In the final tune-up before next week's opening of the 2012 NFL season, the Washington Redskins thoroughly defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by the score of 30-3 on Wednesday, August 29. The loss evens the Bucs' record at 2-2 during the exhibition month of August. While such a winning percentage would represent significant improvement during the regular season, it is a mistake to read much significance into pre-season accomplishments. Despite the frustrating one-sided nature of the game, it must be noted that the Bucs employed 2nd and 3rd string players throughout the meeting. Here's a look at the good, bad, and ugly of Tampa Bay's final pre-season game of 2012.
-- Few players made a superior impression throughout the pre-season than free agent wide-receiver Tiquan Underwood, who possesses a legitimate chance to qualify for the final roster. Though Underwood did not see the ball in the month's middle 2 games, the 25 year-old opened strongly against Miami and finished even better during the Redskins' game. Underwood led the Bucs by reeling in 6 passes for 82 yards on Wednesday night -- exactly half of the team's yards through the air. The former New England Patriot, who was infamously cut on the eve of last year's Super Bowl, further recorded 3 tackles on special teams. Such extra effort could certainly provide Underwood with an edge in the crowded battle at wide receiver. Furthermore, it undoubtedly benefits the New Jersey native that he previously played for Coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers University.
-- Though clubs employ copious resources to craft draft selections, fans perennially root for a handful of undrafted rookies to defy the odds by landing on the opening day roster. The Bucs may have discovered such a player in Sean Baker, who impressively posted 6 tackles and 2 interceptions against the Redskins. The safety from Ball State was inked to an NFL contract following rookie mini-camp in May. He played in all 4 pre-season contests and accumulated 11 total tackles. Nevertheless, the position will be difficult to crack, since the Bucs already possess a new starting duo in Mark Barron and Ronde Barber. Baker is likely competing for a spot with 3rd year veteran Cody Grimm and 2nd year player Ahmad Black, but both safeties have a history of injuries in their limited careers. The 6'1" Baker displayed a similar knack for the ball with an 18 total interceptions in college.
-- While many NFL teams allowed 1st stringers to see limited duty in the final pre-season games, the Bucs and Redskins instead benched both their starting and backup quarterbacks. With Josh Freeman and Dan Orlovsky sitting this one out, little-known Brett Ratliff stood under center for the entire contest. Though Tampa Bay's depth chart may not change at this late point, the 27 year-old certainly failed to impress in this showcase. Ratliff, who has yet to attempt a regular season NFL throw, completed only 14 of 30 passes for 164 yards. The University of Utah product additionally was doomed by 3 interceptions and 5 sacks, as he failed to propel any offense throughout the dismal game. Indeed, the Bucs only entered the red zone 1 time and Ratliff missed too many receivers to deserve job security. It is a familiar feeling, since the journeyman has filled out the practice squads of 6 teams in his 6 year career.
-- As horrid as the offense appeared against Washington, the defense truly deserved the label of ugly for its performance. In addition to yielding 222 passing yards to rookie QB Kirk Cousins, Tampa Bay surrendered 228 rushing yards to the Redskins, despite being spared the burden of facing primary back Tim Hightower. In total, 4 runners accrued at least 40 yards for the Skins, while Roy Helu particularly feasted on the visitors' poor tackling with 90 yards and 2 TDs. Treated equally to counterparts on offense, the Bucs' 1st string defense was rested in this game. Instead, Coach Schiano played reserves to allow the contest to serve as an audition for the remaining spots on the roster, which must be submitted by August 31st. While 6th round selection Keith Tandy distinguished himself with 7 tackles at linebacker, Tampa Bay cannot feel confident in overall depth going into 2012.
Yahoo! Sports, NFL.com, BallStateSports.com.
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.
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Tampa Bay
- Washington Redskins
- Tiquan Underwood