Forget the score: There was plenty for Tampa Bay Bucs to feel good about in 44-16 loss to Ravens

adell@bradenton.comAugust 9, 2013 


NFL preseason openers are usually ugly, sort of like what you might expect from someone trying to paint the Mona Lisa wearing a blindfold.

Keeping that in perspective, Greg Schiano has to feel somewhat at ease. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach saw enough against Baltimore on Thursday night to believe some of last season's woes have been repaired.

The final score -- Baltimore 44, Tampa Bay 16 -- is meaningless.

The Bucs are looking for a backup running back who can double as a third-down back and perhaps play fullback.

LeGarrette Blount had that role last year and looked like a lumberjack who wanted to be home in a sewing circle. His hands of stone and inability to understand the playbook made him virtually useless on third and anything longer than three.

The Bucs went out and got Brian Leonard, a Rutgers alum who has that Mafioso toughness Schiano uses to mold into Buccaneer men. The Bucs need someone who can back up tailback Doug Martin, play fullback and be productive on third down.

Leonard showed he could do all those things and do it with enthusiasm against the Ravens. In the first half, he ran for 23 tough yards and scored a touchdown from three yards out barreling through Baltimore's goal-line defense.

Leonard left Rutgers with school career records in receptions and all-purpose yardage. He holds the Big East record for most consecutive

games with at least one reception (47).

Most important, the seven-year pro (last four seasons with Cincinnati) showed against Baltimore that he wanted the job Blount thought was beneath him.

"Brian is moving the ball forward, which is what we expect him to do. We're putting a lot of people in the game and it's a little bit choppy that way, but Brian has played well," Schiano said.

The most exciting moment of the night belonged to rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. On his first pro play, he connected on a 61-yard pass to Tom Crabtree that led to a Derek Dimke 35-yard field goal.

The former N.C. State signal-caller showed poise and on his pass to Crabtree displayed mobility that critics said he didn't posses. He played admirably and threw some ropes in completing 11 of 23 passes for 169 yards.

To put it best, if you are Josh Freeman you are thinking you better play well this season.

There was even reason to for the Bucs to feel good about the dreaded C (cornerback) position that was an aberration last season.

Darrelle Revis, the Bucs' 16-million-dollar-man, didn't play and likely won't hit the field until the season opener, but rookie Johnthan Banks and Danny Gorrer showed they can help.

Banks led the Bucs with five tackles and had a pass breakup. Gorrer intercepted the Ravens' Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco.

Newly acquired Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson, who has been the vocal leader and mentor to the secondary since his arrival from San Francisco, praised his guys for their aggressiveness.

"We have talked about communication being vital out here, especially in the secondary and on the defense. We are doing a good job of lining up and playing a sound defense and swarming to the ball," Goldson said. "In training camp, you go against each other so much, it's good to go against another team. It's a chance to showcase what you've gained so far. But we're still in training camp, so there's still a lot of work to do."

If the Bucs felt as if it was Christmas in August, they have Dimke to thank.

Tampa Bay lost long-ball kicker Connor Barth for the season to an Achilles tear and acquired two-time Super Bowl hero Lawrence Tynes from the Giants.

Tynes is out with an ingrown toenail, and Dimke's career highlight is that he signed as a free agent with Detroit and lasted until August. But on this night he connected on three straight fields of 29, 35 and 45 yards.

Freeman completed 4 of 7 passes for 34 yards and led the Bucs on an 11-play drive that ended in a field goal. He was sacked once and misfired on several passes.

"It felt good to get back out there. Playing a team like the Ravens, they're going to blitz, they're going to play man, they're going to mix it up," Freeman said. "I thought it was an effective day to get out and play against somebody, since the last two-and-a-half weeks we've been playing against each other."

Alan Dell, Herald sportswriter, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at@ADellSports.

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