Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Something to Build On

Chris Simms doesn’t need the preseason to tell him the Bucs’ starting offense is ready to produce, but he would still like to see his unit get into a regular-season groove against the Jaguars

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QB Chris Simms is practicing in anticipation of a longer stint in Saturday's game at Jacksonville

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms has a good idea of how long he and the starting offense should remain in the game on Saturday in Jacksonville.

"Until we score a few touchdowns," said Simms. "It would be good to go out on that note."

Simms and his crew are in a very common position as the Buccaneers head into the third game of the preseason, which is usually the contest that includes the longest stretch of action for the starters on both sides of the ball. Simms has played just four possessions through the first two games, producing a total of three points on a game-opening march against Miami last Saturday.

To say such production is discouraging would be pushing it. The one series played against the New York Jets in the August 11 opener was little more than a throwaway, and even three series in the follow-up is little time to get into a rhythm. Simms led one successful march to open the Dolphins game and then was hamstrung by penalties on the next two before calling it a night.

Last year's starter, Brian Griese, didn't get the offense into the end zone in his two preseason-opening cameos, either, but the Bucs' offense was just fine when the regular season began, scoring 87 points in a 4-0 start. In 2004, Brad Johnson and the starting offense produced one field goal in the first two games. You have to go back to 2003 to find a Buc starting offense that came out of the gates firing, as the defending Super Bowl champs got touchdowns out of Johnson's group in each of the first two games.

That's why Simms laughed as he threw out that possible criteria for leaving his group in against the Jaguars on Saturday. The Bucs would like to have started each of the first two games with length-of-the-field TD marches, but they're not overly concerned by the failure to do so.

"The bottom line is, we know we've got something going on [with this offense]," said Simms. "We're not all that concerned with it, but of course we want to go out there and be successful and have something to build on. At the same time, I think we're very confident as a football team, offensively and defensively. We're going to go out there and play hard and see what happens."

Simms also laughed because he knows he has no say in the matter. While it's not uncommon to see the starters open the second half in the third game of the preseason, there's no guarantee that Head Coach Jon Gruden will follow that pattern. Who knows? The Bucs' staff might be more interested in getting another on-field comparison between backups Tim Rattay and Bruce Gradkowski.

"I just listen," said Simms. "Whatever coach wants of me, I'm there to do. I don't really know how much I'm playing, but I'm sure he'll have a plan here in the next day or two. When he lets me know, it will be fine."

In addition to the increased playing time, Simms can look forward to another advantage on Saturday as he tries to get into the groove for the regular season: A full supporting cast. He has yet to hand the ball to the Bucs' leading rusher from 2005 or throw a pass to the team's leading receiver. Cadillac Williams and Joey Galloway are likely to see some action this weekend after being healthy scratches in games one and two.

Having the whole group intact will make Simms even more eager to succeed, no matter what the game means, or doesn't mean, to the standings.

"We're all competitors, and I know me personally I want to go out there and do a good job and be successful," he said. "It's an important game for our offense because we've got everybody in this week. I'm sure we'll get a little more extended playing time, so we just want to be a little more consistent.

"I'm definitely excited to have Joey out there, and Cadillac because when the defense sees Cadillac they're probably thinking run right off the bat anyway. They're both big keys to our offense and they're definitely keys to our success."

The schedule didn't afford Simms and company an easy task for their get-ready game. The Jaguars have a very stout defense centered around defensive tackles John Henderson and Marcus Stroud, and they're likely to leave their starters out as long as the Bucs do, if not longer.

"They're without question one of the best defenses in the NFL last year and I'm sure they will be again this year," said Simms. "They're really big up front, pretty athletic at linebacker and they've got some guys who can man you up in the defensive secondary. They're about as solid a group as we'll play in the NFL this year. We're excited to face that challenge."

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