It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. The Bucs had a come-from-behind victory to beat the visiting Miami Dolphins, 16-14, and move to 1-1 on the preseason. Tampa Bay scored 10 points in the final 3:35 to pull off the comeback win versus Miami with rookie kicker Matt Gay kicking the game-winning 48-yarder with just seconds left.

2 BIG STATEMENTS

STATEMENT 1: Young Bucs Step Up In Win
With the Buccaneers starters essentially playing one series and not doing much on offense or defense, Friday night’s game against the Dolphins was yet another chance for the team’s rookies and young players to shine. There was a handful that rose to the occasion, especially on offense.

Second-year tight end Tanner Hudson proved to be the most reliable receiver on the field for a second straight week, catching six passes for 93 yards and a key fourth quarter touchdown against Miami following a seven-catch, 84-yard, one-touchdown performance versus Pittsburgh last week. But don’t pencil Hudson in for a 53-man roster spot just yet.

The Bucs have three tight ends they really like in O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Antony Auclair – all three of whom can block, which is not Hudson’s strength at all. After getting blown up and allowing penetration on a fourth-and-1 run last week, Hudson got run over on a third-and-1 run against the Dolphins, which doesn’t help his cause. Hudson needs to find the want-to to block and be a factor on special teams or he won’t make the team regardless of how many catches he makes.

Bucs K Matt Gay
Bucs K Matt Gay – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Tanner did have two big catches in the final minute of the game that set up rookie kicker Matt Gay’s 48-yard field goal, which was the game-winner. Gay, a fifth-round draft pick, connected on a 32-yard field goal earlier in the game and nailed a 55-yarder last week at Pittsburgh. Gay is now 3-of-3 on field goals in the preseason and is the early favorite to beat out Cairo Santos for the field goal kicking duties.

Running back Dare Ogunbowale is in his second year in Tampa Bay and continues to impress. He was Tampa Bay’s leading rusher for the second week in a row with 34 yards on 13 carries (2.6 avg.) running behind a second-string offensive line that struggled to open up holes in the running game.

Ogunbowale exceled as a receiver on Friday night where he caught three passes for 54 yards, including a game-long 41-yard screen pass that showed his open-field running ability. Ogunbowale, who is in the lead for the third-down back role ahead of veteran Andre Ellington, also had another catch-and-run that traveled more than 30 yards called back due to a penalty. Ogunbowale is in the lead for the third-down back role ahead of Ellington.

On the defensive side of the ball, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said he wanted to see rookie cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting step up this week after a poor NFL debut in Pittsburgh. Instead, it was Tampa Bay’s other rookie cornerback, Jamel Dean, who had a standout performance. Dean missed last week’s game due to injury, but came up with a big interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter and finished with two tackles and two pass breakups.

Bucs CB Jamel Dean
Bucs CB Jamel Dean – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Dean, who had a really good week of practice against the Dolphins in the joint practice sessions, redeemed himself with that end zone pick because he dropped an easy interception in the first half that hit him right in the hands. Because Dean has sub-4.3 speed, he might have had a pick-six if he had caught the ball and might have finished his first NFL game with two big interceptions had he hung on to his dropped interception.

STATEMENT 2: Barrett Leads Tampa Bay’s Sack Attack
Last week it was outside linebacker Noah Spence showing off his pass rush moves in Pittsburgh. This week against Miami, it was outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who brought the heat from the edge. Barrett recorded the Bucs’ first sack of the night coming off the right side of the defensive line on second down late in the second quarter.

On the next play, Barrett lined up on the left side and used an inside spin move to pressure Rosen who stepped up to avoid him, but Bucs interior defensive lineman Patrick O’Connor was there to take the quarterback down. Tampa Bay didn’t apply enough pressure on Rosen to please either defensive coordinator Todd Bowles or head coach Bruce Arians, but those back-to-back sacks on second and third down were nice to see.

The Bucs finished with five sacks against the Dolphins, including quarterback captures by outside linebackers Damone Harris, Devante Bond and Farrington Huguenin.

2 PROBING QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: Did Gabbert Lose Some Ground As QB2?
Maybe. Blaine Gabbert came into training camp entrenched as the backup quarterback behind Jameis Winston, mainly due to his experience in Bruce Arians’ offense. But is third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin gaining ground on Gabbert? Gabbert was under pressure for a good amount of the time he was in the Dolphins game, but really lacked poise in the pocket and made several unforced errors on his own.

