The Luke McCown era in Tampa Bay is over. I wish him well in Jacksonville. I wish it had worked out in Tampa Bay. But it's clear now that he'll be nothing more than a serviceable backup and spot-starter. Everyone has their role. At least the Bucs got something for him.
It's pretty clear why offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski was fired now. The playbook either wasn't complicated enough to didn't put the ball downfield enough. New offensive coordinator Greg Olsen told the media that he's added more complexity and more downfield throws to the playbook in anticipation of the regular season. Sure wish the Bucs had made a commitment to the latter under Jon Gruden when they had Joey Galloway.
Incidentally, Buffalo OC Turk Schonert was fired by his head coach, Dick Jauron, because the playbook wasn't simple enough. Dick should just stick to defense. Really.
I'm going to try and find the good in putting Josh Freeman as the No. 2 QB. First, Byron Leftwich is a solid mentor. He's seen everything you can see in the NFL and can impart that wisdom on Freeman. Second, Freeman probably won't feel as if his first NFL season will be a wash. He'll still be watching, but knowing that Leftwich has a short-term contract, he can watch with an eye toward starting in 2010 or 2011. Third, third QB Josh Johnson is just good enough to keep Freeman on his toes so he doesn't get complacent. And, finally, Freeman's athleticism allows the Bucs to install a Wildcat package, if they so choose.
I'm still not totally thrilled with Freeman being No. 2, but given that the future of this franchise is in his hands, it's better than just making him the starter on Day 1.
So Carnell Williams is a starter? That was easily the biggest surprise on the Bucs' depth chart this week. Williams didn't even play the first two preseason games. Sure, he's looked solid against vanilla NFL preseason defenses. But was that enough to make him the starter? Guess so. Of course, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham haven't set the world on fire. And with this weird 2-2-1 rotation head coach Raheem Morris wants to use, it probably doesn't matter who the starter is.
Looks like CB Aqib Talib will play this week. You may remember that he was arrested and charged with battery after a traffic stop in August. The NFL made it clear he won't be suspended, at least this week. So he'll be on the field for the season opener.
Some of the best news this week is that WR Antonio Bryant is pain-free and ready to play. Admittedly, I still have my reservations about the contract Bryant received in the offseason. I thought he was unnecessarily rewarded for one great season. My concern with his knee surgery was that he would miss time in the regular season, but now that he's on schedule to start on Sunday, the Bucs will get their full investment. Unless he gets hurt again. Or develops an attitude problem. Whichever comes first.
Back to the backfield for a moment. The St. Pete Times has written that the Bucs are considering a rocket backfield with Earnest Graham and Clifton Smith. You may remember that earlier I told you that the Bucs would use Williams, Graham and Ward in a 2-2-1 rotation. Now they're tinkering with using Graham and Smith in the same backfield? It's one thing to have choices. It's another to have too many. One of the drawbacks of changing offensive coordinators so close to the regular season is that the new playbook could be sensory overload for the first month of the season. This could be an example.
Preseason prognosticators have the Bucs at anywhere from 6-10 to 4-12. I can't say I disagree with that. I say 5-11.
If you watch one Bucs player on Sunday, make it Ronde Barber. I'm very interested to see if he can be successful in a new defensive scheme, one that relies more on aggressive man coverage than zone and Cover 2. It may define how much longer Barber remains in Tampa Bay.
You want my prediction for Sunday's game? If you're a Bucs fan, you probably don't. The Cowboys are coming into this game banged up, but they still have many more weapons than Tampa Bay. But it won't be a great offensive game that will aid Dallas most. It will be a great defensive game. Teams forget how well this defense plays, and now that Wade Phillips is pulling the strings on a more aggressive game plan, look out. I think the Bucs will have trouble with the Dallas defense all day. It will not be an opener for the record books. Dallas 35, Tampa Bay 17.