Offensive line crumbles as drives fall apart
The first team drives the ball slowly, an obstacle that Bucs coach Jon Gruden did not have in mind.
|[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]
Bucs quarterback Rob Johnson hits the turf and fumbles the ball as he is sacked by Washington's Delbert Cowsette in the third quarter.
By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 25, 2002
TAMPA -- For the past few years, Bucs fans have been begging for offense. Any kind of offense.
They haven't been greedy, either. It's not like they've been asking for 40 points per game.
But Saturday night, in a 40-10 preseason loss to the Redskins at Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs first-team offense, which has so much promise, ran into so many problems.
"As I said to the team, we get what we deserve in this league," coach Jon Gruden said.
For the first team, and truthfully the rest of the team, there were moments of efficiency. But there were times the Bucs showed little patience, little consistency and little discipline.
The starting unit scored its first touchdown of the preseason but it took four quarters to get there. This could not be what Gruden, the man with the offensive mind and cutthroat approach to the game, had in mind.
"We had some drives, but we just have to be able to finish them off," Gruden said. "We cannot turn the ball over and we have to do a better job of that, obviously."
Granted, starting running back Michael Pittman was on the bench nursing his sore ankle, and backup Aaron Stecker was a bright spot filling in for him. But the rest of the starters played virtually the entire first half and never seemed to be in control of the game.
Quarterback Brad Johnson was 9-for-14 for 90 yards and had a well-thrown 7-yard touchdown pass to Keenan McCardell. He did also lead the Bucs to a nine-play drive that took about five minutes off the clock and connected with tight end Ken Dilger for a 31-yard gain on first down in the touchdown scoring drive.
But Johnson and the Bucs also had two drives stall after six plays and he threw two interceptions, one of which the Redskins turned into a 23-yard touchdown pass two plays later.
"We didn't come out very sharp as a team on the whole,"' Johnson said. "We had a lot of things that got away from us the whole night. You can't turn the ball over and win. This is something you learn from. I've been through this before."
|[Times photo: Jim Damaske]
Redskins coach Steve Spurrier and Bucs coach Jon Gruden meet after the game.
Running back Mike Alstott, perhaps still recovering from symptoms of last week's concussion, didn't appear to be powering through tackles like he usually does. Alstott had five carries in the first half. He had 2 yards.
McCardell, a free agent acquired this offseason to ease the load off Keyshawn Johnson, again proved his silky touch could be a deadly weapon this season. He caught four passes for 32 yards, including a difficult 7-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
But Keyshawn Johnson and Joe Jurevicius each had one catch in the first half.
"I think we did some good things out there but obviously there are some things we need to work on," Jurevicius said. "We do have one more dress rehearsal to go. There's nothing to hang our heads permanently for. This is one setback and you learn from your setbacks. We know what's to be done. We'll go back dissect the film and go about our business trying to get better. We're trying to go out and get better as a team, (Saturday night) we didn't get better."
Then, there were the penalties and lapses on the offensive line.
"I think that's probably the weakest link right now," Dilger said. "We've got five new guys on the offensive line working together and things probably aren't situated yet. We'll get that thing worked out."
Some of the credit should go to the Redskins defense. Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, turned down for the Bucs head-coaching job in February after he began compiling his staff, likely had some incentive. Linebackers LaVar Arrington, Jessie Armstead and Jermiah Trotter and cornerback Champ Bailey combined for 19 tackles, two interceptions and two passes defensed in the first half and delivered a number of memorable knocks along the way.
"They have a very good football team," Brad Johnson said. "I don't think they did anything out of the ordinary. We had a couple of turnovers that really took away the momentum from us and the penalties really hurt us too. Putting ourselves in a lot of third-and-long situations. Tonight we had a lot of missed assignments, a lot of penalties and a lot of turnovers. That's what it came down."
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