Time to say it again, once more: It's only preseason—it doesn't count.
It's too easy, sometimes, to read too much or too little into these games. They cause concern for some, overconfidence for others.
Friday night brings a horse of a different color. We're talking the New England Patriots, the standard for the modern NFL. If this is a passing league, the Patriots are at the top of the food chain. The maestro of their aerial orchestra is Tom Brady.
Brady sat out Monday night's game against Philadelphia. Bill Belichick is stingy with his star signal-caller in the preseason. He should be. Michael Vick got the bejeebers knocked out of him on Monday in a game that didn't count.
It doesn't count Friday night when the Bucs face New England in Raymond James, but before we get into that, here's a "troubling" trend we've seen after two games.
Dallas Clark: zero catches. Sammie Stroughter: zero catches. Vincent Jackson: one catch. Luke Stocker: one catch. Preston Parker: one catch. LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin: one catch each. Mike Williams: TWO catches!
Franchise quarterback Josh Freeman has eight completions in two games.
Are you concerned about Josh Freeman and the passing game?
Against Miami, the Bucs wanted to establish the run, and they did that.
Against Tennessee, it was tough to tell what the Bucs wanted to establish. If it was the passing game, well, pressure on Freeman kept that to a minimum.
On Monday, the Bucs claimed receiver Jordan Shipley on waivers from the Bengals (per ProFootballTalk). What does that mean? What looked like a crowded receiver roster now has another body. That possibly spells bad news for guys like Ed Gant down there at the bottom of the heap.
It also means that the staff is not happy with the quality at the bottom of the depth chart.
Whatever it means, Friday night will spell a different set of circumstances for both phases of the offense.
Freeman hasn't played enough or passed enough to get into any kind of rhythm. Friday night, he should go into the third quarter. And that should give us an idea of his progress this summer. Add left tackle Donald Penn back into the starting lineup, and that should help both phases of the offense.
The Bucs have to move the ball against the Patriots. In 2011, New England ranked 31st in defense in the NFL. The Patriots simply outscore the opposition.
With that in mind, the Bucs need to look better this week. They'll practice twice with the Patriots before they square off Friday night.
Should there be concern about Freeman and the passing game?
Let's see how they look this week.
That should yield a much clearer picture, shouldn't it?