Tampa Bay’s first-round draft pick, safety Mark Barron from Alabama, may be the most-hyped defensive rookie on the Bucs' roster this season. But in Friday’s preseason debut at Miami, linebacker Lavonte David proved himself capable of being an impact player in his first NFL season as well.
David, a Miami native playing in front of friends and family, grabbed an interception in the Buccaneers’ 20-7 win over the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. But more importantly, he adjusted quickly to the pace of the game, according to Stephen F. Holder of the Tampa Bay Times.
“It was definitely faster,” David said. “But I kind of got used to it. As the game went on, I just adjusted.”
That sort of attitude, in which little seems to overwhelm the rookie from Nebraska, is one key reason David seems likely to hold a starting spot at weak-side linebacker when the season begins.
- Pressure to generate pressure: The Bucs’ defense was the NFL’s worst in many key statistical areas a season ago, including quarterback sacks, in which Tampa Bay had a league-worst 23. Increasing pressure on the quarterback may be one way to quickly improve a defense that fared poorly in 2011, as Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times notes. Coach Greg Schiano felt the Buccaneers did a solid job of moving Miami quarterback Matt Moore out of the pocket, but as the game wore on, the backups didn’t manage to get in the backfield as frequently. “They threw for a lot of yards,” Schiano said. “Some of that was coverage, some of that was pressure. But overall, I thought there were some good things.”
- For once, a positive attitude in Tampa: Schiano wasn’t the only one who thought “there were some good things” after the win over the Dolphins. An overwhelming air of positivity dominated the night as the team prepared for the short trip home, according to Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune. “You don’t want to ready too much into an exhibition game,” two-time Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph said, “but for a team that hasn’t won in a long time, it was a good start.”
- Ground and pound: Several of the team’s offseason moves, from adding two-time Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks to drafting running back Doug Martin in the first round, were built around the idea of improving the ground game. The Miami game showed the Bucs are committed to moving the ball on the ground, writes Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. Schiano and company plan to try to pound the ball into the end zone when they get close, as evidenced by the play-calling in the preseason opener: nine of the team’s 11 snaps inside the red zone were run plays.
- Competition continues at RB: Speaking of the running game, the battle for the starting spot between rookie Martin and veteran LeGarrette Blount is nowhere near finished, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. The competition drove Blount to drop a few pounds over the course of the offseason, getting the former Oregon star in the best shape of his NFL career.
- New attitude drives WR Underwood: One of the surprise stars of the preseason opener was wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, who had three receptions for a game-high 76 yards in his first game since reuniting with Schiano, his college coach at Rutgers. On his third team in four years, Underwood has a “now-or-never approach” according to Stephen F. Holder of the Tampa Bay Times. Offseason workouts with Arizona star Larry Fitzgerald taught Underwood he has to have a confidence bordering on cockiness to find success.
For more from Tampa Bay Bucs blogger Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsNFLTB.