With the Buccaneers season officially out of playoff reach, much of the next three weeks will be spent evaluating personnel options for 2015.
While a number of younger lesser known players – like Jaqcuies Smith, Orie Lemon and Brandon Dixon – have grabbed the attention of fans and coaches, another player that has shown promise towards the future is Bradley McDougald.
Since the trade of Mark Barron in late October, McDougald has seen a lot more time at the safety position. And in many ways, the latter has accomplished more in less time than the former first round pick. In a new defense, facing the likes of Alshon Jeffrey, A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson, the 24-year old corner has managed to hold his own in coverage, already contributing with three pass breakups (Barron has 4 in double the starts).
The ability to cover deep – a must for a Tampa 2 safety – was something Barron struggled with and a major reason for his departure. But Lovie Smith and the defensive staff clearly have high hopes for the former Kansas Jayhawk, evidenced by his increased playing time and steady progression.
“(Coaches tell me to) just stay the course and keep taking in as much as I can,” McDougald said. “Just keep doing the little things right. Stay focused, study the playbook and make plays when the opportunity comes your way.”
McDougald spoke of his appreciation of Smith’s confidence in him despite his youth and limited experience on the Chiefs practice squad prior to coming to Tampa Bay. The focus now is to take advantage of every opportunity and live up to the new found expectations.
“It’s a great feeling; it is,” he said of Coaches’ praise. “It just gives a credit to some of the work I’ve put in during the season. Now, I feel like I owe it to him to go give him a big play or do something to help this team, so he can get the pressure off his back. He has taken a risk and some heat for putting me in; I’m such a young player. But he has faith in me, so I have to go out there and make a big play for him.”
With three games left to prove himself, McDougald is determined to become a regular starter and playmaker for the Buccaneers in the future.
“I just want to take this opportunity and finish strong,” he said. “Give them some confidence moving forward into the offseason. Obviously we’re not going to the playoffs, so coaches are going to start making some preparations for next year, looking forward to the future. (I need to) give them confidence that they have a bright spot at safety.”
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