The Buccaneers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 25-11 Monday night to get their first victory at Raymond James Stadium since December 13, 2013. Find out how each position group graded out according to PewterReport.com and share your thoughts.jk
QUARTERBACKS The Buccaneers wanted a faster start from Jameis Winston, and that’s exactly what they got Monday night. The rookie signal caller was on fire, completing his first three passes while leading the Buccaneer’s dominant first-team offense on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Winston finished the game 8-of-13 for 90 yards, though a couple of those incompletions were some of his best throws. Winston threw a laser on third-and-16, but Tim Wright was unable to haul in the perfect pass. Winston left the game after his ankle was rolled up on, but not before a night in which he showed great pocket awareness and improved chemistry with wide receivers (first eight passes to eight different targets). Winston’s night was over in the second quarter, but the Bucs quarterback play continued to be a highlight of the game. Mike Glennon was efficient and in command throughout his night, completing 10-of-15 passes for 121 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown to Russell Shepard while falling back in the face of a Bengals blitz. GRADE= A
RUNNING BACKS Unlike the performance under center, the Buccaneers play at running back regressed a bit in the second half. After Doug Martin ran like it was 2012 (6 carries for 59 yards), the backfield’s production dropped off with Dominique Brown, who rushed for 24 yards on 14 carries. In Brown’s defense, he was running behind second-team offensive line, but he still should’ve scored after four carries from the 1-yard line. In between Martin and Brown – both literally and performance-wise – was Mike James, who had a decent night Monday. James finished with nine carries for 39 yards, however his stats would’ve been better if not for a couple of holds that negated nice gains. Charles Sims had just three carries, but came out of the backfield for another two receptions for 15 yards. GRADE= C+
WIDE RECEIVERS While first-team offense had one of its best performances at Ray Jay in three years, it was second-team wideouts that made the biggest impression. Russell Shepard was out to prove he’s more than a gunner on special teams, as the LSU product had two impressive receptions, including a 22-yard TD from Glennon. Adam Humphires also put himself in the stat column, catching three balls for 27 yards, while Rannell Hall got his first taste of NFL action and added two receptions. In their limited action, however, first-team receivers were also encouraging. Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy combined for three receptions for 27 yards, and the former should’ve had another if not for a penalty nullifying a great sideline grab. Mike Evans, who left the game due to a hamstring injury, and rookie Kenny Bell are still without a catch this preseason. GRADE= B
TIGHT ENDS Austin Seferian-Jenkins is expected to be featured heavily in Dirk Koetter’s offense, and while he’s very limited in preseason, fans at least got a small taste for what’s to possibly come, as ASJ hauled-in an 11-yard pass during the first drive. While Seferian-Jenkins recorded his first preseason reception, his backups stole the show. Brandon Myers caught two passes for 39 yards and Cameron Brate added another three for 28 yards. Myers, who’s often used as a blocking tight end, missed a few assignments in the running game, but showed some ability as a pass catcher. Brate has been a highlighted target for Glennon throughout camp and it continued Monday, as the Bucs appear to be very deep at tight end. GRADE= B+
OFFENSIVE LINE A unit that featured two rookie starters – Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith – and two former undrafted players – Reid Fragel and Jeremiah Warren – the Buccaneers first-team line was engaged and dominant in the opening quarter. It’s unlikely Evan Smith’s job is in jeopardy, but it appears the Bucs found their backup center in Warren. And Marpet and Smith progressed from Week 1, too, getting out to a fast start protecting Winston and opening lanes for Martin. While Logan Mankins struggled at times against Geno Atkins, the 11-year pro had an otherwise good night. The same cannot be said for second-team line, though. Kadeem Edwards and Garrett Gilkey were beat a few times inside, including another errant snap by the latter. The goal line stand was a collective effort along Dominque Brown, but the O Line could’ve gotten a better push on one of the four attempts. GRADE= C-
The front four kept the Bengals offensive linemen on their heels in the first half. As Andy Dalton, who finished 6-of-13 for 46 yards, was under duress the Bengals adjusted by throwing quick slants, one of which led to a pick-six by Alterraun Verner. The cornerback credited the D Line for forcing early decisions, and allowing for the secondary to take advantage. The unit was showing up in the stat column as well, with Gerald McCoy and Caushaud Lyons each recording a sack from the inside, while Larry English and George Johnson added another two coming off the edge. Run defense was also strong, with contributions from first-team guys along with Will Gholston and Da’Quan Bowers on second-team, en route to Cincy’s 42 rushing yards on the night. GRADE= A
Due in large part to the front four’s dominance, linebackers were hitting their gaps and taking away the intermediate routes over the middle throughout the night. Kwon Alexander and Danny Lansanah were especially impressive, notching a combined seven tackles at the Mike and Sam spot, respectively. It’s hard to evaluate players from their limited preseason exposure, but the Alexander-Lansanah duo was notably sharp on Monday and the Bucs are potentially deep at linebacker. GRADE= A
Rush and coverage were on point Monday, as the secondary came up with two second quarter INTs and turned them into touchdowns. Playing soft Cover 2, Alterraun Verner and Bradley McDougald were each able to pick-off a pass that went over the receiver’s head (A.J. Green was at fault for the first one). Verner also had two tackles in limited action, showing he can be the all-around player Tampa Bay signed last offseason. Another player who went under the radar Monday was D.J. Swearinger. The former Texan laid a big hit on a running back (like he’s done so often in camp) and made a couple nice plays in deep coverage. Swearinger is making a strong case to start along side Bradley McDougald come September 13. GRADE= B
Special teams, particularly the punt game, was once again plagued by penalties. The Bucs were flagged on the Bengals first two punts (including three penalties on one) and called for an illegal touch on their own punt, all in the first quarter. As far as the kicking game, while Pat Murray drilled a 53-yarder he also missed an extra point and a field goal from 50 yards out. It was certainly an up and down night for the second-year kicker. One of the best plays of the night, however, was when Kenny Bell made a great play to down a punt on the one-yard line, followed by Russell Shepard who downed it at the four-yard line at the end of the third quarter. Michael Koenen and Karl Schmitz were each responsible for pinning the Bengals back deep on one punt. GRADE= C-
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.
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