Bucs QB Blaine Gabbert
Bucs QB Blaine Gabbert – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Several of Gabbert’s passes – even his check-downs and short dump-offs – were underthrown and off target. Gabbert was sacked twice, but ran into his own lineman for one of those sacks on third down, which pushed Matt Gay’s second quarter field goal attempt on the next play back a little further to 32 yards. Gabbert’s dismal night ended with him completing 5-of-12 passes for 42 yards.

For the second week in a row, Griffin shined in the second half. Griffin completed 14-of-21 passes for 201 yards with a fourth-quarter touchdown and a QB rating of 113.4. He threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Hudson with 3:35 left in the fourth quarter and then engineered a field goal drive, hitting Hudson with a couple of big gains to set up Gay’s 48-yard game-winner. Griffin doesn’t have Gabbert’s size or physical tools, but he’s a smart, efficient signal caller that is showing some real moxie. Griffin is stating his case for the Bucs to keep three quarterbacks.

QUESTION 2: Who Is The Bucs’ Fourth Receiver?
I have no idea, and neither do the Buccaneers. The top three receivers are set with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and newcomer Breshad Perriman, but after that it’s wide open, unfortunately. Heading in to training camp the Bucs believed that Justin Evans could be the fourth receiver with perhaps Scotty Miller, the team’s sixth-round pick, holding down the fifth receiver role on the team.

Bucs WR Justin Watson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But after two preseason games Watson has shown he has unreliable hands, dropping a touchdown last week at Pittsburgh and failing to come down with a pass at the Miami 2-yard line on Friday night. Both passes would have been difficult to catch, but not impossible. NFL receivers make those catches. Watson needs to make some spectacular catches to help his slipping stock at One Buccaneer Place. He’s also not blocking well, either, and he’s not a lock to make the team.

Miller, a speed merchant, has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and needs to get back soon so he can show what he can do and make the 53-man roster. Last week he watched Spencer Schnell catch seven passes for 119 yards at Pittsburgh, but he was held without a catch on Friday versus Miami, Schnell is not big or fast, and doesn’t appear to be in strong contention for the 53-man roster.

As of right now, Bobo Wilson probably has a hold on the fourth receiver spot. Wilson had three catches for 36 yards against the Steelers and added two catches for 48 yards, including a 30-yarder, versus the Dolphins. He also returns punts, which helps increase his value. Ideally, Wilson is a No. 5 receiver, but the problem is that the Bucs don’t have a serious candidate for the No. 4 receiver right now.

2 BOLD PREDICTIONS

PREDICTION 1: Bond Is Making The Team
In case you didn’t notice, the Bucs moved fourth-year defender Devante Bond from inside linebacker to outside linebacker two weeks ago when rookie Anthony Nelson went down with an MCL injury that will sideline him for the entire preseason. Bond, who was selected as an outside linebacker out of Oklahoma in the sixth round in the 2016 NFL Draft, originally started off as an inside linebacker in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme.

Bond got a sack in the second quarter off the edge, his first of the preseason, and has the versatility to play all over the linebacking corps. The reason why Bond has stuck around the Bucs for the past three years is because of his special teams play, which is still strong. Because of his added value as an outside rusher, in addition to playing inside linebacker, look for Bond to make the Bucs’ 53-man roster.

PREDICTION 2: Stewart Won’t Make The Team
The Bucs signed former Broncos Pro Bowl defensive back Darian Stewart this week due to injuries at the strong safety position. Stewart signed a one-year deal worth $930,000, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll make the 53-man roster. The reason is two-fold. First, Stewart didn’t play well on Friday night against the Dolphins. He completely missed his gap on Kenneth Marrow’s 34-yard run in the second half. Stewart also got trucked pretty bad by backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on a scramble in the fourth quarter.

The 31-year old Stewart looks like he’s lost a step from what we saw in his first game in Tampa Bay. The Bucs will want to keep some younger safeties and really like starters Mike Edwards and Jordan Whitehead, in addition to top reserves Kentrell Brice and Isaiah Johnson, who excels on special teams. John Battle is also in the mix ahead of Stewart I have to believe. The last time the Bucs got an aging safety from the Broncos it was T.J. Ward in 2016, and it didn’t turn out so well.

