TAMPA — Dezmon Briscoe says he learned to read defenses playing NCAA Football, not just the real thing but the video game from EA Sports.
It's a virtual visualization tool for the Bucs receiver.
"In this day and age, they actually scout the defenses now, and it helps you read and make reads," Briscoe said. "When I get on the field, I try to visualize things as if I was playing the video game, and it usually slows the (real) game for me."
Briscoe has been performing as if he's being controlled by buttons and a joystick. In the preseason opener Friday at Kansas City, he led the Bucs with four catches for 60 yards, all in the first half.
Not that anybody in Tampa Bay was surprised. Activated for the final two games last season after No. 2 receiver Arrelious Benn went on injured reserve with a torn ACL, Briscoe, 21, stepped in and stood out. He caught six passes for 93 yards, four of them for first downs. He got deep, hauling in a 54-yarder in the season finale at New Orleans. He also demonstrated great body control, catching a 2-yard fade over Saints cornerback Jabari Greer for a touchdown by dragging both feet in the back of the end zone.
With Benn making a slow recovery from knee surgery, Briscoe has taken control of the starting job opposite Mike Williams. "I had to wait until my opportunity came and make sure I seize it," Briscoe said.
It's a lesson Briscoe learned the hard way. A polished and productive receiver at Kansas who produced 3,240 yards in three seasons, Briscoe figured he would be gone in the first or second round of the 2010 draft.
But several things derailed Briscoe, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. He ran poorly at the draft combine, recording a 4.68-second 40-yard dash. He may have interviewed with teams even worse, appearing somewhat aloof and detached.
Dominik, a fellow Kansas alum, made Briscoe the 30th and final player the team interviewed before the draft. Dominik expressed interest but told Briscoe to expect the worst, and indeed, the receiver lasted until the Bengals chose him in the sixth round.
"We watched his final preseason game, and he ran a stutter-go," Dominik said of Briscoe's 50-yard TD in a preseason game against the Colts. "He showed every trait you want in a receiver. He showed stop-and-start, acceleration, high point, finish, all those kinds of things. That's when I knew if there was a chance to get him on our practice squad, hopefully get him on our (roster) one day, that's what we wanted to do."
The Bengals released Briscoe on the final roster cut in September with the intention of signing him to their practice squad after he cleared waivers.
But Dominik pounced on the chance to acquire Briscoe on the Bucs' practice squad, offering him the NFL-minimum salary of $310,000 instead of the $5,200 a week normally paid to those players.
"I had that much belief in who he could be and who he is," Dominik said. "It's unconventional. It's legal."
Although not a burner, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Briscoe runs good routes and has body control.
"He and Mike (Williams) are similar in that respect, going up, shielding the defender," receivers coach Eric Yarber said. "He has good enough speed, but he's a precision route runner. He has no technical flaws in his routes. Quickness is a necessity, speed is a luxury. If you've got great speed without quickness, you'll never be able to use it."
With Briscoe's help, the Bucs offense may be changing the scoreboard like a video game.
"This was a spot I felt was for me," Briscoe said. "A bunch of young and hungry guys who want to go out and prove we can go out and play with the elite teams in the league."