Bruce Gradkowski has done a good job moving the football since he entered the game in the fourth quarter. He's gone 7-for-11 for 113 yards and a touchdown. Plus he piloted the short drive for Kenneth Darby's score.
Still, I'm not sure he's done enough to overtake Luke McCown for the backup job. McCown's pocket presence seems more assured and he did nothing to tarnish his excellent outing last week. McCown built on it. The two mistakes the Bucs made with him at quarterback were not on him.
If nothing else, Gradkowski gave some encouraging signs that he's improving overall — and that's discouraging for Chris Simms, who didn't play tonight and may lose his job to Gradkowski if he can't get on the field.
Kenneth Darby atones for his earlier fumble by scoring in short yardage late in the fourth quarter, making it 31-19 Jags. The Bucs go for two but fail. The pass was broken up. FB Byron Storer and T Donald Penn appeared to have the blocks that sprung Darby.
Set aside the fumble, and it's another solid outing for Darby. But you can't really set aside the fumble, can you? Especially when the Jags turned that fumble into a TD.
Backup guard Jeb Terry is on the turf with an apparent injury in the fourth quarter. Terry is in a fight for a job with several players on the back side of the depth chart. It may be nothing more than cramps on a very hot night in Jacksonville.
Maybe not. Terry is leaving on a cart and needed help to get over to the cart. Remember — the cart is never a good thing for any football player.
Black recovers fumble
Do I smell a comeback? No.
But Quincy Black did make a nice fumble recovery to finish off Jacksonville's first turnover of the game with 8:47 left in the game. I can't say Black's had a good game, but he has pursued all over the field and used his speed well, which is exactly what the Bucs hoped he would do. Now that has to translate into consistent play and some big-play ability for him to take the next step as a pro.
Carlos Hendricks had the strip, and Ryan Nece stood up the ball carrier.
Mark Jones just scored a TD for the Bucs, a play after he dropped a pass he should have caught. Jones made the catch and made a nice cut upfield to avoid the tackler.
That's a big catch for Jones, who is fighting to make the team as a returner. Being able to show that he can be counted on as a wide receiver as well will go a long way toward him making the roster.
He hasn't done much as a returner tonight, so a catch like that keeps him on Gruden's radar.
It's now 30-13 Jags. FB Byron Storer just dropped a 2-point conversion pass. He's losing the numbers game at FB and that doesn't help.
Jackson in good shape
Encouraging news on backup safety Tanard Jackson. His leg problems were just cramps. He should play next week.
Third-string (or fourth-string quarterback) Bruce Gradkowski is now in the game.
The tongue lashing is coming
Alvin Pearman just made it 31-7 Jags on a 95-yard drive reminiscent of the long drives the Baltimore Ravens and the Seattle Seahawks put on the Buccaneers to start and end the 2006 regular season.
This has to disappoint Jon Gruden, who saw his reserves play quite well a week ago. This will be one classic tongue lashing after the game for the reserves, and it will be a "Welcome to the NFL" moment for the rookies because he will NOT be happy.
Adams with a sack
DE Gaines Adams just got his first preseason sack, by my count, late in the third quarter.
Adams started upfield, fought off the tackle and cut inside to David Garrard, who was trying to step up in the pocket. Adams got him by the legs and got some help from fellow rookie Greg Peterson.
Overall, the pass rush is a little better in the third quarter.
A conversation on the sideline
Kenneth Darby was sitting on the bench after the fumble, having a sober conversation with running backs coach Art Valero. Knowing Valero, he's probably giving Darby a pep talk right now. The rookie's done too much good to let one mistake ruin his preseason. Confidence is a fragile thing, and Valero's goal there should be to make sure Darby doesn't lose that.
Opening drive looks good, and then …
For the second straight week the Bucs are moving the ball well in the second half on the ground, as rookie Kenneth Darby and solid play from the offensive line has put the Bucs in position for a possible score.
Give Luke McCown some credit, too. He escaped for a big rushing gain midway through the drive for 27 yards to get the Bucs into Jags territory.
Then, Darby fumbled. He made a nice catch over the middle on a pass from McCown — the pass hit him perfectly — and Darby did not protect the ball well enough to avoid the fumble.
That's the second big fumble of the night for the Bucs, both coming on potential scoring drives. That's going to put Gruden in full Chucky mode this week during practice at One Buc.
Mixing up the OL
Dan Buenning is at left guard now, with Anthony Davis at left tackle. I thought I saw Donald Penn at right tackle, but I'm not sure.
Buenning playing a little guard isn't a huge shock. What's going to keep Buenning on this team is showing he can play both effectively. If the Bucs are lucky, Buenning can fill the role that Sean Mahan had the past couple of years before he moved on to Pittsburgh in free agency. The Bucs also want to keep Davis sharp at left tackle, should Petitgout get hurt.
Should have had that one
Sabby Piscitelli SHOULD have caught that deep ball from David Garrard for an interception. Granted, he was falling back, but he was in enough control to make the catch.
Sammy Davis just bailed out the rook by breaking up the third-down pass.
You know secondary coach Raheem Morris is giving Piscitelli an earful right about now.
