The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally did it. They finally won their first game of the 2014 football season against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday. Yes, it is preseason and yes the Bills are a pretty bad team, but it is always nice to get that first win of the year. With the win, let’s take a look at five things we learned from this week’s preseason match up.
THE GOOD: Passing game is getting into rhythm
Even though the score did not reflect it, the game was dominated by the Bucs and that was due in part to the first team offense staying in rhythm. Remember two weeks ago when Josh McCown went 2-for-4 for 20 yards and a pick six? Last week wasn’t much better when he went 5-of-7 for 46 yards and a touchdown. In the game against the Bills however, McCown stayed in for two quarters and lit the field up. He finished the day going 13-of-16 for 112 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown came on the last pass of the day for McCown. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson recorded a combined 87 yards on eight catches and one touchdown. Doug Martin had two catches for 27 yards, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins only recorded one catch for eleven yards.
The only dark spot on McCown’s day was an interception which dropped his passer rating to a 90.6. The offense racked up 17 points in the first half, and with some help from the defense, the Bucs scored 24 points in the first half. The last time the Bucs scored at least 24 points in the first half of a preseason game was in 2007 against Houston.
THE BAD: Where is the run game?
I’m not sure what the reason is, but the run game for the Bucs so far has not been what fans were hoping it would be. In the three preseason games so far, the top rushers for the Bucs had 25, 31 and 38 yards respectively. Bobby Rainey led the team against the Jacksonville Jaguars with 25 yards on six carries. The next leading rusher was McCown with 13 yards on two carries. If ever your quarterback is second in rushing for a game with two carries, you know it has not been a good day.
Against the Miami Dolphins, Jeff Demps led the team with 31 yards on eight carries. Doug Martin was second with 24 yards on six carries. Not a very impressive performance for the Tampa running back squad. On Saturday, Martin finally led the team in rushing with 38 yards on 12 carries for a touchdown. Martin averaged only 3.2 yards per carry against Buffalo.
Maybe the offensive line is still working on chemistry, or maybe Martin is easing back into the position after being hurt last season. Whatever the case may be, the running game is going to have to improve for this offense to be successful in 2014.
Mike Evans is becoming a serious threat.
Mike Evans scored a beautiful touchdown on Saturday, hopefully the first of many to come in the rookie’s career. The 24-yard strike from McCown was a beautiful play, and helped put the game out of reach for the Bucs. After a terrible start to the preseason when Evans did not even record a single reception in the loss to Jacksonville, he has rebounded nicely with two decent performances.
Against Miami, the former Texas A&M star almost had his first touchdown, but fumbled the ball out of the back of the end zone at the one-yard line. In two weeks, Evans has recorded just under 100 yards receiving and one touchdown (again should have been two if not for the fumble). Evans is looking better every week and along side the veteran Jackson, the two receivers could be a dominant duo in the NFL.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins is not being utilized.
The only concern that is rather puzzling in the passing game for the Bucs is the lack of utilizing the tight end position. In Saturdays game, rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Brandon Myers combined for one catch for 11 yards. Seferian-Jenkins was the one who made the catch, while Myers had nothing to show for his day besides a route in which he slipped and fell causing McCown’s pass to be intercepted.
It’s curious why Seferian-Jenkins is not being used more in the offensive scheme. In the three preseason games that the Bucs have played in this season, Seferian-Jenkins only has four receptions for 54 yards and no touchdowns. In those three games, he has only been targeted five times.
Seferian-Jenkins was expected to be a redzone threat, but so far we have not seen that on the field, and who knows maybe the Bucs are just waiting for the regular season to start utilizing him, but they do need to start throwing his way more. With the combonation of Evans, Jackson and Seferian-Jenkins, this team could have one of the most efficient redzone offenses in the league.
Hopefully the Bucs start looking Seferian-Jenkins’ way more come week one.
Defense looked like a well-oiled turnover machine
The Tampa Bay defense really flexed their muscles on Saturday, and helped the Bucs pick up their first win with some superb play. For the first time this preseason, the Bucs won the turnover battle. The Bucs forced three turnovers, one interception and two fumbles, with one of the fumbles being returned for a touchdown by newly acquired Clint McDonald.
Dashon Goldson started it off for the Bucs as he picked off Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel on the Bills’ first drive of the game. Lavonte David and Michael Johnson both forced fumbles in Saturday’s game with Mason Foster and Clint McDonald recovering them. While the three turnovers in the first half is rather impressive, the most impressive takeaway from Saturday’s game is the fact that the starting defense held the Bills starting offense to just 82 yards in the first half.
The starting defense suffocated the Bills starting offense and did not allow them to score any points; in fact the starting defense scored more points than the Bills starting offense. This defensive unit could be one of the best that has been seen in Tampa, and because of that this Tampa team could be a playoff contender in 2014.