2.2 avg.). Stecker also caught one pass, which was on a screen-play, for a 16-yard gain.

Bucs rookie RB Travis Stephens was the only running back that fared somewhat well against Houston. Stephens was productive in both the running and passing game, especially in the fourth quarter, where he was basically Tampa Bay's main source of offensive production. Stephens rushed 10 times for 29 yards (2.9 avg.). He also caught two passes for 15 yards. Stephens did a nice job of holding onto the football and shedding some tackles.

*Tampa Bay rushed for 70 yards and averaged just 2.6 yards per carry against Houston.

GRADE: C-


WIDE RECEIVERS:
Tampa Bay WR Joe Jurevicius hauled in a pass from Rob Johnson toward the end of the second quarter, which got the offense a first down and then some. He also hauled in a pass from King for a first down in the middle of the third quarter. Jurevicius did a nice job of getting separation from the cornerback on the slant pattern. Jurevicius was open on couple of other occasions, but King couldn't deliver the ball to him. Jurevicius received plenty of playing time against Houston. He caught two passes for 27 yards.

WR Karl Williams received plenty of playing time with the second-team offense, but he dropped a pass while he was wide-open over the middle of the field. Williams did, however, make a clutch catch in the third quarter on third-and-long. Williams caught three passes for 46 yards.

Tampa Bay rookie WR Marquise Walker saw extended playing time against Houston. He caught his first pass of the game late in the third quarter. He finished the night with one catch, which went for a 7-yard gain.

*Tampa Bay threw for just 130 yards against Houston. The receivers didn't get many opportunities, but they also dropped too many passes.

GRADE: C-


TIGHT ENDS:
Tampa Bay backup tight end Marco Battaglia had a pass from Rob Johnson tip off of his hands and fall incomplete. Johnson's pass was a bit high, but Battaglia could have hauled it in. He also dropped a pass late in the fourth quarter. But Battaglia hauled in a pass from King in the third quarter and made a nice spin move in order to avoid a tackle and gain a first down. Battaglia's catch went for a 13-yard gain.

Bucs rookie TE Tracey Wistrom didn't look like he even entered the football game against Houston. The Bucs' tight ends weren't much of a help in pass protection against Houston.

GRADE: C


OFFENSIVE LINE:
Bucs starting right tackle Kenyatta Walker struggled against the Texans. He was called for holding twice on Tampa Bay's first offensive drive of the game after being beat badly throughout the drive. Walker was called for holding toward the end of the second quarter, which pushed the offense backward when they were driving into Houston territory. Bucs tackle/guard Cornell Green replaced Walker at right tackle in the final two offensive series of the first half. Green fared much better than Walker did.

Bucs backup right guard Todd Washington, who was starting in Cosey Coleman's (knee) place, did not play well against Houston. He was dominated in the trenches by Houston's defensive linemen. He did, however, fare better later in the game when he moved to center in place of Jeff Christy.

The first-string offensive line was bad, but the second-team offensive line was even worse.

Bucs backup left tackle Lomas Brown was called for holding, which negated Rob Johnson's athletic play in the second quarter. Brown struggled more in pass protection after that play.

Tampa Bay's offensive line also struggled to open up holes in the running game for starting RB Michael PIttman and Co.

Tampa Bay starting center Jeff Christy made two great blocks on a screen-play to Stecker toward the end of the first half. The play allowed the Bucs to get a first down.

Tampa Bay's offensive line started to play a bit better in the middle of the third quarter. They started to open some holes up in the running game and gave King more time to throw than any of the other quarterbacks.

*Tampa Bay's offensive line allowed five sacks and was a big reason why the offense struggled so badly against Houston's defense. The offensive line didn't handle the Texans' 3-4 defensive scheme well at all.

GRADE: D-


DEFENSIVE LINE:
Bucs backup defensive tackle Ellis Wyms started in place of under tackle Warren Sapp. Wyms did a good job of penetrating Houston's backfield. He recorded four tackles.

