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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

This start surely won't calm any nerves

— At first glance, you didn't want to take a second glance.

He was sacked, stripped, pressured. He threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He was stripped again, fumbled. Other team's ball.

Other than that, super night.

Josh McCown (see man behind crumbling pass protection) is still the Bucs' starting quarterback and Jeff Tedford is still the Bucs' offensive coordinator, no matter how it all looked in Friday's 16-10 loss in the preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Lovie Smith's first time out as Bucs head coach.

Now, what do you say we pass the helmet around and buy a new starting offensive line?

Mike Glennon, stay frisky. You might need to follow the trail of bread crumbs left by McCown's stretcher bearers.

It was just one quarter of football in the first exhibition game.

Nothing is ever as dire as it seems that first time out.

Good thing, too.

Josh McCown's first Bucs possession lost 7 yards.

Yes, you couldn't help but juxtapose Friday.

Jaguars fans stood and cheered at the second-quarter debut of their top draft pick, 22-year-old quarterback Blake Bortles, the third pick overall out of UCF. Then there was the 35-year-old McCown's Bucs debut, after the first time in 10 years he has been a starting QB heading into a NFL training camp.

I wouldn't start the Glennon For Starter campaign, though QBOTF (Quarterback of the Future) followed McCown into the game and completed 11 of 19 passes for 140 yards and a TD pass to Tommy Streeter. I'm just saying ...

Jeff Tedford's offense remains under wraps.

Friday, it needed a sheet pulled over its head, at least in that first quarter.

The first-team Bucs defense seemed ready enough, even though all it had to get ready for was Jacksonville starting QB Chad Henne.

Gerald McCoy made a 5-yard tackle for loss on the game's first play from scrimmage. Well played. Have a seat. See you in September. He looks ready.

The offense looked anything but, especially up front.

“Had some protection issues, didn't protect the quarterback well enough,” Lovie said.


Here are some early offensive line highlights, news from the weak link:

Holding on Demar Dotson; Jamon Meredith, beaten badly; Anthony Collins beaten badly, McCown sacked.

Late weak-link news: The first real breakout play by a Bucs rookie this preseason, a 48-yard reception by tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, was wiped out by a holding penalty on third-string left tackle J.B. Shugarts.

This line is going to be trouble.

McCown was stripped, fumbled, picked it up and ran, got clobbered. Later, he threw off his back foot as linebacker Telvin Smith hit him. The ball sailed high over rookie Mike “I'm 6-5, not 10-5!” Evans and was caught by Jacksonville's Winston Guy Jr., who took it back 68 yards for a touchdown.

McCown was stripped on his last play of the game, too, and the Jags recovered.

That was McCown's fault. You just can't hold on to the football that long.

Nighty night.

Yes, it was just one night, just one quarter, and McCown threw only four passes, one of them a nice completion to Vincent Jackson.

But none of this exactly calms your nerves if you're a Bucs fan.

McCown, provided he is given time by the line to set up, is the key to this offense and maybe this Bucs season. He has as much to prove as anyone. He is out to show he was worth the wait — all his waiting — for him to be in Tampa Bay as Lovie's hand-picked man.

Josh McCown has been kicked around and knocked down plenty in his NFL career.

That might come in handy.

He started his career with his new team flat on his back.

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