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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Underwood shows off skills

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 11:41 PM
MIAMI GARDENS -

New Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano is well aware of what Tiquan Underwood can do on a football field.

On a rainy Friday night at Sun Life Stadium, the rest of Buc Nation was treated to an intriguing glimpse of his skills.

The 25-year-old wide receiver from Rutgers caught three key passes for 76 yards in a dynamic second quarter as Tampa Bay grabbed a 14-0 halftime advantage against the Dolphins.

"We're just trying to take what we do in practice into the game," Underwood said. "I feel confident and comfortable out there. We're just trying to play Buccaneer football."

Underwood signed with the Bucs three months ago after a three-year career with the Jaguars and Patriots.

He has only 11 receptions in 19 NFL games, but Underwood posted seven 100-yard games at Rutgers, where Schiano coached for the past 11 years before arriving in Tampa.

Backup QB Dan Orlovsky, who completed all seven of his pass attempts in the opening half, found Underwood for 23 yards on third-and-5 early in the second quarter.

Three plays later, Underwood ran under Orlovsky's underthrown ball down the middle and held on for a 44-yard reception in between defensive backs Sean Smith and Jimmy Wilson.

That catch set up a 2-yard TD run by rookie RB Doug Martin, but Underwood wasn't finished staking an early claim for a spot on Tampa Bay's 53-man roster.

On the next Bucs possession, Underwood made a 9-yard catch on third-and-6, with his toes dragging the right sideline in front of teammates and coaches.

"It feels really good just to get the respect of my teammates and also the coaches,'' Underwood said. "I'm just trying to go out there, play my heart out and earn that trust from my coaches.''

First impressions

Besides showing a determined second effort on his scoring plunge, Martin leveled Miami DE Cameron Wake, one of the league's premier pass rushers, coming off the left edge in the opening quarter.

But Martin wasn't the only Bucs draft choice to shine on a soggy evening.

Second-round pick Lavonte David wasted little time showing fans why he is listed as Tampa Bay's starting weak-side linebacker.

With the Bucs ahead 14-0 and the Dolphins driving early in the second quarter, David picked off Matt Moore's deflected pass at the Buccaneer 17.

Tampa Bay's subsequent drive stalled and Mike Koenen boomed a 54-yard punt that was fielded by rookie WR Rishard Matthews at his own 8-yard line.

There to greet him was Mr. David, dropping Matthews after a 5-yard return.

Tampa Bay's rookie brigade turned in another big play in the third quarter when seventh-round pick Michael Smith, a speedy back out of Utah State, broke three tackles en route to a 74-yard kickoff return that set up a field goal and a 17-7 lead.

Secondary thoughts

The Bucs opened the game in a nickel package, starting Ronde Barber, Eric Wright, Cody Grimm, Anthony Gaitor and Myron Lewis at defensive back.

CB Aqib Talib (hamstring) and rookie S Mark Barron (toe) were held out of Friday's preseason opener for precautionary reasons.

Gaitor made the game's first tackle and the second-year pro from Florida International topped the Bucs with four stops in the opening half.

Extra points

With the NFL still trying to secure a deal with its officials, the game featured replacement officials. … Much of the first half was played in a steady rain, but skies cleared after intermission. … Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill replaced Moore with 3:16 left in the opening half. … The Bucs converted on six of their first eight third-down situations.

Ira Kaufman

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