TAMPA — Poor protection, dropped passes and a wobbly quarterback chucking them wildly is not the picture of the Bucs offense coach Greg Schiano envisioned for the preseason.
But with few starters expected to play in Thursday's finale against the Redskins, that's the portrait the Bucs are left with until they open the regular season at the Jets on Sept. 8.
"A little disappointed; not discouraged, though," Schiano said. "I wish we would have played better on offense. But I can see how we're going to. The worst thing is you can look at that vision and say, 'I don't know how we're going to do this.'
"So turn up the stakes a little bit, and hopefully, we'll perform. That's what we're banking on."
Schiano hoped the Bucs would be sharper in the second season under coordinator Mike Sullivan.
Quarterback Josh Freeman is 12-of-26 for 101 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He has been sacked nine times and fumbled once, and his yards per attempt is 3.88, just more than half of his 7.28 in 2012. The Bucs also have converted just 31.8 percent of third downs (14-of-44).
Schiano reviewed video of Saturday's 17-16 win over Miami and said while Freeman (6-of-16 for 59 yards) missed a few throws, he made a lot of good decisions.
"I thought he actually saw things pretty well," Schiano said. "When you look at his progression, why he did what he did, he saw it pretty well. You sit there from the sideline and say, 'What are we doing?' Then when you look at what he saw, … it's easy to say, 'Yeah, I would have gone there.'
"But protection breakdowns, (we) didn't uncover sometimes. We have to beat man coverage. Just because they're playing man doesn't mean, oh, we're covered. You have to beat man coverage one on one. And then some of the things that technically the ball sailed on him. That one you wish you had back. But far too many drops. And it's not just this week. We just have to get in synch."
Because of injuries, the Bucs offensive line has been a turnstile at guard. Saturday, Davin Joseph made his first appearance since tearing his right patellar tendon in the third preseason game last year. Carl Nicks, who is battling a MRSA infection in his left foot, is out indefinitely. Tackle Gabe Carimi shifted to replace him.
Freeman was under consistent pressure. He also fumbled late in the first half, which led to a Dolphins touchdown.
"As always, (Freeman is) just one part of it," Schiano said. "Receivers have to get open. We have to protect better at the running back position. The line has to block better. It's a combination of things.
"I think Josh has done a good job of moving up in the pocket. But a couple of times, he moved right up to the rush. If the middle isn't firm, then the theory of sliding up in the pocket doesn't work. We have to firm up the middle whether it's back protection or center-guard-center protection."
Like Schiano, Freeman is disappointed.
"Preseason is not quite the level of game plan, not quite the level of preparation," Freeman said. "Still, you want to go out and put a good product on the field. I, personally, want to go out and make some things happen."
But now Freeman and the Bucs will have to flip the switch in two weeks — when it counts.