Brent Grimes going up high to break up a Bortles pass – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Jaguars QB Blake Bortles was efficient in his early and limited action Saturday, but the Bucs secondary shined throughout the night, recording four interceptions during the Bucs 27-21 victory. Reserve defensive linemen also picked up the slack while a couple of undrafted linebackers made a case for backup jobs on one of the Bucs’ strongest units. While the starting front-four, without Gerald McCoy, and LB corps, without Daryl Smith, could’ve applied more pressure and avoided some mental mistakes early on, it’s still the preseason and starters are still just trying to find their rhythm. Read how each unit graded out according to PewterReport.com and share your thoughts.
The Bucs D-Line was without its anchor, Gerald McCoy, Saturday night and they looked a little more pedestrian this time around to start Week 2 of the preseason.
The four-man front, which rotated in over 10 players at some point, failed to record a sack through four quarters. Though, in fairness, Howard Jones applied pressure through much of the third quarter and set the path for LB Luke Rhodes’ sack on third-and-6. And Kourtnei Brown also did some nice things, forcing Chad Henne out of the pocket a few times and looking like a solid backup along the D-Line.
Will Gholston and Davonte Lambert, an undrafted rookie out of Auburn, let the unit in tackles with three each. Overall, it was a better effort Saturday by the reserve linemen than the starting four. Tampa Bay would’ve liked to see a little more pressure on Blake Bortles, who completed 8-of-11 passes for 85 yards and two scores in limited reps.
Kwon Alexander had a costly unnecessary roughness penalty and Lavonte David was caught chasing T.J. Yeldon on the Jaguars’ first TD, but cleaning up the little things are what the preseason is for.
As far as the stat sheet for the starters, without Daryl Smith, both David and Alexander recorded three tackles on the night. Leading the team in tackles was Adarius Glanton with four, who also played a part in Johnthan Banks’ late interception by applying great pressure on QB Brandon Allen. Former William & Mary LB Luke Rhodes, of course, was credited with the Bucs lone sack on a blitz.
Linebacker is arguably the Bucs’ strongest starting unit, and on Saturday they showed some depth. Josh Keyes got the start over sixth-rounder Devonte Bond in Smith’s absence, but Glanton and Rhodes were the standout reserve players.
Tampa Bay held strong against the run, holding Jacksonville RBs to 67 yards on 20 carries, with no runs of over 10 yards.
Brent Grimes and Chris Conte combined for one of the best defensive plays of the game on Blake Bortles’ first attempt – a deep ball after being flushed from the pocket – and Vernon Hargreaves added two interceptions in six plays to sum up an eventful night for the Bucs secondary.
Working against Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, Grimes made a few impressive plays to knock the ball away from the Jags promising duo that made up for his one error – a 24-yard TD pass from Bortles to Hurns that was tough to defend. After an incredible breakup on a deep ball in the second quarter, Ronde Barber said Grimes, who stands 5-foot-10, “plays like he’s 6-foot-2.”
But the defensive player of the night on either team was Bucs first-round pick Hargreaves. Both INTs were athletic plays and ones that energized the defense and the fans. It also started an interception spree, as Johnthan Banks got one off Brandon Allen and Ryan Smith, the Bucs fourth-round pick, added another off Max Witteck in the closing minutes.
Keith Tandy, for his part, was shaken up after taking a knee to the head, but walked off the field on his own power. He finished with one tackle and flew around on some other plays in the second half. While Bortles had a strong performance, the Bucs secondary made a few plays in the opening minutes and came on strong in the second half, only hearing their names called on good plays. Henne, Wittek and Allen combined to go 5-of-21 for 53 yards and four interceptions.
For the Bucs return game, Week 2 got off to a much better start than Week 1 as Donteea Dye took the opening kick back to the 32-yard line. As far as the kicking game, though, it was more of the same.
Roberto Aguayo, drafted No. 55 overall after never missing a kick from under 40 yards at FSU, pushed attempts from 32 and 49 wide right. It’s still just the preseason, but fans – and possibly the Bucs front office – are already starting to panic.
Adam Humphries returned punts for 14 and 17 yards, though the first was called back on a penalty, while Bernard Reedy made a rookie mistake to fair catch a punt inside the 10-yard line in the third quarter. Jonathan Krause, who had a 41-yard reception, took his first punt return back 18 yards to the Bucs 42 and possibly earned himself a few more opportunities over the final two weeks.
The story of special teams for the Bucs will once again be on kicker, Roberto Aguayo. He’s now 3-for-5 on FGs – which have all been under 50 – and 3-for-4 on PATs in the preseason. That has to change quickly for the Bucs, who cut three different kickers last year, to justify taking him in the second round. As head coach Dirk Koetter said after Saturdays’ game, “We’ve got to make the damn field goal.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I still haven’t read one article yet from all of the brilliant and introspective scribes that cover the Bucs about how few penalties that the Bucs committed.
Hey, if you are gong to way your finger at them when they commit them, you should give them their props when they don’t.
Another mystery I haven’t heard explained yet is why Akeem Spence, who normally is the Bucs top reserve DT, didn’t play with the starters at the beginning of the game.
Can any of you future Hubert Mizell’s explain the reason for that personnel move.
I believe it’s because Spence plays the nose position behind McDonald. He doesn’t play the 3 technique.
A little edgy are we not?
Not having McCoy made a difference. The pass rush definitely appears to suffer without him. I notice Spence doesn’t seem to be getting much play either. I am wondering if he even starts this year. We are not hearing much about him it seems. VHIII was awesome and it would seem that keeping him out of the starting lineup by the beginning of the season is going to be difficult. The entire secondary seems to be making some big improvements. If we can get a consistent pass rush, that secondary is going to be very good.
The secondary, arguably our weakest area last year, has been impressive and now seems to be a strength. The pass rush just has to be half way decent and we’ll be hard to beat defensively. Once GMC is back in the mix I feel they will be, especially with Spence getting more play time.
I’m worried about the kicking game but hopefully the jitters will get shaken off by week 1
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