Friday, Sept. 21
Praise for Jermaine
I'm going to do something I haven't done much of since I've covered this team. I'm going to praise a safety, Jermaine Phillips in particular.
I don't have to tell anyone that reads this site regularly that I thought Phillips' play was pretty shoddy last year. Certainly, one could use the Bucs' middling pass rush as an excuse. But Phillips tackled poorly, too, and that has nothing to do with the pass rush. That's just fundamentals.
I also criticized management for not going out this offseason and acquiring a veteran backup to challenge Phillips at strong safety. I felt his sub-par play last season warranted it. Instead, they drafted Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson to try and give both Phillips and free safety Will Allen a shove.
Well, Jackson shoved Allen right out of a starting job. But Piscitelli has been unable to unseat Phillips. The former Bulldog will be in the starting lineup on Sunday against St. Louis. Thus far this season the safety has definitely played better than last year.
"He's off to a real good start and we'll just leave it at that," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said. "We expect him to really be a veteran presence back there and a playmaker at the safety position. I think he deserves a lot of credit, and Raheem Morris as well. He's done a nice job coming in here with the new safeties, the Sabby Piscitellis and the Tanard Jacksons, and you see Jermaine Phillips really responding, so that's a good sign."
After two games Phillips has 20 tackles, a sack and a pass defensed. I've seen him miss just one tackle in those two games.
So, as Gruden said, he's responded. The gentle shove the Bucs had hoped to give Phillips after last season seems to have worked. And as long as it continues to work, expect Piscitelli — everyone's favorite strong safety in waiting — to do exactly that.
Bucs on the Web
At the Tampa Tribune, find out who "The Dinosaurs" are for the Buccaneers. Hint: It's not whom you think.
At the St. Petersburg Times, columnist Gary Shelton suggests that just as Jeff Garcia's play signals the Bucs have potentially found the right player to fill that void at quarterback, the same may hold true for Luke Petitgout, the new starting left tackle. Petitgout has been proficient the first two games this season. Not dominant, but proficient. And that's been enough so far.