Bucs need to shore up pass protection
Bucs coach Greg Schiano said there were several highlights hidden in Friday's exhibition loss to the Patriots.
The special teams units were much better.
Running backs Mike James and Peyton Hillis ran well, tightening the competition for the backup running back spot.
And Schiano felt the Bucs were more physical in New England than in the first exhibition loss to the Ravens.
But that doesn't mask the fact there were a lot of errors, and areas that need improvement, as the Bucs head into the second half of the preseason. Schiano said there were a "truckload" of mistakes in the first game that needed to get corrected.
How about Friday?
"There was a boatload," Schiano said. "That's what preseason is about, and hopefully as we get closer to the regular season, we get all our guys back and let the thing run."
One of the bigger problems came in pass protection, where Schiano said they lost several one-on-one battles, resulting in three sacks of QB Josh Freeman in the first two series. Freeman didn't have any time, stunting the first team offense's development.
While the Bucs were playing without All Pro guard Carl Nicks (toe) and Davin Joseph (knee), Schiano wasn't using their absence as an excuse, or a crutch.
"I don't think that way, because last year, we didn't have Joseph and Nicks for the majority of the year. That's life in the NFL. We're not going to have a Pro Bowler stacked behind a Pro Bowler. That stuff doesn't work that way. We have to get the job done. It's going to be nice when we get them playing again, certainly that firms up the middle. It gives you the ability to help your tackles a litlte more. But we didn't protect well in the first two drives. We'll get it fixed. I'm confident our guys will get it fixed and play better."
Both right tackle Demar Dotson and Gabe Carimi were beaten for a sack. Schiano said Dotson didn't have his best game, as he's dealing with a knee issue; Carimi got the start Friday. But Schiano continued to praise Dotson for his performance during the preseason, having seemingly solidifying his starting spot.
"Demar Dotson is having a very good camp - he’s our starting right tackle," Schiano said. "Gabe Carimi is learning the system and he's getting better every day."
Schiano acknowledged the Patriots were aggressive rushing the passer early on, and since they're a 3-4 team, it proposed some problems for a Bucs unit used to practicing agianst the 4-3. But the struggles were mostly due to execution, not effort.
"We didn't win some one on one battles," Schiano said. "I didn't leave that game saying from a physicality standpoint, I don't think we got out-physicalled. That's a positive. (The Patriots are) a very physical football team. They take pride in it as we do. So there was a lot of good hitting going on. It had a regular season feel to it."
Had this been a regular season game, however, Schiano said there may not have been as much one-on-one matchups, as tehy could chip block, or slide protection a certain way to help out. But Schiano said they weren't necessarily focused on scheme.
"We wantd to block our rules, play our rules, and when you do that, you get caught in some one on one matchups," Schiano said. "Preseason is a time to stretch yourself. Let's see what we can and can't do. And if it doesn't work, why? Because we can't or because we made an error, that we can correct. I would have liked the result to be a little better at the beginning, but I was pleased with the physicality of our team."