Three rookies come through like veterans for Bucs
Play like a starter. That's what Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris expects all his players to do, even the non-starters. Once again Sunday, the non-starters met expectations.
Three players from the bottom of the roster — players pressed into emergency duty because of injuries — had a big hand in the Bucs' 23-13 victory against the Saints.
Start with Dezmon Briscoe, the rookie receiver stolen away from the Bengals at the end of the preseason. In his second NFL game, Briscoe led the Bucs in receiving with four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Then look to Larry Asante, the rookie safety signed off the Browns' practice squad after Tampa Bay let Sabby Piscitelli go. In his second NFL game, he stopped a Saints drive at the Bucs' 4 by intercepting Drew Brees.
Finally, glance over at Preston Parker, the rookie wideout signed after everyone else ignored him on draft day. In his ninth NFL game, he set up a score with a 12-yard catch.
"Some of these guys, you don't even know who they are,'' Morris said. "But they put on a helmet and they buy into the system, and we put them on the field and they play fast, hard and consistent. That's all you can ask of them.''
The Bucs actually asked much more. Though Maurice Stovall started in place of injured receiver Arrelious Benn, the plan was to lean more on Briscoe. And with Sammie Stroughter sidelined by a sore hamstring, the Bucs planned to lean heavily on Parker as their slot receiver.
That both stepped up did not surprise quarterback Josh Freeman. "We knew he was a stud way back when we got him,'' Freeman said of Briscoe. "It was just that Arrelious was playing such good football. But when he went down, we knew we had another guy stashed away in Briscoe, and he really performed well.
"And with Preston, he's going to be a huge player for us. He has a lot of speed, more than anybody on our offense really. And he has great hands. He's just kind of a raw go-get-it kind of guy.''
The guy who really went out and got it Sunday, though, was Asante. He spared the Bucs a potentially game-altering score by the Saints when he intercepted Brees just before halftime.
"That was definitely a confidence booster for me,'' Asante said. "For them to throw me in there in that situation showed a lot of confidence. It's going to boost my confidence making that play.''
Briscoe no doubt also gained some confidence. His touchdown catch came on a play in which he had to drag his back foot to ensure both feet were inbounds.
"When I caught the ball I felt my back foot slide and then I looked up and I saw the referee's hands go up (signaling a touchdown),'' Briscoe said. "That's when I knew I had it.''
"That was just a great catch,'' Freeman said. "I can't wait to get into the offseason and get some more work with (them)."
The Bucs can't wait to see the results.
|About the writer|
Roy Cummings has been The Tampa Tribune's primary Buccaneer beat writer for many years now and has a knowledge of the current players that is unsurpassed amongst local reporters. He also appears on Channel 8's news broadcasts on stories about the Bucs. He came to London with the Buccaneers in 2009 and was at Richmond Park to be part of the Bucs UK's most memorable day when the club took on the UK Patriots at touch football in front of many Bucs alumni and club officials.