TAMPA, FLA., AUG. 29 -- Maybe now the jokes will cease. Once one of the most feared defensive units in the league, the Tampa Bay defense has been about as ferocious as a sick puppy the last few years. But tonight in a 17-10 preseason victory over the Redskins, the Buccaneers showed they might be on the road to a speedy recovery.
In limiting Washington to 10 points (the Redskins' lowest point total of the preseason), the Buccaneers defense stuffed the Redskins running game, giving up 137 net yards, and kept Jay Schroeder, who played almost the entire game, relatively in check. Schroeder was 15 of 30 for 190 yards and one interception. As expected, Doug Williams did not play.
"Overall defensively, this was our best hitting game," said Buccaneers Coach Ray Perkins. "Of course, they made quite a few big plays on us, which you don't like to see."
Of all areas, the Buccaneers looked particularly intimidating against the pass. (And the biggest laughs had been directed at the Buccaneers pass rush.) Tonight, the Buccaneers had two sacks and pressured Schroeder on numerous occasions. That might not sound like a lot, but for a team that was last in the NFL in sacks and total defense last season, it's good news.
"I'll tell you this," said defensive lineman Ron Holmes, "there's a lot of pride on this defense. We've been down in the valley for so long and now I think the players are committed to getting better."
The Buccaneers' defensive numbers are even more surprising considering they were accumulated against the Redskins' formidable first-string offensive line, which was on the field for a good portion of the night. Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel has had a number of his players switch positions in training camp this year, supposedly for the better.
Causing the most problems for the Redskins were Holmes, lineman Tyrone Keys and inside linebacker Jeff Davis. Holmes and Keys were the masterminds behind the pass rush. Keys got one sack, dropping Schroeder for a five-yard loss, and Holmes kept Schroeder in motion.
And with large, sweaty linemen pulling on Schroeder all night, the Buccaneers' secondary got a break. The Redskins' got a couple of big plays, but mostly at insignificant times. Although Keys and defensive end Kevin Kellin, who was credited with the other sack, got the recognition, Davis led the Buccaneers in tackles with seven.
"We knew the Redskins had a strong offense," said rookie safety Ray Isom. "Without the rush those guys up front put on, we wouldn't have been able to do what we did."
"Schroeder can hurt you," added cornerback Vito McKeever, who defended three passes and had one interception. "We were in the right area at the right time."
George Rogers was the only Redskin who had much success running the ball. He picked up 37 yards on four carries, including a 19-yarder to start the game. But, when he went down midway through the opening quarter, so did Washington's ground game.
Keith Griffin had no room to get by Holmes and company. Griffin gained 25 yards on eight carries. Timmy Smith came on later and picked up 54 yards on eight attempts. Although the Buccaneers were impressive, Holmes emphasized the reality of the situation. "You've got to keep in mind that this was only a preseason game," he said.