Tampa Bay left end Greg Spires, who started in place of Marcus Jones (knee), got good penetration on Houston's offensive line. He came close to bringing Houston QB David Carr down for a sack in the first quarter, but Houston's rookie quarterback was elusive enough to escape his grasp and avoid the sack. Spires recorded one tackle, but played well.

Tampa Bay backup right defensive end Corey Smith was held badly toward the end of the first half, but he still managed to bring down QB Mike Quinn for a sack. Smith came close to sacking QB Tony Banks in the third quarter, but Banks was able to throw the ball away before he went down. Smith finally recorded a sack on QB Kent Graham late in the fourth quarter. Smith finished the game with three tackles and two sacks.

Bucs backup left defensive end Ron Warner was called for a neutral-zone infraction at the beginning of the second half. Warner made a nice tackle in the Texans' backfield after King's interception. He made a couple of other nice tackles against Houston. Tampa Bay's defensive line played extremely well in the second half, and Warner's play was a big reason why they were so effective. Warner recorded five tackles and really disrupted Houston's offense in the second half.

Cedric Pittman recorded a sack on Kent Graham on the Texans' last drive of the game. Pittman recorded two tackles.

Houston rushed for 81 yards and averaged 2.8 yards per carry against Tampa Bay's defense. The Bucs' recorded four sacks.

GRADE: B


LINEBACKERS:
Tampa Bay backup MLB Nate Webster started in Shelton Quarles' (calf) place. He didn't take long to make an impact. He tackled RB Jonathan Wells' head on, which caused a fumble. Bucs FS Dexter Jackson picked it up and returned it for a touchdown to put the Bucs up 7-0. Webster had a terrific game. He was solid in terms of tackling and shedding blocks. He led the team in tackles with five.

Bucs third-string middle linebacker Justin Smith sacked Texans QB Mike Quinn toward the end of the first half. He came into the backfield untouched on a blitz up the middle. Smith recorded three tackles and one sack on Friday night.

*Tampa Bay's defense only allowed Houston's offense to convert 3-of-14 third down plays into first downs.

GRADE: B


SECONDARY:
Bucs free safety Dexter Jackson picked up RB Jonathan Well's fumble on the Texans' first offensive drive of the game. He returned the fumble 21 yards and into the end zone for a touchdown, which put Tampa Bay up 7-0. Jackson recorded one tackle.

Tampa Bay backup strong safety David Gibson was all over the field against Houston. He did a good job against the run and in pass coverage. Gibson recorded six tackles.

Tampa Bay rookie CB Tim Wansley made a tremendous hit late in the fourth quarter, which broke up a pass. Wansley also intercepted Graham on his last throw of the game. Wansley easily played his best game of the preseason.

Bucs nickel CB Dwight Smith was tested deep on several occasions, but he fared better against Houston than he had throughout the preseason. Smith still didn't display good recovery speed and/or ability, but he did maintain good coverage when it counted.

*Tampa Bay's starting defense was only in the game for two offensive series. They held Houston scoreless. Tampa Bay's defense only allowed Houston to throw for 157 yards.

GRADE: B


SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tampa Bay free safety John Howell blocked Houston's first punt of the game. It allowed Bucs RB Aaron Stecker to pick it up and return it 11 yards for a touchdown with 5:11 remaining in the first quarter.

Tampa Bay cornerback Dwight Smith made a nice tackle on a kickoff return. The tackle probably prevented what would have been a very long return by Texans in the first quarter.

Tampa Bay punter Tom Tupa had a good night. He pinned Houston on its own 5-yard line toward the end of the first half. Bucs CB Tim Wansley downed the punt. Tupa pinned Houston on its own 7-yard line with another punt late in the fourth quarter. Tupa averaged 41.4 yards per punt.

Wansley and LB Jack Golden teamed up to make a tackle on a kickoff toward the end of the third quarter.

Bucs rookie punt returner Aaron Lockett made a horrible decision at the beginning of the third quarter. He signaled for a fair catch at his own 2-yard line instead of letting the ball drop. From that point on, Karl Williams fielded punts for the Bucs.

Tampa Bay kicker Martin Gramatica drilled a 48-yard field goal toward the end of the third quarter to put the Bucs up 17-13.

GRADE: A-


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