Before you discount the win as a meaningless preseason victory, remember that the Buccaneers team finished 2011 with a record of 4-12. Also remember that last year’s Tampa Bay squad lost its last 10 games in a row. Furthermore, don’t forget that owner Malcolm Glazer was forced to clean house in the offseason and start over with an entirely new coaching staff.
Yes, this was just a preseason win. But after the turmoil and suffering through the second half of the season last year, this win is just short of monumental.
Schiano isn’t going to waste time basking in the glory of his first professional victory, and nothing in his short tenure with the Bucs suggests otherwise. He’s businesslike and seemingly never satisfied and ready to get back to Tampa to dive into game film.
Before Schiano moves forward into preseason Week 2, here are three things we learned from Friday’s win:
Who will win the starting RB job in Tampa Bay?
1. The RB battle is far from over
Third-year running back LeGarrette Blount and rookie Doug Martin are locked in a fierce competition to become the team’s No. 1 ball carrier. Prior to Friday’s game, Martin seemingly had the edge, if the number of reps in practice is any indication.
Results from Friday’s win won’t help much to differentiate.
Blount carried the ball seven times for 30 yards and a touchdown. Martin also ran the ball seven times, had a touchdown and gained 21 yards. Each back caught one pass as well; Blount’s was a 3-yard reception and Martin’s a 7-yarder.
The almost-mirror image stat lines—Blount accounted for 33 total yards, Martin 30—won’t help Schiano and his staff pick a winner. At least not from the action of just one preseason game.
This battle will rage on for some time to come.
2. Tiquan Underwood continues to impress
The Buccaneers spread the ball around on offense Friday with 15 different people catching passes. No one caught more than Tiquan Underwood, who had three receptions for 76 yards.
Underwood catching passes for Schiano is nothing new. Catching them in the pros sort of is.
Schiano brought Underwood into the “Buccaneer Family” on May 7, and in just three months seems to have found a way to get production out of him when two different NFL franchises—Underwood played in Jacksonville and New England prior to signing with Tampa Bay—couldn’t.
"It feels really good just to get the respect of my teammates and also the coaches,'' Underwood told the Tampa Tribune. "I'm just trying to go out there, play my heart out and earn that trust from my coaches.''
More outings like Friday’s and Underwood should be able to impress just about everyone he needs to win a roster spot.
3. Lavonte David is the real deal
Rookie Lavonte David was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. In fact, the Buccaneers moved up into the second round to grab him, feeling he wouldn’t last until their next pick.
If that leap of faith wasn’t enough to show David that the Bucs expected big things from him, penciling him in as the starting Will linebacker on the team’s first depth chart of the season should have been.
With all eyes on him Friday, and expectations large, David produced, giving the coaching staff and the fans in Buccaneer Nation plenty of reasons to be thrilled with the team’s love affair with the young linebacker.
David had a tackle and an interception Friday and showed that the speed he displayed at Nebraska, and the sideline-to-sideline drive that this coaching staff loved to see, translated well into the NFL.
"He's done a real good job since he started," coach Greg Schiano said in a Tampa Bay Times article. "And I think he continued to do it (Friday). … He flew around out there, and he looked comfortable. I was happy for him to do it in his hometown, too."