Previous articleMost Disappointing: Bucs vs. Dolphins
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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

35 COMMENTS

  1. All I can say is I was at stadium last night I saw the lights on, but when watching highlights the crowd sounded like game was being played in Miami , Cleveland put 46,000 fans in FirstEnergy Stadium for a orange Brown scrimmage against themselves and I guess there were less than 5,000 Bucs fans last night.
    I am sad to see the fan base being ran off by Glazzers.
    I know only preseason but the stadium looked so cool last night just wish the fans would come back want to relive the glory days of 2002.

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    • Bucass, only you would complain about attendance at a pre season game. Something absolutely noone cares about. One which was played in the rain.

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  2. I have a real hard time making sense of preseason statistics. If you just look at the raw numbers, Evans and Winston look like a couple of scrubs. Obviously they are both starters who are going to do great this year.
    Then some of the players with great stats won’t even make the team.
    Seems like we have a great problem at WR, RB, and TE– too much talent.
    I hope we can keep some of these guys on the practice squad.
    What happened to Spencer Schnell? He seemed to have a lock on the fourth WR slot last week.

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  3. I’ll be brief. Let me say a couple of things. Last night was a game we would have lost last year. Jason Licht has been given a new 5 year contract. And regardless I’m a Buc fan for life. I know, I know that’s three things. Go Bucs!

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    • @macabee It doesn’t matter if it’s a win, a loss or a tie I’m a Bucs fan ’til I die. I’ve had plenty of practice watching them lose, it’ll be nice to get back to winning.

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  4. I am tired of this talk of maybe we should keep three quarterbacks. Ryan Griffin has been consistently a really good performer and should be given his chance. Gabbert sucks. What else can Ryan Griffin do to deserve his shot?

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  5. According to Las Vegas Buccaneers dolphins and Cardinals are the three worst teams in the NFL I think that’s unfair with dolphins and buccaneers both look a lot better than Arizona

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    • Don’t think we will be in the top 3 worst NFl teams this year. But..we will probably be in the..Top 10.
      I’m jut prayin for 8-8. Licht just got an extension. Which means we are assured some degree of mediocrity for a while. Ever since old man Glazer passed, this team has been going down hill.

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  6. Unfamiliar players are stepping up and doing a better job than I thought they would there’s a conflict going on Arians is improving the team despite JAson Licht mistakes white is being blocked out of every play that’s a concern however unknown names are doing much better than they’re supposed to.And here’s where I’m going to get all the negatives the back up quarterbacks look better than
    Jameis And I know you’ll see it just will never admit it

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    • @buc-ass-bob you day that BA is covering for Licths draft mistakes? Maybe, just maybe he’s been drafting really well and we’ve had clown ass coaching for the last five years that don’t know how to develop talent. And if you think that Gabbert is playing better than Jameis, or that Ryan Griffen whose playing against third and fourth stringers is better, than it proves again just how much hate you have for jameis.

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      • I have been a huge Winston critic and even I can see gabbert has sucked. No way he has outplayed either of our other 2 QBs

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      • Chef,
        We’ve had clown ass coaching for the last 11 years.

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  7. Ryan Griffen has earned the back up job. I’m praying we find some O’Line talent after final cuts. Has anyone been impressed with Bunting so far. He is gonna need alot of work.

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  8. I personally liked Devin Bush from Michigan better. The reason was he is much better in coverage.

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  9. Yeah WR competition is going to come down to the final pre season game IMO. It is that tight.

    Bucs need to find some OL to develop at both tackle spots because Boozer and Benenoch are so bad.

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  10. Griffin looked better than all the QBs Bucs have and played against so far this preseason ………

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  11. Stewart was literally just signed. He’ll be better next week and week 4 where he’ll have more playing time and more time to familiarize himself. And how would he have known Fitz was going to hit the boom stick on him? It’s preseason and that’s a 45-year-old man hahaha.

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  12. I just hope that either (A) Arians changes his mind and keeps three quarterbacks or (B) if they QBs keeping playing the same way that he keeps Griffin and dumps Gabbert. Knowing a system only means so much if you cannot execute it. With two sacks and no passes looking all that good, Gabbert was horrible this week while Griffin who has to learn the new offensive philosophy, lit it up again for the second week in a row. If Arians wants to see how he does against better competition, put him in second after Winston in the third game and make Gabert play in the second half. If Gabbert lights it up and Griffin bombs in that setup you have your answer. If the opposite happens and Griffin still plays well and Gabbert does not, you also get your answer.

