Observation Deck: Bucs-Dolphins breakdown

Yes, Tampa Bay beat Miami, 31-28, on Saturday night. But in this edition of "Observation Deck," I turn a critical eye to the best and the worst of that game.

Before we get started, I put together four keys to keep an eye on for Saturday's game in my last edition of "Observation Deck." It's time to tally up those results:

1. The pass rush: I wanted to judge the first-team defense on its own, in terms of pressuring the quarterback. The Cato June interception was nice — and it came about because Kevin Carter and Greg Spires collapsed the pocket. But Miami quarterback Trent Green seemed too comfortable on that scoring drive in the first quarter. The Dolphins did not credit any of the Bucs first-teamers with a quarterback hurry or a sack. Tampa Bay did have three sacks, but two came from third-string tackle Greg Peterson in garbage time. And Gaines Adams? Well, more on him later.

2. The center-snap exchange

A week of intent concentration on the matter rendered it a non-issue for the Bucs on Saturday. Good news for all.

3. The first-team running attack

When Carnell Williams bolted for that 12-yard run in the second quarter, I thought I was seeing things. When he did it again for 14 yards, I thought I was sitting at a game in 2005.

That second run, to me, stuck out because of his cut past the defender, a cut I've only seen Williams make in training camp.

To say the least, that was encouraging after watching Williams stutter-step into losses so far this preseason.

"It did (feel good)," Williams said. "The O-line did a great job up front. I saw the crack and I hit it. I was good to get to the second level and make some guys miss."

I asked right guard Davin Joseph about those runs afterward and I could tell there was some relief on his part.

"Shoot, man, I don't like it when that guy (Williams) gets out of the game," Joseph said. "But we did good with the few chances that we did have. Cadillac, you know, is becoming more explosive. That's hard to say because he's already pretty doggone explosive. But he's learning the offense, just like everyone else, and I think he's developing more and understanding everything a little bit better."

Williams probably won't play on Thursday, so at least he and the Bucs have two good pieces of film to look at entering the Seattle game. It was encouraging.

4. Turnovers

Tampa Bay's defense forced two turnovers and turned them into 10 points. June's interception, at the time, looked like a tone-setter (more on that later, too). Ronnie Brown ought to file burglary charges with the Miami-Dade Police Department against June on that play. The second, forced by third-string end Julian Jenkins, led to a field goal.

Now, moving on to other things…

An inconsistent defense

The first-team defense didn't get the universal praise it received last week. Sure, there was June's interception on Miami's first drive, plus forcing a punt on the third possession.

Tampa Bay safety Donte Nicholson (30) and Sabby Piscitelli, top, stop Miami's Ray Perkins on Saturday in Miami. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)
But, in between was a nine-minute, 13-second drive eerily reminiscent of how last season started and ended for Tampa Bay's defense — giving up long touchdown drives.

Trent Green moved the Dolphins 73 yards, converted two third downs and a fourth down and then tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Martin over the heads of several Bucs in coverage. The drive also included that nifty Statue of Liberty play.

These are the drives that can sap a defense dry in regular season games. They also allow an offense to acquire a rhythm that can be used the entire game. In offense, rhythm is everything.

"Tonight, we started fast, but we weren't able to maintain our momentum on the second drive of the game," linebacker Derrick Brooks said.

Tampa Bay certainly never gave up another drive that long all night, but they did give up 28 points, signaling that this unit — as a whole — isn't quite ready for the regular season. I think there is a more significant gap — at least right now — in the level of play from the first team to the second team than in years past. That will make a difference when it's time to deal with injuries or rest starters.

Perhaps the days of weekly defensive domination are done for this defense right now. I overheard someone in the locker room say something akin to, "Maybe this is what we can expect now — up one week and down the next." Since we'll see very little of the first team on Thursday, we'll have to wait until the regular season for that answer.

West coast inclination

Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia looks for a receiver on Saturday. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)
Jon Gruden told reporters after Saturday's game that he came out wanting to throw the ball "50 times" against Miami.

That may not have been an exaggeration.

Look at the run-pass ratio on the three drives starting quarterback Jeff Garcia played on Saturday — 4 runs to 15 passes.

The football purist in me is screaming. But this is the West Coast offense's basic philosophy at work — use the short and intermediate passing game to open up the run.

So maybe it's no mistake that Williams had his two best runs of the preseason — plus a 4-yarder late — on the final drive of his and Garcia's night. You could make a case that as Gruden is trying to get Garcia as much work as possible this preseason, he's also using that as an avenue to test a more pure use of his offensive philosophy in the regular season.

So, is he hurt or not?

