Football has returned. Sort of.
The Bucs led off their NFL preseason with a 17-6 victory over the Miami Dolphins. And the substitutes got plenty of work for both teams.
Neither team's likely regular season starting quarterback took a snap in the game, as injured Jeff Garcia and newly acquired Dolphin (former Jet) Chad Pennington sat out.
A few notes on those who did play.
Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins: Williams was the first player to stand out. He looked fast, had good moves and followed his blockers well.
Luke McCown, QB, Bucs: The Bucs preseason starter displayed the same traits that he demonstrated last year as the second string quarterback behind Garcia: good athletic talent and game-time inconsistency. McCown made some nice plays and counterbalanced those with some questionable plays. McCown simply missed on a pass that would have resulted in a touchdown for Michael Clayton. Speaking of whom ...
Michael Clayton, WR, Bucs: Clayton had a nice game. He looked fast, got open and made some nice catches. But he had one drop, which leads to the suspicion that his demons of the past two season have not been entirely left behind.
Aqib Talib, CB, Bucs: The rookie corner made an excellent open field tackle on Ricky Williams.
John Gilmore, TE, Bucs: The blocking tight end the Bucs acquired from Chicago can catch. An Anthony Becht with hands?
Paris Warren, WR, Bucs: Warren had one catch against the Dolphins. He looks as fast as ever (not particularly, in other words). Bucs fans are rooting for this guy because of his heart combined with his heart-wrenching season-ending injury at the end of last year's preseason.
Brian Griese, QB, Bucs: Griese looked composed and effective.
Chris Simms, QB, Bucs: Simms threw accurately and led the team on some good drives, but his passing stats leave out part of the story. Simms was sacked twice. It is his propensity for giving up sacks that makes him a mismatch for Gruden's offense. McCown suffers the same weakness but not as severely.
Josh Johnson, QB, Bucs: It was nice to see Johnson get in a few snaps. He completed the lone pass he threw--a precise rope for a 15 yard gain. The Bucs must plan to keep Johnson on the practice squad, so it will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets in the preseason.
Dexter Jackson, WR/KR, Bucs: Jackson's speed is for real, and it looks like he has the ability to translate his speed into effective football. Jackson had a nice return as well as one pass reception that hinted at justifying the premature comparison to Steve Smith of the Panthers. Jackson caught the ball near the sideline and darted upfield with authority. He's doubtless nowhere near Smith in terms of physical strength at this stage, but speed and moves seem legit.
Clifton Smith, RB, Bucs: I didn't even know about his guy until reading a story about him yesterday. He looks fast, and he has a good sense of the field around him. If it weren't for Dexter Jackson I could see him sticking as a kick returner.
I did not watch the game closely enough to grade out linemen individually.
Bucs offensive line: The yards-per-carry average for the running backs was modest against the Dolphins 3-4 defense. Dan Buenning spent a good bit of time at center.
Bucs defensive line: Marques Douglas made a few splash plays at DE; overall the line looked ready to carry on from last year--hopefully improving as the younger players come into their own.
Overall, the Bucs looked good for this stage of the season.