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  13. It was good to see Gay make the game winner. He looked the part last night as a legit NFL kicker. The difference in size between him, and Santos was striking. Gay reminds me of a young, forget his name, 1st round pick of the Raiders who had a good long career.

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    • Gay had a lot of pressure on him. If he makes the kick, he is in the driver seat for a spot on the team. If he misses it, barring something unforeseen, he becomes a bartender or insurance salesman in three weeks. And he made the kick!

      The test will be how his mental attitude and performance holds up after he misses a couple. I am impressed so far though

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    • Sebastian Janikowski

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  14. Does Bobo Wilson have the staff of PR on a retainer.
    Watson has to come down with three difficult passes, one in which PI was called for an arm bar, while Wilson has dropped some easy balls the last couple of weeks, two last night which you don’t mention.
    Give me a bread.
    Even though it was against my team, it was funny to see Fitzpatrick completely destroy and run over our safety last night. Was that the A Train. If he is still around on film day, he is going to get destroyed in the meeting
    Devontae Bond has been a pleasant surprise. I believe at one point last year he was actually waived.

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    • I was just about to post something similar. I’ve seen at least 3 instances where Bobo Wilson has been called out by all of the Bucs beat writers on Twitter for not holding onto an eminently catchable ball…only criticism I’ve seen of Watson is not coming down with incredible, highlight reel grabs.

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  15. I’d say this coaching staff has already proven, to me at least, to be better at developing talent than the last few coaches, especially Koetter and his staff. Devante Bond has looked really good this preseason and of course Hargreaves and Spence have looked way better. Although Hargreaves looked good last year before the injury. You know, the half he played. If you want to add one more from the first 4 Rds of the 2016 draft add Ryan Smith to that group. While he didn’t look great he DID look better! LOL Ironically he looked better when playing zone coverage.. So if he wants to follow Mike Smi.. Oh wait. There are others including Alex Cappa but, to be fair, that could just be him needing a Red shirt coming from D-III.. But I doubt it! Just a lot of young guys looking a lot better. I also liked the few reps I saw from #46 David Kenney. He looked a different speed out there. Very explosive. Nunez-Roches, or Nacho, looked disruptive. I want to see it against some real competition though as the Dolphins OL is suspect, at best. Same with Barrett, although I expect good things from him as he just looked fast, strong and savvy. I agree Ellington is out and Ogunbowale is in. He has looked great behind some shitty backup OL (Boozer anyone?) Speaking of the backups at, well OL, it’s concerning and we better hope we either have no injuries, Ha, or we can get good waiver wire guys. D. Smith has been an iron man (even if he’s barely ok) which is good cuz Boozer looks awful! Looks like Benenoch 2.0 (who still sucks at RT btw). Maybe not as bad though. Anyone else wish we would’ve addressed the trenches in the draft?! I still do too. So, some encouraging stuff and some not so much but the team looks a lot better overall. Just a lot of room to grow! Should be interesting..

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    • Oh I meant Benenoch hasn’t looked AS bad at RT as he did at RG last year but he hasn’t looked great either. I did NOT mean to say Cole Boozer didn’t look as bad as Benenoch last year because he did. Real bad. At least he has the excuse of playing LT and looked decent run blocking a cpl times. Benenoch should have been released after last year. Hell, if I was Winston I’d have offered him a big severance package if he agreed to never try to “protect me” again! Better to just not let him back in Tampa, really.. The team AND the city!

