HOUSTON — Arrelious Benn did some sky-walking when the pass sailed high toward him in the end zone, jumping over the cornerback for his second touchdown of the game.
Just like that, there was no longer reason to believe the rookie couldn't make the leap from college to NFL receiver.
Benn, the Bucs' second-round draft pick from Illinois who had been held to one reception in three preseason games, had touchdown catches of 3 and 21 yards in Thursday's 24-17 win over the Texans in the preseason finale.
"It's real big. It feels good," said Benn, who finished with three catches for 33 yards.
"At the same time, it's a long season. I just went out and had fun and played the game of football, something I've been doing since I was 6. I got the opportunities out there to make some plays, and that's just what I did. I went out there, had fun and played football."
Benn's first touchdown catch, which put the Bucs up 17-0, came with 22 seconds left in the first half when quarterback Rudy Carpenter made a perfect back shoulder throw to him in the corner of the end zone.
Then, after the Texans closed to within a touchdown in the third quarter, Benn outleaped cornerback Jacques Reeves for a spectacular catch on a pass from Carpenter.
"I'm good with the ball in my hands," Benn said. "It's an opportunity throw, and I made a great catch. I go out there and do what I have to do. If the ball is in the air, I've got to go get it."
Until Thursday, the perception was that Benn was falling further behind the other rookie receiver, Mike Williams, a fourth-rounder from Syracuse who earned the starting job at the X, or split end, position. Benn's progress at the Z, or flanker, has been slower. But his extra work after practice with receivers coach Eric Yarber is paying off.
"I made a statement to myself each day to get better, staying after practice with my coach and doing the little things when I go home; still getting into my playbook," Benn said. "The transition for a receiver to the NFL is pretty tough sometimes. I'm just slowing down each day and having fun with it and learning it."
Benn wasn't the only standout against the Texans. The game was one in which a player on the bubble really needed to make a name for himself. Or in the case of Corey Lynch, live up to a legendary name.
When you play safety for the Bucs and LYNCH is stitched on the back of your jersey, well, comparisons to former Pro Bowler John Lynch are inevitable, and unfair. But against the Texans, Lynch returned an interception 91 yards for a touchdown and set up Benn's first touchdown with another.
Not only did the performance draw praise from John Lynch, who called the game for Ch. 8 as an analyst, it might have gone a long way toward earning Corey a roster spot.
"You have to feel good about that performance," coach Raheem Morris said. "You just have to keep coming out and performing, and we'll keep evaluating."
With safety Sabby Piscitelli losing his starting job to veteran Sean Jones and remaining in Tampa with a concussion, Lynch needed a good performance to make the Bucs' decision about him tough. He played in 13 games last season but has only one interception is his two seasons.
"The (defensive) line was rushing like crazy. The linebackers were filling their gaps," Lynch said. "When you do that, it's easy to get those picks and get those big plays."
Carpenter, claimed off waivers from the Cowboys late last season, figures to stick as the No. 3 quarterback. He looked sharp in leading the Bucs to a 17-0 halftime lead. He finished 15-of-22 for 203 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 127.7.
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected]