Columnists Tom Jones and Martin Fennelly watched the Bucs-Dolphins game Thursday night like the rest of Tampa Bay — on television. Here are their impressions from the Tampa Bay's 26-24 victory at Miami in the preseason opener:
TJ: Finally, a football game. Something to talk about besides drunken Uber rides. Just an exhibition game, but, hey, better than watching practice. And now we get to see if the Bucs are the same ol' Bucs or one of those under-the-radar teams.
MF: The Bucs aren't under the radar. They're in a closet three doors down from where they keep the radar. Amelia Earhart will show up on the radar before the 2018 Bucs. But there's a silver lining: peace, quiet, breathing room to work. Well, that's something, isn't it?
TJ: I tell you what's something. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense. How 'bout that first drive? I believe in The Beard. I mean, I don't know that I want to play 16 games with Fitz-Magic, but maybe the Bucs won't be in total trouble while Jameis is off in timeout.
MF: Now if only Honey Fitz could kick extra points. Here we go again. Or do we? Chandler Catanzaro, the big offseason kicker signing, missed his first attempt. Somewhere, Roberto Aguayo is smiling (and then missing his kick, too).
TJ: I'm starting to think the Bucs should just go for two every time they score a touchdown. Can you imagine if Catanzaro had missed that game-winner? But other than that, the first-team offense looked okay. Fitz spreading the ball around and even using his legs to pick up first downs. He threw eight passes, completed six, and the two that were incomplete should've been caught. He always seems to make the right decision. No surprise. I don't think anyone knows this, but he went to Harvard, you know.
MF: Had to like that push on the offensive line for Peyton Barber on that first drive. The new center, Ryan Jensen, led the kind of push we haven't seen around here in years. Meanwhile, back on defense, Gerald McCoy tackled the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. Upon closer forensic examination, it was discovered that it was a sack. What are those?
TJ: Which will the Bucs have more of this season, sacks or missed extra points? Anyway, I still have serious doubts about this defense. Can they get to the QB? Can they cover people? Can they hold opponents to under 20 points? McCoy is special. I like Lavonte David. I think I like Kwon Alexander. I like Brent Grimes. After that, I'm not 100 percent sold on anyone. I know Thursday night was just pretend football, but the Dolphins' first-teamers moved the ball against the Bucs' first-teamers.
MF: I didn't see the name on the back of the jersey of Fitzpatrick's backup. He looked okay, though, one touchdown drive and one that set up a field goal. But it was already scrub time.
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TJ: Yeah, I don't know who that guy was, but I'll make a bold prediction: He will be the Bucs' starting quarterback by week four of the regular season.
MF: Unless Mueller gets involved.
TJ: Or he keeps playing behind a second-team offensive line that has more leaks than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I wasn't crazy about rookie running back Ronald Jones dropping a pass on a key third down.
MF: Very weak. The kid is supposed to bring more than breakaway talent. He has to bring it all to keep defenses honest or they'll hammer Bucs QBs and receivers. But it's early.
TJ: By the way, did you see the crowd at whatever they call that stadium in Miami now? Looked like a Rays-Marlins game — in Tampa or Miami.
MF: Hey, I like the battles for fifth cornerback, fourth tight end, ninth offensive lineman and 10th defensive lineman as much as the next person, but it's a running scandal that owners are allowed to charge in-game prices for preseason games. Fans should stand for the anthem but take a knee at the ticket windows.
Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.
Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.