On a night that flirted with bad weather, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the Cleveland Browns in their 2017 preseason home opener by a score of 13-9.
The Bucs were without many of their key contributors for their third preseason game. Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Gerald McCoy, Kwon Alexander and Brent Grimes were among the big inactives, and because of that, some of the younger and depth players heard their names called on more than they’re used to – which was a good thing with cuts just two weeks away.
Typically, the third preseason game is called a “dress rehearsal” because it’s the game in which the healthy regular season starters play the most. Quarterback Jameis Winston and the first team played into the third quarter, which was, in fact, the most they had played to this point. Winston finished the game 17-for-27 with 200 yards and an interception. The interception came at the end of the team’s first drive where they received the opening kickoff. It was an over throw to tight end Cameron Brate around the goal line. Brate led the Bucs in targets with six, but only hauled in two of them for 22 yards. Wide receiver Chris Godwin, who was starting in place of Mike Evans, had five targets for a team-high four catches and team-high 56 yards.
Tight end O.J. Howard ended the game with two catches for 15 yards. Starting slot receiver Adam Humphries finished the game with two catches for 24 yards, but left the game in the first half with a hip injury. Josh Huff, who seems to have an edge on the final receiver spot, was out tonight.
Running back Jacquizz Rodgers got most of the carries with the first team on Saturday night, though Doug Martin did come in for a few series. It appeared the team wanted to get Rodgers the feeling of being the starter since Martin will miss the first three weeks. Rodgers finished the game with 34 yards on ten carries. Martin finished the game with two yards on two carries, and also had two catches for 17 yards. Charles Sims did not record a carry, but had one catch for four yards.
Despite holding the Browns’ first team offense to just three points, the Bucs defense had an up-and-down night. Wide receiver Corey Coleman had a great first half with four catches for 66 yards, and rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer showed poise early, but threw and interception to Vernon Hargreaves in the second quarter. For Hargreaves, the pick was his second take away of the preseason. Linebacker Lavonte David tipped the pass on a great play that help Hargreaves get the interception. Rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith had some low lights, but did have a very nice forced fumble which Adarius Glanton recovered.
On a lower note, there was not much pass rush from the Buccaneers’ first team on Saturday night, and that continued the trend they’ve had the last two games. The team was without McCoy, and has been with Devonte Bond and Jacquies Smith, but it is something that needs to improve at some point once the games start counting. Kizer had too long to throw in the pocket for most third downs, and the Browns converted a higher percentage because of it. Defensive end Noah Spence did record a sack in the second half, but it was on an added blitz package.
Not only did the second and third teams get less playing time on Saturday night, but they also got the wet weather as it began to rain again during the final quarter of the contest. Peyton Barber once again got playing time over rookie Jeremy McNichols. Barber finished the game with six yards on five carries. McNichols finished the game with just one carry for negative one yards. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finished his limited time with 55 yards on 7-for-11 passing.
On defense, Cam Lynch and Adarius Glanton were the first to come in after the starters, Beckwith and David went out. During the second half, defensive ends George Johnson and Tavares Barnes each recorded sacks.
As for the kicking game, Nick Folk was three-for-three on his field goal, which were from 31, 42 and 43 yards. Punter Bryan Anger had a stellar night with seven punts inside the Browns’ 20.
Next up for the Bucs is the preseason finale against the Washington Redskins in Tampa Bay on Thursday at 7:30 EST.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: email@example.com
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