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Jones: Other than little matter of scoring, Bucs offense looks sharp

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston looks to pass against the Browns. Tampa Bay has been moving the ball, but points are hard to come by this preseason.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston looks to pass against the Browns. Tampa Bay has been moving the ball, but points are hard to come by this preseason.
Published Aug. 27, 2017

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones gives his Two Cents review of Saturday's preseason game between the Bucs and Browns.

Overall impression

We keep hearing about how good the Bucs' offense is going to be this season. And to be fair, it played Saturday's game against the Browns without big-time weapons Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. And to be even fairer, it's the preseason, meaning it's unlikely any team is showing all the plays in its playbook. Most teams keep their offense pretty vanilla for these games that don't matter. Surely, Dirk Koetter kept his play calling pretty close to the chest.

But don't you want to see more actual scoring from this offense?

Quarterback Jameis Winston looked sharp again, and it wasn't as if the Bucs didn't move the ball in the 13-9 loss. They did. But they aren't exactly lighting up the scoreboard this preseason. Even more concerning is that with Winston at quarterback in the first half, the Bucs did nothing after their defense twice forced turnovers.

The Bucs came in with only two touchdowns this preseason, and what passed as a first-team offense in the first half Saturday did not add to that total. The Bucs ended up with three field goals for the game.

I still think this is going to be a good offense. It has too many good players with track records.

But we haven't seen it yet. Not this preseason. And with most of the starters expected to sit next week in the fourth and final preseason game, the Bucs will go into the regular season having not really shown much on offense.

The easy thing to do is say, "Don't worry, it's only the preseason." But suddenly, heading into that Sept. 10 regular-season opener against the Dolphins, Bucs fans are left to wonder just how explosive this offense is going to be.

Defense?

The Bucs gave up some splash plays to the Browns, but the first-team defense, playing without injured Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander, gave up only three first-half points and created two turnovers. That'll work.

Biggest hold-your-breath moment

Biggest fear going into the game? That somebody important would get hurt.

Well, on the very first drive, Winston took a heck of a lick from Browns 2017 No. 1 draft pick Myles Garrett. Winston needs the work, so you can't sit him in the third preseason game.

But at moments like that, you start to question why teams play so many preseason games. The goal for coaches in the preseason is to get their team ready and make sure no one gets hurt. And that's not in order of importance.

The Bucs did not get through the game unscathed. Wide receiver Adam Humphries injured a hip in the second quarter and did not return.

Biggest excuse

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Winston threw his first interception of the preseason, and though it wasn't a great throw, there was something strange about it. Yes, he overthrew tight end Cameron Brate, but it looked as if either Brate was held up or didn't run the pattern as sharply as he could have. Not to make excuses for Winston, but I'm not sure he deserves 100 percent of the blame for the pick.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Nothing like preseason football in Florida. A 7:30 p.m. start means there's, like, a 107 percent chance that nasty thunderstorms will cause a problem at some point. And nothing like charging fans ridiculous prices to sit in the rain to watch football that doesn't count. But anything for a buck, right, NFL?

2. This isn't exactly breaking news, but Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves looks as if he is going to be a special player. He had his second interception of the preseason.

3. The steal of the draft might turn out to be the Bucs picking up wide receiver Chris Godwin with the 84th overall pick. With Evans, Jackson, Humphries and Godwin, the Bucs could have one of the best and deepest wide receiving corps in the NFL.

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