TAMPA, Fla. — Initial returns are in. The call: There should be little surprise with where Greg Schiano stands on his quarterback situation.
On Friday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach said he plans to keep three quarterbacks, a nugget of news buried late in his address to the media. The order stands as follows, and nothing about the pecking order should be a shock to anyone who has followed this team since OTAs: Josh Freeman (the incumbent), Mike Glennon (the rookie fascination) and Dan Orlovsky (the veteran depth piece).
There had been some periphery chatter that perhaps the Bucs would keep no more than two quarterbacks. But Schiano’s words seem to place that theory to rest, after a 44-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Raymond James Stadium to open the preseason.
“You never know what can unfold,” Schiano said, “but that’s the plan.”
It seems like the right one for now. As expected, Glennon received plenty of snaps Thursday, entering late in the first quarter and not leaving until the end of the third. As expected, the results were mixed.
There were some good things: Schiano praised the young player’s command, which allowed him to complete 11 of 23 passes for 169 yards with one interception.
The coach said, correctly, that composure is something “you can’t teach” and that “I’m thrilled the way that he handled it.” At times, Glennon showed quick toes with keen awareness, such as when he danced past a tumbling Marcus Spears, a defensive end, near the goal line and lofted the ball to tight end Tom Crabtree for a 61-yard gain late in the first quarter.
There were some not-so-good things too: Glennon threw an interception into the waiting palms of cornerback Asa Jackson on a pass intended for wide receiver Chris Owusu. On Thursday, Schiano said the mishap occurred because of a route mix-up. Still, the sight was ugly, though Schiano is right in saying all the blame for the play should not fall on Glennon alone.
“I think the thing you notice is in college you have a few guys out there that look like grown men,” Glennon said Thursday night, “and here all 11 guys look the part.”
Growing pains were part of this experience. Welcome to preseason football, which is part blackboard, part invitation to bruise. The high-adrenaline moments come with others that are more … teachable.
Take another high-profile Bucs rookie, cornerback Johnthan Banks, who had five tackles Thursday. He received praise from Schiano with a qualifier: “Banks did some good things. He made some rookie mistakes, but he did some good things too.”
Banks’ good things: He managed the stage. Schiano said he challenged guys, showed a flash of veteran in that first-year body and wasn’t afraid to throw his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame into a tackle on a running play.
The not-so-good things: This was Act One in a long, grueling fall. There are nuances upon nuances left to learn at his complex position, skills yet to be refined. He should never become too comfortable.
“The one thing that Johnthan keeps getting better at is he’s disciplining his eyes, and that’s the hardest thing to do as a defensive back — is put your eyes where they’re supposed to be,” Schiano said.
“That sounds easy. It’s not when the guy is bearing down on you, and there’s a crowd full of people waiting to see if you’ll get beat.”
For Glennon and Banks, two rookies who have been watched with a magnifying glass in training camp, the preseason debut was a bit yin, some yang. There were pluses. There were minuses. There was little closure.
By the end, however, their night was much like their team’s: Promising, but still with a long way to go.