TAMPA, Fla. — “Sloppy” was an appropriate description for much of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ execution in a 44-16 preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday at Raymond James Stadium.
The night meant the NFL debut of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, and Bucs coach Greg Schiano received early looks at players competing for the No. 2 running back spot behind Doug Martin, among other key position battles.
It is unwise to glean too much from preseason results, but the Bucs will have plenty to work on in many areas throughout the coming days after losing to the defending Super Bowl champions in decisive fashion.
Here are quick observations from the Bucs’ preseason opener:
1. The Bucs are not taking any chances with key names recovering from injuries. Thirteen Tampa Bay players were inactive, including some names expected to be major contributors this year. Cornerback Darrelle Revis, tight end Luke Stocker, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, kicker Lawrence Tynes and guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks were among those who did not play.
Recently, Revis made news by saying he is unsure if he will be ready to play in the season opener against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. It will be interesting to see if he receives playing time at some point this preseason, given how cautious Tampa Bay has been with him since he was signed after a blockbuster trade. He has yet to progress to seven-on-seven drills in training camp sessions, though Schiano has said steps forward could come quickly in the coming weeks.
2. The backup running back situation remains interesting. The Bucs were even in distributing handoffs to players eager to show they’re a possible No. 2 behind Martin. Brian Leonard had six carries for 23 yards with one touchdown, and Mike James had six carries for 15 yards. Meanwhile, Peyton Hillis had four carries for 13 yards before he exited with a left knee injury in the third quarter.
Leonard and James entered as the favorites to land the backup job and not much changed after Thursday. Tampa Bay brought Hillis into camp to see how much gas he has left. The injury doesn’t bode well for his chances to threaten the favorites.
3. Kicker Derek Dimke has made the most of his chance with veteran Lawrence Tynes sidelined because of an ingrown toenail. Dimke made field goals of 29, 35 and 45 yards, and coupled with some recent impressive days in training camp sessions, he appears to be in fair shape.
Schiano has said the kicker competition is open. Tynes entered as the favorite, given his veteran status. But if he continues to miss time, Dimke will push him in the weeks ahead. For Dimke, consistency will be key moving forward, but he has made a positive impression with Tynes out.
4. Welcome to the NFL, Mike Glennon. The rookie quarterback is expected to receive plenty of playing time in the preseason, and he had a rough start Thursday, going 11 for 23 with 169 yards and one interception.
The rocky performance wasn’t entirely unexpected, but Schiano and his staff should want to see improvement in his next appearance. Josh Freeman is the clear answer as the Bucs’ starter, but Glennon has plenty to work to do in trying to prove that he’s a capable No. 2 ahead of Dan Orlovsky. Glennon has a promising build, and it’s clear Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik see him as a talent with high upside. But Thursday showed he still has a long, long way to go.
5. Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers saw more time than expected, playing most of the first half. Schiano has pushed Bowers throughout training camp, and it’s fair to draw a conclusion that the coach sent a message to the third-year player by keeping him on the field longer than others starters.
Was it a risky move? Perhaps. Tampa Bay has little depth at the position, and an injury to Bowers would be damaging to the Bucs’ defense. Watch to see how Bowers, who finished with two tackles, responds in the coming weeks. Will he answer the challenge? Whatever the result, it will reveal a lot about him.