Some observations from the Bucs’ 30-7 loss to the Titans on Friday night:
-Chris Johnson may not have gone for 190 yards on the Bucs’ defense like he did last year, but he still put up what would have been a strong day fantasy wise. He ripped off a pair of 14-yard TD runs, cutting outside and flashing his superior speed around the Bucs’ defense for seemingly easy scores.
Although it was only a preseason game, it was an ugly performance for a Buccaneer defense that started strong by forcing threeTennessee three three-and-outs. However, on the Titans’ fourth drive of the game, Johnson found running room and Locker ran for 21 yards into the red zone, with Johnson capping the drive on the first of his two scores. The floodgates opened from that point, with the Titans rolling up 201 yards rushing after three quarters.
-Conversely, the Buccaneer running game got little help from the new and supposedly improved offensive line. With the starters in the game, the Bucs sputtered to only 40 yards on 17 carries in the first half. Josh Freeman found himself under constant pressure, being flushed out of the pocket and throwing the ball away on multiple occasions, including on one play where Mike Williams had broken free of his defender down the sideline. Even when Doug Martin ripped off a nice run for a first down, it was called back for a holding penalty on Jeremy Zuttah.
Freeman found Mike Williams for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but constant pressure was a big factor in a stat line of 4-of-10 for 21 yards.
“We knew they had a great front seven and they were going to get some push and different pressures,” Freeman said. “All in all, I feel like we came out and battled. It was tough; the Titans are a good team. We just have to find a way, because there are going to be some games like that this season and we have to find a way to adjust to it, to adapt, to make some plays and sustain some drives. It’s preseason, [so it’s a] good thing it happened now, [because] you get to learn from it.”
Davin Joseph admitted that, while the Bucs’ offensive line might have a lot of talent, they still have work to do to get into a flow and gel together as a unit.
“There were some plays we just didn’t execute very well. Third-and-one, we got a different look. Of course, hindsight is 20-20, and we know exactly what we need to do in the playbook, we just didn’t execute good enough for Doug [Martin] to get the first down. It’s going to come with time. We’re going to look at the tape and get better and that’s why we’re here for the preseason. Keep on working.”
-Despite the struggles, the night could have ended up much worse for Bucs’ fans. Late in the second quarter, LeGarrette Blount was running through the line when a defender fell into his left knee, which seemed to bend in a painful manner. Blount remained on the ground for a few minutes in pain. However, he was able to limp off the field. He stated afterwards that it was a groin injury and was not sporting any kind of supportive brace on his knee.
“Just took a hit on the side, just tweaked my groin a little bit,” Blount said. “It’s not a serious injury. I’ll be back soon.”
-Ahmad Black provided an early bright spot for the Bucs in the first quarter. Jake Locker rolled to his right and threw an ill-advised pass against his body to the waiting hands of Black, who returned the ball 29 yards to the 2 yard line.
“Basically, the quarterback rolled out and tried to throw the ball back across the field,” Black said. “I just rolled up and stepped in front of it. You know, my job is to be the deepest man on the field. I kind of read [the quarterback] a little bit and saw where he wanted to throw the ball.”
Black is starting to earn some positive comments from head coach Greg Schiano.
“He seems to be around the ball quite a bit,” Schiano said. “Whether it’s practice or in a game, and now he did it in a game. He has a knack.”
-Speaking of Locker, he struggled in his first start, going 4-of-11 for 21 yards and an interception for a QB rating of 7.0. Although he was pleased with the win, it was a letdown performance for the second-year QB.
“There is disappointment personally, but with the guys doing so well on the run game and our defense doing so well, we still found ways to score points and have a big lead going into the second half, so that was encouraging,” Locker said.
-Part of his struggles came from a Buccaneer secondary that blanketed Titans receivers for much of the day. Mark Barron stuck with TE Jared Cook like glue in breaking up a third-down pass to force a punt. Aqib Talib also broke up a slant pattern intended for Kendall Wright. CBs Anthony Gaitor and Leonard Johnson also broke up passes.