But while there was definitely some progress over last week's effort, the Bucs showed again that they still have a long way to go after losing to the Dolphins 20-14 in their preseason home opener.
Tampa Bay's starting units got the job done, with the offense capitalizing on a takeaway early in the second quarter to give the Bucs their only lead of the game. Rush defense was again a strong suit for the Bucs, led by another dominant performance from two-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy.
But the Bucs' lack of depth quickly caught up to them when the starters came off the field, as injuries and ineffectiveness allowed the Dolphins to take control of the game. This left the Bucs trailing their in-state opponents by 13 points until a late touchdown kept the final score more respectable than the game truly was.
The Bucs fell despite committing just six penalties on the night, compared to 12 by the Dolphins. Tampa Bay's struggles on offense were once again reflected in poor execution on third downs, as the team converted just two of their 13 attempts after going 4-for-15 last week.
There were definitely flashes of brilliance, but even the Bucs' brightest moments were usually accompanied by a cloud of what could have been. Mike Evans' impressive 42-yard catch-and-run was a prime example, as the rookie appeared to have scored a touchdown but had fumbled the ball as he headed into the end zone for a touchback.
Tonight's performance was definitely a step in the right direction for the Bucs, but they'll have to make many more over the next two games if they want to be any kind of ready for the Panthers in Week 1.
*All stats courtesy of NFL.com