S Tanard Jackson, who had a great first half — and was one of the few second- and third-teamers to have a good first half — seemed to pull up lame on the opening kickoff of the second half.
He appeared to be holding that right hamstring area. If so, that's not a good sign. He's had a great camp and a great preseason so far, and it would be a shame to lose him for any length of time, as he is providing great competition for Jermaine Phillips.
It's a blowout
David Garrard takes the ball himself for a TD run to make it 24-7. The Bucs secondary had good coverage, but the middle was left unattended. Garrard made a good read.
Gruden doesn't look amused at all. Happy 44th birthday, Jon (it was Friday, but hey, better late than never).
Headed for the half. Take a break. You deserve it.
Sammy Davis, you job is on the line
David Garrard just hit Sharon on a 17-yard pass down the sideline with Tampa Bay's Sammy Davis in coverage.
Davis made a nice play in coverage earlier, but he can't afford to miss on those plays. The former first-round pick is fighting for work, and he's not guaranteed a roster spot, despite the fact that he's second on the depth chart. The Bucs need to see him as a reliable fourth cornerback.
By the way, Tanard Jackson just made another great play in the back of the end zone, knocking away a potential touchdown pass to Matt Jones.
Jermaine? Jermaine? You paying attention?
Byron Leftwich played late into the second quarter and led two touchdown drives, finishing 5 of 11 passing for 75 yards. I didn't think he looked that sharp, though. The Jags did a lot of their damage on the ground and after the catch. Still, he's a step up from David Garrard and there should be no question that he's the starter.
Youngsters go the distance
Rookie LG Arron Sears, second-year RG Davin Joseph and second-year RT Jeremy Trueblood played the entire first half and, after a slow start, seemed to settle in and play fairly well. Most of the Bucs' rushing yardage, however, came from backup Earnest Graham and against the Jags' second-team defense, so you can't really say they had a great outing, in terms of running the ball. They really lacked that push with Cadillac Williams on the field.
John Wade saw some time in the second quarter at center. Looks like Matt Lehr got the start instead of the veteran, who I still think is the logical choice to start the season. The pair of snap exchange issues Lehr had in the shotgun and under center didn't help his case, either.
Jags score again
LaBrandon Toefield takes it in for a Jags rushing touchdown.
The Jags did a great job of sealing off, among others, RE Gaines Adams, and leaving a seam for Toefield to run through.
The Bucs defense did not look good on those last three plays. It was a good example of the Jags' ability to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage.
It should be noted that Adams showed earlier in the drive the importance of a backside pass rush. Greg Spires and Ellis Wyms flushed Byron Leftwich out of the pocket and, while Leftwich got the pass off and completed it, he took a near-simultaneous hit from Adams, who never gave up on the play. Good to see that presence of mind from the rookie.
Luke McCown just threw his first incompletion, which was batted at the line of scrimmage and intended for Michael Clayton.
He threw his second one immediately afterward, intended for Maurice Stovall.
Bucs defense comes through
Tanard Jackson is playing some great football.
First, he broke up a short touchdown pass to Lewis (the play by play says Sabby Piscitelli, but it was Jackson). Then Jackson had a part in holding up RB Greg Jones on third and goal from the 2 yard line. That came right after a turnover by the Bucs, so holding the Jags to three points was a big victory.
Jackson appears to be building on the good performance he had last week backing up SS Jermaine Phillips. I said coverage was where he might shine brighter than Phillips, and he's proving it.
Bucs down 10-7.
Horrible ball protection
The Bucs appeared to be moving toward a touchdown when Maurice Stovall lost the football after a catch. Jacksonville's Jamaal Fudge picked it up and nearly took it for a touchdown before QB Luke McCown caught him from behind.
Stovall had made an inside move before he fumbled. He may have had his knee on the ground before the fumble, but the Bucs didn't challenge But he HAS to hold on to the football, no matter what, in that situation. It's not a good break for the young receiver.
O-Line reserve in
Donald Penn is in for Luke Petitgout at LT. He appears to be the only sub in the game right now.
Reserves filter in
Sabby Piscitelli is now in the game, his first NFL action after missing last week's game. Most of the second-team defensive players are now in the game. CB Sammy Davis just showed some great coverage on John Broussard.
Jags just got a 38-yard gain. Maurice Jones-Drew escaped a tackle by Adam Hayward. The rookie just didn't wrap him up. That's exactly the type of poor tackling that hurt the Buccaneers last year. Hayward never got his arms around him and appeared to have ample time to do so.
Fred Taylor cashed in to tie the game at 7-7.
It wasn't a hard shot, but Jags DT John Henderson got to QB Luke McCown's knees after that pass to Ike Hilliard was away. But Henderson didn't lead with his head, which is a definite no-no in the rule book.
Quick grades on the Bucs after one quarter:
Offense: B. Jeff Garcia moved the ball well on that second possession and he finished perfect. I would have liked to see the running game produce, though. Cadillac Williams had minus-1 yard on three carries.
Defense: B. Limited Jacksonville to one first down. Got a decent pass rush, especially out of Kevin Carter. Used the 3-4 as a change of pace effectively.
