In week one of the NFL preseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers almost completed a two-score comeback but ended up just short. After losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-30, the Bucs look to evaluate their own plays and players and prepare for the Miami Dolphins.
In the end, the scores of any preseason game don’t mean much to the fans. The coaches on the other hand love to see young guys fight for that final roster spot and attempt to put their team in the lead. Let’s take a look into the keys to victory this week in week two of the season before the season.
A Familiar Gungslinger Returns to the Bay
The Miami Dolphins have a quarterback battle brewing and it is currently led by Ryan Fitzpatrick. The former Buccaneer looks to start for his eighth different team and has second-year quarterback Josh Rosen breathing down his neck. The Dolphins started Fitzpatrick against the Atlanta Falcons and most likely will against Tampa Bay. Last week Rosen came off the bench and led three scoring drives to Fitzpatricks’ one.
In week one the Buccaneers starting defense looked good at times against backup Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs. Buccaneer pass rushers played well but had trouble wrapping up or containing him inside the pocket. Noah Spence flashed during the game and had a sack in his arms but couldn’t finish well enough. If the Buccaneers can get home against either Miami quarterback this week it would bode well for the confidence for this defense. Both Miami signal callers are traditional throwers. Thankfully for Spence and company, neither is as athletic as Dobbs.
Keys for the Defense
Miami has a talented running back in Kenyon Drake and will he likely play the first few drives or so. Tampa needs to contain the run and hold the Dolphins to second and third and long situations. In turn, that will let the pass rushers pin their ears back and get to the passer. Linebackers Deone Bucannon and Carl Nassib both registered a sack last week, the only two for the Bucs. The defense struggled to get to quarterbacks last season so it would be a good sign if the starters can get two or more Friday night. Rookie Devin White didn’t flash in Pittsburgh, which was a surprise for most. The talented rookie will sure look to get in on the action this time around.
Vernon Hargreaves, the old head of the cornerback room, had a would-be pick called back last week. If he lines up against wide receiver Davonte Parker or Preston Williams I would look for him to be aggressive again. He has the tools to be a playmaker, he just needs to put it together on the field. Rookie cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting was publicly called out by Head Coach Bruce Arians after the game. After registering one assisted tackle in 41 plays, Arians quipped, “I asked him after the game, ‘Did you play?’ ”. That alone should light a fire under the rookie and he will be a key player to watch Friday.
Offensive Fire Power
Tampa Bay have what could be considered a top 10 offense based on talent alone. They sure showed how lethal they could be when it’s all clicking last week on the opening drive. The starting offense capped off a 12 play drive with a nine-yard touchdown by wide receiver Chris Godwin. Quarterback Jameis Winston completed five of six passes including the touchdown pass in his one drive of the night. The key to the preseason for Winston is to stay turnover-free and that jersey of his clean. If he can keep the interceptions to the 0-1 range throughout his playing time this week and next, that should bode well for his 2019 outlook.
The most welcome sight for Buccaneer fans all over was the play of running back Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones. Both players played well during their stints and Jones nearly toppled his 2018 yardage totals in one half of play. As long as both keep hitting holes that come open and stay healthy the Bucs should have a very capable backfield.
Last week I wrote briefly about rookie Dare Ogunbowale and the young man produced big. He came off the bench and punched in two touchdowns for the young Buccaneers in the second half. The yards weren’t there (10 carries for 34 yards, for a 3.4 average) but he did almost key the comeback. Time will tell if he can keep it up and further himself for that third or fourth spot on the roster.
Rookie wide receiver Spencer Schnell had himself a game in the second half last week. The 24-year-old had four catches that exceeded 20 yards and ended the game with seven catches for 119 yards. The Bucs coaching staff must be excited but also dreading cutting down the number in the wide receiver column.
With every big play the young Buccaneers make, the decisions become harder for the coaching staff. Preseason is all about what the players know and if the young guys can show what they are made of. Tampa Bays’ starting offense showed they can produce right away in week one but this time they have to be consistent. Defensively the Bucs played well in their first live-action in a new scheme and look to build off of that performance.
The second and third-string Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed grit last week in attempting a two-score comeback that fell just short. If they can continue to play well in the clutch and beat other second units, the Buccaneers can really start forming a foundation to build off of.