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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Quarterback Luke McCown has a great advantage by starting the first preseason game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers



Quarterback Luke McCown will start against the Tennessee Titansin the Bucs first preseason game Saturday.

That has been the plan for some time and Raheem Morris has no reason to change now. McCown deserves the first look. This is the fifth season for McCown in Tampa Bay and the Bucs still don't really know what they have in the 28-year-old quarterback.

McCown is 1-6 as a starter and four of those losses came as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns. He still could have a big upside and played well in relief of Jeff Garcia two years ago.

Before the Bucs ever took a look at Steelers free agent Byron Leftwich, they re-signed McCown in Feb., making a $5-million commitment to him in 2009, including a $2.5-million signing bonus. Remember, this is a business and teams like to see a return on their investment.

Leftwich outplayed McCown the first week of training camp. He put the ball in the end zone more consistently and made more plays down the field. But quarterbacks aren't allowed to be hit in training camp and the Bucs have to see if Leftwich is functional in the pocket during the preseason.

In a perfect world for the Bucs, McCown plays lights out, wins the job and is the next coming of Drew Brees. Rookie Josh Freeman is the Bucs' quarterback of the future, so the better McCown plays, the more his value increases in terms of a trade.

On the other hand, the NFL already has a pretty good book on Leftwich. This is his seventh pro season and has played in 54 games. As a free agent, he primarily drew interest from three teams -- the Steelers, Redskins and Bucs.

Starting the first preseason game could be a huge advantage for McCown. First impressions are huge in this league. If McCown plays well, he sets the target to shoot for and every other quarterback in camp has to exceed it.

The perception among many players is that Leftwich is better prepared to be the starting quarterback based on his experience. McCown only attempted one pass last season and he gets a chance to remind everybody that is the quarterback who completed 15 straight passes to start a critical game at New Orleans two years ago.

McCown may never have a better chance to become a starting quarterback in this league and he knows it.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:37pm]


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