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  16. Decisions Decisions Decisions!
    The easiest positions for Arians to make a decision on is at OL & RB: Benenoch and Boozer will not make this team period end of story. Dare Ogunbowale on the other hand will make it and its only because of his versatility nothing more…
    The hardest position for Arians is PK & Backup QB: I keep reading comments about how Gabbert struggled & how Griffin has excelled and I keep thinking Griffin does this in every Preseason game. I believe Blaine Gabbert will win the job for one reason and that reason is Experience. BA is old school and he understands that there is no substitute for Experience. Its the reason why when took the AZ job he went out and got Carson Palmer and didn’t promote John Skelton, because he wanted a QB with “Expierience”. Where this gets Tricky however is the PK position battle. Matt Gay has a Game Winner, 55 yarder, 100% PAT & has every bit the part in Preseason. Cairo Santos is nearly Automatic on PAT’s & FG attempts inside 42 yds and has shown himself to be Clutch in Real key moments of a NFL Game. I can see this going to Gay because he has a stronger leg, he’s Cheaper, and Licht burned a 5th rd pick on him. But it would not surprise me if BA stuck with Santos because of one thing “Experience”. Its The Devil You Do Know. Go Bucs!!!

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  17. Scott, question 2 you wrote Justin Evans was going to be our 4th WR. I think you meant Watson unless Evans is going to play both ways.

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  18. I would rather keep Griff over Gabbart. He hasn’t shown us anything yet that he’s worth keeping. Griff has heart and has stuck with us through the last few garbage seasons.

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  19. When it comes to tackle play, Cole Boozer makes Benenoch look like Paul Gruber.

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  20. I thought it was a typical preseason game and obviously the rain didn’t help.
    I was happy to see some of the rookies show their stuff.

    Thus next game well tell us a lot about who’s going to make this team..
    if a rookie is anywhere close to a veteran competitor I would keep the rookie because I already know what that veteran competitor brings to the table by now.

    If the veteran backup at DL and OL doesn’t show improvement from last season, then there needs to be some changes.

    Finally, TE Hudson is worth the risk in keeping him on the 53-man roster and teaching him how to block. We might throw Brate’s name out there to see if we can make a swap for an offensive lineman or defensive lineman? Just a thought here.

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    • Horse, wondered the same thing about Brate. If Hudson and Auclair can be reliable back-ups, does Brate become trade bait for a solid Tackle/Guard? With Howard the supposed Second Coming at TE and all these other weapons, Brate feels like a luxury. I love the guy and apparently so does Jamies. But Licht has opted for TE, WR, DB in the draft and not O line. That’s one weak spot that doesn’t look better yet.

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  21. I agree Horse! Got to find away to keep TE Hudson. Kid has been balling! If not here, he will play somewhere else in NFL! I’m done with Ryan Smith as well! If one of the young DB’s is even close in talent, then I would keep him over Smith! I might be wrong but every time there’s a bad play I see #29 close by! I’m just saying…

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  22. I agree with your great analyses above, Scott. It wouldn’t hurt for BA to get an older O Lineman at the cut down. However, Poehls and Ruble played well as backup OTs so I think they would be OK even if we don’t get another O Lineman. Watford can backup all 5 OL positions and Holcomb is a good OG and OT as a backup too and they can put Trewyn and Anderson on the Practice Squad!

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  23. Anyone trying to claim Griffin looks better than Winston doesn’t understand 1st through 4th strong players. I do agree Griffin should be kept and given some time in regular season games this year because although he makes some bad throws he also can put a nice touch on the ball at times. It would be worth seeing how he handles Number 1s out there, even if just to find out if he should continue to collect that paycheck every year.

    Next week will be the best chance to see where everyone’s at. Hopefully starters will play at least the first half. The field was at its worst during the first drive when starters were in so there was no way to really get anything from that. Seeing Matt Gay hot that 48 yarder for the win in basically the final seconds was Amazing though and that kick was on a line. Three more weeks to get everything down! Like to see them pick up a few Olineman before it’s all over.

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  24. I really like Tanner Hudson, can he just play WR/TE?? He seems athletic enough to play WR, he made some great catches, the last one-handed catch was very clutch. It was similar to the one J. Watson should have made.
    Shaq Barrett 58, Roches 56 and D.Kenny 46, impressed me.
    Cichy looked good.
    I take back what I said last week, Ryan Griffin definitely should be the the #2 QB and keep a rookie on the practice squad. Save the cap space and have B.G walk.
    I am really pulling for Justin Watson to perform well and make the team, I just haven’t seen him make some plays. This is where I think Tanner Hudson could play more of a wide receiver role. Evans, Godwin, Perriman, Hudson, Schnell #6 Bobo or S.Miller (would like to see him play). Then role with OJ, Brate and Auclair. That is a lot of offensive weapons.
    Dare is earning it!
    Matt G looks great!

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