You may have noticed that starting right tackle Jeremy Trueblood didn't play much on Saturday. He came out after the first possession, replaced by Donald Penn.

After the game, a reporter asked Gruden if Trueblood was hurt and Gruden said yes, though he didn't specify the injury. That same reporter asked Trueblood if he was hurt, and Trueblood said "No." I even asked Joseph if Trueblood was all right and Joseph said he was fine.

So? Is he or isn't he? It's obvious they wanted to look at Penn on both sides of the line (he played left tackle later). The Bucs are looking for a player that can back up both the right and left tackles. Perhaps that's all the Bucs were doing with Penn on Saturday, which curtailed Trueblood's playing time.

If that's the case, why not say it? And why would Trueblood say he's not hurt when the head coach says he is?

Boston, but no Boston

David Boston played, but he didn't speak to the media afterward, something I pretty much expected after I talked to one Bucs official who told me Boston would be smart not to say anything.

The Bucs will wait until the results of Boston's urine test come back. It's smart for the Bucs not to be reactionary to this. Let's say they suspended Boston for the game, and his test came back negative. If that's the case, I would contend that the charges against him would be dropped. But, in that case, Boston could likely file a grievance against the team for wrongful suspension.

I spoke over dinner to a colleague and we're in total agreement — this is one of the weirdest training camps and preseason in recent Bucs history. It should be called "Camp What's Next?"

Game balls

Mark Jones Apparently he heard the rumors about Eddie Drummond and put together his best night of the preseason so far. He returned one punt for 18 yards, and three kickoffs for a 31-yard average. Chad Owens, his competition, returned two punts for a 7.5-yard average and two kickoffs for a 25.0-yard average.

Jones did better in the field-position battle. Three of his returns put the Bucs outside their own 30-yard line. Owens only managed that once.

Cato June: Congrats to the former Colt for his first defensive touchdown as a Buc. Monte Kiffin hopes there's plenty more where that came from.

Greg Peterson: I thought the fifth-round pick had disappeared. But he managed two sacks late, and that keeps him in the mix for the fifth defensive tackle spot on the roster.

Bruce Gradkowski: Give it up for the bald one. He went 10-of-16 for 104 yard and led two touchdown drives. His battle with Luke McCown for the backup spot is dead even, and Gradkowski has a trump card up his sleeve — Gruden loves him.

Carnell Williams: We've been over this.

Julian Jenkins: Coaches love turnovers. They really love players that force turnovers. Forcing that fumble may have given Jenkins a pass through the first round of cuts.

Derrick Brooks: Three tackles in three possessions, including one during goal-line stand. He'll have games like that this season, even at age 34.

Miami's Tuff Harris (35) breaks up a pass to Tampa Bay's Chas Gessner (18) as Jason Allen (32) helps defend during the second half of Saturday's game in Miami. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)
Personnel updates

We won't know Trueblood's status until Monday. Nor will we know the status of TE Alex Smith until then. He suffered an ankle injury on Saturday. CB Phillip Buchanon, S Tanard Jackson and OG Arron Sears were all inactive. They all sat out parts of this week due to injuries. Also, G Jeb Terry, TE Matt Herian, TE C.J. Leak and DE Tim Jones did not play. You can likely expect Herian, Leak and Jones to be among the cuts on Tuesday.

The last word

This one is on Gaines Adams. Since I wasn't able to attend last weekend's game in Jacksonville, this was my first time to see him live. I set aside some time to watch Adams going one-on-one with Dolphins left tackle Vernon Carey. What I saw left me, well, underwhelmed.

I'm not a trained NFL scout, but I saw a player that really only had one pass rush move — run up the field. Carey had no problem keeping up with Adams and forcing him to the outside. I mean — NO problem.

If Adams has an array of pass rush moves — as I've heard he does — he didn't put them on display on that drive. He did make one tackle on Cory Schlesinger, but he took advantage of Carey pulling away from the play.

He later produced a different move, starting upfield on a second-string tackle and then cutting inside.

Perhaps he was simply overmatched by Carey, a well-respected veteran tackle. Most of Adams' highlight plays this preseason have come against second- and third-string talent. That's actually not unusual given the fact that Adams is a rookie.

A colleague made a good point last night. Perhaps, in the lights and excitement of NFL football, a young player becomes nervous and lean on what he knows. In this case, Adams knows how to speed rush. Perhaps his inexperience prompts him to rely too heavily on this one move, one that most NFL tackles can handle. It's impossible to judge Adams' progress as a NFL player through three preseason games. So perhaps we should be a bit more patient before we start making comparisons to, say, Keith McCants?

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.

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