TAMPA — Jacksonville QB David Garrard put up his fair share of numbers in Saturday's preseason game against the Bucs, but it came at a steep price.
Though he passed for 211 yards on 24-of-31 passing, Garrard was pummeled by the interior of the Bucs defensive line, specifically the rookie tandem of tackles, Gerald McCoy and Brian Price.
It was a performance the Bucs hope foreshadows what is to come from a duo they drafted with hopes they'd do exactly this.
Price decked Garrard twice and McCoy once, but Garrard managed to get the ball away just prior to the hit in each case. There were several other instances in which the tackles applied pressure and made Garrard deliver the ball prematurely.
The Bucs didn't manage a sack, which is never considered acceptable, but the presence shown by the interior linemen was something not seen from Tampa Bay for years.
"(Coaches) told me I needed to make the quarterback uncomfortable and that the quarterback needs to feel us," said McCoy, the team's first-round pick. "So I made sure I stayed in his face all night."
It was McCoy's best performance of the preseason after running into a series of double teams during the previous two games.
"You keep pushing," he said. "Every week, starting in Miami, I've been closer and closer. This week, I just kept hitting the quarterback and getting back there. My goal is if I build every week, eventually, there's going to be some trouble."
Price debuted in the previous game against Kansas City but was clearly out of shape after missing extensive practice time with a hamstring injury. On Saturday, he had his legs back, in some cases splitting double teams.
"Our mind-set is to get in there and wreak havoc," he said. "Every time we're in there together, that's our goal. It's time to get after it."
The Bucs have just three sacks this preseason and finished tied for 26th with 28 in the 2009 regular season. But pressure can have an effect, even when the quarterback doesn't go down.
"We've got to get the sacks," DE Kyle Moore said. "Garrard did a real good job of getting rid of it right before we got there. But of course, he did throw one of those for a pick."
Garrard's hurried throw in the second quarter with Moore in his face resulted in LB Barrett Ruud's interception.
NOTHING SPECIAL: KR/RB Clifton Smith finally made his preseason debut, but his first touch was hardly memorable.
He fielded a kickoff before the Bucs' first possession and fumbled at the end of his 17-yard return. The Bucs retained possession after the ball bounced out of bounds.
Smith had missed the previous two games after a bout of what is believed to be gout, a condition that has been affecting him for nearly two months.
Overall, it was not a banner night for special teams. Yes, K Connor Barth was steady again, making 51- and 40-yard field goals. But there were other areas for concern.
For one, the Jaguars ripped off a long kick return to start the game, the second in as many weeks allowed by the Bucs. This time, it was Scotty McGee with a 47-yarder.
Rookie P Brent Bowden had a rough night, exemplified by his 20-yarder in the third quarter — an attempt neither blocked nor closely pressured. Facing fourth and 20 at their 10, the Bucs sent Bowden on to get them out of the jam. But he shanked the kick and gave the Jaguars possession at the Bucs 30.
Just two plays later, Luke McCown threw a touchdown to WR John Matthews.
BUCS BITS: Injured QB Josh Freeman watched the first half from upstairs in the coach's box and wore a headset. … One of Price's QB pressures came out of a 3-4 front, which the Bucs are implementing on occasion, with LB Quincy Black coming off the edge.