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Thursday, Apr 17, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After Bucs preseason, plenty learned, lots of unknowns

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TAMPA — Five weeks have passed since Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano first brought his team together for the start of training camp. Those weeks have been filled with days of discovery for Schiano, his staff and general manager Mark Dominik. And with the start of the regular season just ahead, it’s time to take an accounting of what has been ascertained about their club.

Here, then, is a look at what we’ve learned and what we still don’t know about the Bucs as they begin preparations for next Sunday’s season opener at the Jets.

What we learned

Quarterback Josh Freeman can take a hit — Not only was Freeman sacked nine times in 26 pass attempts, but he also was blindsided by Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who said Freeman is “God-awful’’ at times and simply “can’t play’’ in the NFL. Through it all, though, Freeman stood strong, his confidence stirred perhaps, but certainly not shaken.

Defensive lineman Da’Quan Bowers is not ready for prime time — Bowers was easily the biggest disappointment of the preseason. The Bucs all but handed him the starting left end job at the start of camp, but by the second preseason game he had lost it. Bowers likely will start the year as a situational pass rusher. Whether he’ll ever be anything more than that is still uncertain.

Nose tackle Akeem Spence may be an upgrade over Roy Miller — Not even the Bucs realized at first that Spence had the ability to rush the passer. The more they watched this rookie, though, they more they realized he has the ability to draw double teams, stop the run and make a quarterback sweat. As solid as Miller was, he couldn’t do all of that.

Quarterback Mike Glennon is not ready to replace Freeman — All that noise about this rookie third-round draft pick starting ahead of Freeman began to wane as soon as he took the field for his first game. Sure, Glennon has plenty of promise and potential, but veteran Dan Orlovsky looks like the better option behind Freeman right now.

Cornerback Johnthan Banks might struggle a bit — This should not come as any great surprise. Rookie corners seldom step into the NFL and play at an elite level. The good news is that Banks has all the tools necessary to be an elite player. But as his play both in coverage and in tackling situations suggest, he needs some seasoning.

What we still don’t know

Just how good is the offensive line? — Sure, it was only preseason, and Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph hardly ever played, but no line should give up a sack every nine passing plays. And it’s not like these guys were blowing open holes for the backs, either. Bucs runners averaged just 3.5 yards per carry this preseason.

Can Darrelle Revis still play at a high level? — Maybe we should be asking if Revis can play at all. He really didn’t start taking snaps until practices were closed to the public and media and he never appeared in a preseason game. The Bucs say he will be ready for the opener, but will that really be Darrelle Revis out there? Hard to know.

How much will the Bucs really miss Michael Bennett? — Bennett led the Bucs in sacks last season with 9.5 and plans to replace him with Bowers blew up in the Bucs’ face not long after they were laid. The return of Adrian Clayborn and the emergence of Spence should give the pass rush a boost, but will it be enough to make anyone forget what Bennett did?

Is Kevin Ogletree the third wideout? — The Bucs have been lauding Ogletree’s talents ever since they signed him away from the Cowboys in free agency, but Ogletree seldom looked like the best option behind starters Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. If Chris Owusu had stayed healthy, he might have beaten Ogletree out for that third receiver spot.

Just how good are these guys anyway? — The Bucs have eight Pro Bowlers, which is one more than the Bucs’ Super Bowl team had, and none of them are older than 30. That suggests this is a team primed to contend for a playoff berth, but the Bucs never looked like a playoff contender during the preseason, not even when the first-teamers were out there.

rcummings@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7979

Twitter: @RcummingsTBO

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