Huddle Up Pre-Season Week 2: By Jason King

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a breakout season last year.  But despite finishing 10-6, they missed out on the playoffs.  They are the youngest team in the league and are hoping to have another successful year. 

Third year coach Raheem Morris is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL, despite being the youngest.  He is only 34 years old.  The Bucs finished 3-13 in his first season at the helm.  After that season, many people called for Morris to lose his job.  Mark Dominik, the Bucs general manager, stuck with him despite the criticism.

Morris is a hard worker who paid his dues before getting where he is today. The third-year Buccaneers coach began coaching as a graduate assistant at his alma mater Hofstra University in 1998.  By 2002 he was defensive quality control coach for the Buccaneers.  He continued moving up the ranks on the Bucs coaching staff until 2006, when he took the job as defensive coordinator atKansasStateUniversity.  He returned to the Bucs as defensive backs coach in 2007.  On January 17, 2009 he was named head coach of the Bucs.

The Buccaneers had the biggest win turnaround, from 3 to 7, in 2010.  They have a goal to win the NFC South, which is one of the toughest divisions in football.  Morris has this team believing, despite playing in the same division asNew Orleans and Atlanta.

The Bucs were humbled in Thursday’s preseason loss to the New England Patriots.  The Tampa lost the game 31-14.  Many came away saying the Bucs failed this litmus test against the team that had the best record in football last year.  The Buccaneers offensive line was pushed around by the Patriots.  They gave up 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss.  Quarterback Josh Freeman played five series and finished the game 5 of 10 for 33 yards.  The Buccaneers receivers faced man to man coverage for much of the first half.  They couldn’t get open.  The Bucs first team defense was carved up by the Pats first team offensive.  In his first game since last January’s playoff loss to the Jets, Tom Brady was very sharp.  Brady was 11 of 19 for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The young Bucs defense made a lot of mistakes, that when playing against a veteran team like the Patriots will cost you dearly.  At halftime, the Bucs trailed 28-0 and were whistled for 10 penalties for 85 yards.

Raheem Morris will have his young Bucs practicing hard all week.  He gave them a day off on Saturday to go to the movies.  Morris knows the buttons to push with his team.  He will have them ready not only for the September 11 opener against the Detroit Lions but for a long season in which they will be a tough game for everybody on their schedule.

Huddle Up

  1. Sam Bradford and Josh McDaniels will be good for each other.  It was good to seeBradford taking shots down the field in the Rams 17-16 win over the Titans on Saturday night.  McDaniels was the offensive coordinator of the most dynamic offense in NFL history in 2007.  In that dome, with that running game, and that offensive coordinator Sam Bradford should have a good year.
  1. Garrard of Gabbert?  Although Jack Del Rio says David Garrard is his starting quarterback, many around the Jaguars see this as an open competition.  Neither had an inspiring performance in the Jaguars 15-13 win over the Falcons on Friday night.  It will be interesting to see where this goes over the next two weeks.  I get the sense that Garrard will start the season but for how long is the question.
  1. It’s terrible to see players seasons ended in the preseason.  The scary injuries of Bills RB Johnny White and Cardinals RB Ryan Williams, both young players trying to make an impact on the team, make my heart heavy.  Wish them the best in their recoveries.
  1. Jim Irsay in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, has gained a lot of attention over the weekend because of his twitter account.  He tweeted that Peyton Manning may not be ready for the season opener and that he was in Brett Favre’s hometown.  As I stated in my Intriguing Storylines for the Preseason article, No. 18’s health is a big story to watch as we get closer to September 11.
  1. Neither Curtis Painter nor Brett Favre will start for the Colts on September 11.  The Colts have seen Painter in action the last two weeks.  If you’ve watched their preseason games, you have too.  He isn’t a starting quarterback in the NFL.  They won’t go as far as signing Brett Favre, but they will go out and sign a veteran quarterback.  The blame here has to be put on Bill and Chris Polian.  You can’t be so dependent on one player in this league.  There is no reason the Colts shouldn’t have a serviceable backup just in case Manning has to miss some time.
  1. The Bengals are in for a rough season.  They have been outscored 61-10 in the preseason.  Andy Dalton isn’t ready to start an NFL game.  The defense looks horrible.  They can’t run the ball effectively.  Marvin Lewis has his hands full.  If they win 5 games he will get coach of the year.
  2. Larry Fitzgerald contract.  The Cardinals signed Fitzgerald to an 8-year $120 million dollar contract with close to $50 million guaranteed.  The Cardinals are banking on Kevin Kolb and Fitzgerald being their offensive anchors for the next 4 years.  It will be interesting to see what this deal does to DeSean Jackson and Chris Johnson’s contract aspirations.
  3. Terrelle Pryor’s suspension is a bad precedent for Roger Godell to set.  It is unfair for the NFL to suspend a player for college transgressions.  By this precedent half of the players in the NFL would face five game suspensions.  How about coaches?  Do they get a free pass or do they follow the same rules as players?  Hopefully Pryor appeals this decision and it is reversed.  But as we have seen many times in these types of situations, Mr. Godell is the judge, jury, and executioner.
  4. Plaxico Burress making an early impact.  Burress looked good in his preseason debut Sunday night.  The Jets beat the Bengals 27-7 and Burress had a diving 26-yard touchdown catch.  He should help the Jets offense.  Their cross town rivals will be sorry if Burress has a breakout year.
  5. Tim Tebow number three on the depth chart.  Tim Tebow was the third quarterback in the Broncos 24-10 win over the Bills on Saturday night.  He only attempted 2 passes.  Kyle Orton will beDenver’s starting quarterback this season.  The real competition is between Brady Quinn and Tebow to see who will be the backup.

Monday Night Football

      The Chicago Bears visit the New York Giants in both teams second exhibition game.  For the Bears the area to watch most is the offensive line.  It was a troubled area last season and may have gotten worse this year with the loss of Olin Kreutz.  The Giants are looking for Eli Manning to have a bounce back season.  He threw an NFL high 25 interceptions last year.  The Giants were still 10-6 but could have been better if not for all those turnovers.  How Manning and the receivers click will be important for the Giants.  Prediction: Giants 17 Bears 9

Jason King is a contributing writer at Taking It to the House and can be reached at jdk2032@yahoo.com

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