Special teams: B. Losing Antoine Cash could be a blow. Josh Bidwell used a 74-yard punt to pin the Jags at the one. Mark Jones had two chances to show big-play ability on punt returns, but was stopped quickly.
Jeff Garcia is done after three possessions. Luke McCown is now in.
Garcia finished 6 of 6 for 43 yards and a TD.
Earnest Graham is also in at running back. The starting offensive line appears to still be in the game.
Jags sent out again
The Jags get their first first down — just barely — on a pass by Byron Leftwich. Phillip Buchanon nearly stopped his receiver at the first down marker.
Carter is looking great. He just sacked Leftwich, his second big backfield penetration of the night. Also, I'm noticing that Greg White is playing some defensive tackle for Chris Hovan. White was signed a couple of weeks ago as a defensive end. White appears to be coming in mostly on third down, in an attempt to boost that pass rush.
Jeff Garcia just faked a pass and then tried to hand it off to Michael Pittman, but the exchange was muffed. It was a loss of 14. I'm not sure whose fault it was. Pittman didn't even appear to be looking when Garcia handed off.
And Michael Clayton was just called for an illegal block. First I've heard his name so far tonight.
Cash has a sprain
LB Antoine Cash is reported to have a knee sprain and is out for the rest of the game.
The Bucs went to a 3-4 alignment at the start of that second possession. The Bucs have fiddled with this during the offseason. They didn't stay with it long. Two plays later they were back in the 4-3 with Kevin Carter in the middle putting pressure on Byron Leftwich, whose third down pass was tipped away by Ronde Barber.
Antoine Cash is down on the field after the kickoff. It's not known what's wrong with him, but they appear to be preparing to cart him off the field. In my years of watching football, bringing a cart out is never good. Additionally, replays show that he was clutching his knee as he went to the ground.
He had 17 special teams tackles last year, so this could be a blow.
David Boston catches his first preseason TD from a scrambling Jeff Garcia.
Looks like those scramble drills in training camp have paid off. Garcia was flushed out and moving to his right, and Boston was in the back of the end zone. He found an open spot between two corners and caught a laser shot by Garcia across his body.
A holding call on Jacksonville CB Terry Cousin — who held Joey Galloway on what looked like a sure TD pass — set up the score.
This is definitely all Gruden could have asked for early — an efficient drive that ended in a touchdown. The offense looked crisp, though I think the pass protection is struggling. Most of Garcia's best completions have come on the run. But he's 5-for-5 for 43 yards and a TD through two possessions.
Garcia perfect so far
That first down seemed to invigorate the offense. Jeff Garcia hit Joey Galloway on a slant for his fourth straight completion before a time out. This is the kind of efficiency the Bucs were looking for when they signed Garcia. There's an unflappability he's showing that many of the Bucs QBs I've seen the past few years just haven't.
A great example of Jeff Garcia's elusiveness on the first play of the second possession. He was dead to rights as RE Bobby McCray had him in the grasp, but Garcia slipped out and turned it into a positive gain.
Who's block was that? New LT Luke Petitgout. That's a great debut for the $15 million man.
And Garcia directs his first first down as a Buc, taking Matt Lehr's high snap and hitting Michael Pittman on a slant for the first down.
Bucs on defense
Great field position for the Bucs defense after the punt.
Kevin Carter started on the left side for Greg Spires. Otherwise the defensive starting lineup was normal.
The Jags looked about as anemic on offense on that first possession as the Bucs. But I saw DE Patrick Chukwurah and Carter get a good push on the outside before they were pushed out of the play.
Bucs on offense
Tampa Bay starts the game with the football, after a touchback. The starting lineup resembles the depth chart, except TE Anthony Becht was in the slot.
Three and out for the offense. All three formations were three wide receiver sets with a single back, including the shotgun on third down. Looks like RG Davin Joseph was beat on that third down play by one of those outstanding inside tackles from Jacksonville.
Great punt by Josh Bidwell (74 yards) and it's killed on the one. Great work on special teams.
Found out just before the game that LB Sam Olajubutu will not play after incurring a pregame injury. WR coach Richard Mann also experienced some cramping and was taken off the field, but he should return.
Things to watch for
Here are some things to watch for tonight:
Will the Bucs get a better pass rush than they did last week (just one sack)?
How will LB Barrett Ruud fare in his first game without Shelton Quarles looking over his shoulder?
Will DE Gaines Adams show improvement after his first outing?
Will QB Luke McCown and RB Kenneth Darby build on their standout performances last week?
How will Gs Arron Sears and Davin Joseph handle Jacksonville DTs Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, perhaps the most potent combo in the NFL?
And, will the offense move the ball better with QB Jeff Garcia under center.
Playing for the first time tonight
Among the players that we can expect to see tonight for the first time this preseason are S Sabby Piscitelli, OT Luke Petitgout and LB Barrett Ruud. It does not appear that QB Chris Simms will play tonight. He's on the field, but word is he's not going to play.
Game time closing in
Kickoff is set for about 45 minutes from now at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium between the Buccaneers and the Jaguars. Stay with Bucsblitz.com throughout the game for my analysis, updates and observations about the Buccaneers.