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Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Defense sharp from start

— Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy set the tone for a swarming Bucs defense from the start Friday evening.

McCoy dropped Jordan Todman for a 5-yard loss on the initial play from scrimmage and Tampa Bay gave up yards grudgingly in Lovie Smith’s debut as head coach of the Buccaneers.

The Jaguars punted on all three of their first-quarter possessions, gaining only 35 yards in 13 plays from scrimmage. Tampa Bay’s rush defense was particularly stout early, limiting the Jags to 5 yards on their first six carries as second-year CB Johnthan Banks was credited with three tackles.

When the Bucs went to their second-team unit, the defense remained stout.

Jacksonville finished the opening half 0-for-7 on third down, averaging 3.6 yards per offensive snap. DL Da’Quan Bowers, trying to make an impression in a contract year, registered two tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass deflection before the half.

“Everybody’s flying around, getting to play fast,’’ McCoy said. “The defense is simple and hard at the same time. It’s hard to get down, but once you do, it’s very simple and you can play fast. I think we did that tonight.

“They got a tipped pass that got them a couple extra yards, but past that they didn’t really get anything. I think it was a good first outing. It could be better, a little bit, with our fits, but overall I think it was good.”

From the booth

According to Ronde Barber, who served as color analyst for the Bucs-Jaguars broadcast on WFLA, Ch. 8, Tampa Bay is poised for a major jump in the standings.

Barber retired in 2013 after 16 years with the Bucs, earning five Pro Bowl berths at cornerback before switching to safety in his final season. He will be teamed with play-by-play man Chris Myers this fall and they are slated to work Tampa Bay’s regular-season opener Sept. 7 against Carolina at Raymond James Stadium.

“I’m definitely encouraged by what the Bucs have done in the offseason,’’ Barber said. “I still think there’s room for this team to grow. By no means do I think they’re there, but there’s no reason the Bucs can’t make a dramatic turnaround.’’

Barber lauded the hiring of Smith, who is implementing a defense based on the Cover 2 principles that characterized Tampa Bay’s emergence as a league power in the late 1990s.

“This defense suits a guy like (safety) Mark Barron perfectly,’’ Barber said. “It’s a simple scheme with a lot of rules. Once you get those down, you start playing fast — and that makes all the difference.’’

Extra points

CBs Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins, S Dashon Goldson and defensive linemen Scott Solomon and Jibreel Black did not dress for the Bucs. ... Nine of Tampa Bay’s 22 starters Friday were not on the Bucs roster last season. ... Former Bucs OLB Geno Hayes started for Jacksonville. ... Second-year DE Steven Means posted a one-handed sack for Tampa Bay late in the opening half. ... Two enormous video boards, spanning 60 feet high and 362 feet across, were unveiled at EverBank Field to provide crystal-clear views of the action. ... Former University of Central Florida QB Blake Bortles, the third overall pick in the draft, made his Jacksonville debut five minutes into the second quarter and generated a roar from the meager crowd. ... The game was played under clear skies and 84-degree temperatures after a thunderstorm moved through the area quickly in the late afternoon.

Ira Kaufman

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