The backup QBs: Both Brian Griese and Luke McCown looked sharp and led touchdown drives. Both were very efficient, though McCown had the better QB rating due to his touchdown pass. Looks like both are benefiting greatly from getting the reps that Jeff Garcia isn’t in practice. That ends on Tuesday when Garcia returns from his injury, but the Bucs will be better off behind him thanks to the past two weeks.
Michael Bennett: For the second straight week Bennett led the Bucs in rushing and looked sharp. His 23-yard run up the gut was especially memorable, as he sped through the hole before it could close and took on tacklers on his way to a first down. It’s that home run speed that compelled the Bucs to re-sign him in the first place.
Earnest Graham: After not playing last week, Graham rushed five time for 13 yards and a touchdown. He’s not a game-breaker, but get him within sniffing distance of the end zone and he’s getting in there. A full season of Graham inside the 5 should allow the Bucs to be more efficient with their goal-to-go offense.
Run defense: The Patriots have weapons aplenty at running back, yet the Bucs held them to 56 yards rushing. Sure, the Pats love using that spread but none of the backs distinguished themselves on Sunday. Perhaps it’s just because Tom Brady didn’t play again. Or perhaps the Bucs’ run defense is in midseason form already.
Turnovers: For the second straight game the Bucs offense didn’t commit one. The Bucs defense forced three, one of which turned into Sabby Piscitelli’s TD return. Elbert Mack’s interception also turned into a touchdown drive. Turnovers drive Jon Gruden nuts, so he has to be pleased after two games.
The backup offensive line: The Bucs gave up three sacks, all to second- and third-stringers. Guess who’s getting the business from offensive line coach Bill Muir on Monday? Not the starters, who gave up no hurries or sacks.
Quarterback pressure: The Bucs had no sacks and only three hurries. Only one of those hurries came from a player that would be considered part of the defensive line rotation (Marques Douglas). One has to wonder if the Bucs miss the injured Jovan Haye that much inside.
Wide receivers: This isn’t so much bad as it is perplexing. Twelve different receivers caught passes on Sunday. The leaders were 32-year old Ike Hilliard, 33-year old Warrick Dunn and backup fullback Byron Storer. The only other receiver of note was Antonio Bryant, who is looking like a roster lock after two catches for 37 yards on Sunday. The rest of them? It’s impossible to gauge their development or handicap their chances of making the roster at this point.
Sammy Davis: The former first-round pick is looking like the odd man out in a tense battle at cornerback. He had only one tackle on Sunday and no pass breakups.
QB Jeff Garcia (calf) and WR Joey Galloway (groin) did not play, though Garcia is expected back on Tuesday. FB B.J. Askew (foot) and DT Jovan Haye (hamstring) also did not play. TE Ben Troupe did not play with a sore foot.
WR Michael Clayton did not catch a pass. … The Bucs rushed for 170 yards, a robust 4.7-yards per carry on the night. … Micheal Spurlock and Dexter Jackson did very little to separate themselves in the battle at punt returner. Spurlock had one more return than Jackson, but each had an average of about 9.0 yards. … RB Clifton Smith had one kickoff return for 26 yards, four carries for 20 yards, a catch for three yards and two special teams tackles. It’s that special teams work that will be key for Smith to secure a roster spot. … DB Elbert Mack is in the same boat, though his interception led to a Bucs touchdown. Mack had three tackles, plus a special teams tackle. If he builds on that next week, he’ll create an interesting decision at third string. … Maybe DT Ryan Sims is starting to turn it around. The former first-round pick started at under tackle for the second straight week and had two tackles, both for loss. He and DE Greg White were given plenty of credit for helping the Bucs stop the Pats’ running game early. … The Bucs scored on three of their four first-half possessions and, thanks to that robust running game, chewed up nearly 38 minutes of clock. Gruden will take that any day. … The Bucs are now a plus-3 in turnover ratio in two preseason games.
Matthew Postins is the editor and publisher of bucsblitz.com.