Though the end result was meaningless in the history books of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Greg Schiano era began on a positive note with a 20-7 victory against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on Friday, August 10. More importantly, however, as the new coach judges his 90 man roster, several players distinguished themselves during this pre-season triumph over the cross-state rival. Here is a look at 4 players who stood out during the initial look at the 2012 Bucs.
Dan Orlovsky: If there is one truth about exhibition season, it's that pre-season football is all about the backup quarterback. Starter Josh Freeman was wisely limited to the game's first series, where he led the Bucs on a 7 minute touchdown drive. But it was the newly-signed 28 year-old backup who made a stronger impression on this night. Orlovsky remained under center for the balance of the 1st half and the opening series of the 2nd. During that span, he too led the Bucs on a lengthy scoring drive and completed all 8 of his passes for 91 yards. Fans hold high expectations for a bounce-back year from Freeman and expect Orlovsky on the bench. Yet, the health of a quarterback cannot be taken for granted in the NFL. Successful teams depend on a capable backup and Orlovsky hopes to be such a role player.
LeGarrette Blount: Despite a 1,000 yard rookie campaign in 2010, last year was a struggle for Blount and he now finds himself in a battle for playing time, since Schiano appears determined to move the ball on the ground. In fact, with a reputation for losing the ball and struggles to learn the playbook, the 25 year-old is no lock to be the Bucs' starter. 1st round pick Doug Martin appears to possess an equally valid chance of winning the job and interestingly received the same carries as Blount. Martin looked solid during the contest, netting his 1st career touchdown on a 2 yard scamper in the 2nd quarter. But it was the veteran who seemed to run with slightly more purpose. Blount only accumulated 30 yards on 7 attempts, but definitely possessed those 2010 brutish steps. The 250 pounder emphatically flew through the line on a critical goal-line 4th and 1 for the game's first score.
Tiquan Underwood: Infamously released by the New England Patriots on the eve of February's Super Bowl, the new Buccaneer enjoys the advantage of having played for Schiano at Rutgers University. Underwood hopes to make the squad as a 4th or 5th wide receiver, but there are several others with the same goal. Disappointing 2010 2nd round pick Arrelious Benn missed this game due to injury, making now the perfect time for Underwood to distinguish himself. He did just that against the Dolphins by catching 3 passes for 76 yards, including a key 44 yard strike from Orlovsky.
Lavonte David: Playing before his hometown Miami crowd, this 2nd round rookie out of the University of Nebraska looks poised to assume the starting weakside linebacker job. With the departure of Geno Hayes and underwhelming performances from the rest of the linebacking corps, Bucs' fans are hoping David has a breakthrough year. The 22 year-old took his first NFL steps and seemed immediately comfortable with the faster pace of the pro game -- something untrue in the past for his colleagues. David's 2nd quarter interception of Matt Moore was the sole turnover produced by Tampa Bay and proved instrumental in helping Schiano control time of possession with his preferred ground game.
More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:
Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.
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