The Buccaneers fell back down to earth on Sunday after last week’s impressive win against the Rams, losing to the Saints in a battle for first place in the NFC South. The Buccaneers offense failed to get into any type of rhythm and the secondary continued to play porous coverage allowing the Saints to throw for over 300 yards.
Here is our weekly list of the most disappointing players from Sunday’s loss.
CB Vernon Hargreaves
It was a forgettable day for cornerback Vernon Hargreaves who seemed to always be a step behind all afternoon. Early in the second quarter Hargreaves gave up back-to-back receptions to Saints receiver Michael Thomas. On the first one Hargreaves inexplicably went flat to the sidelines instead of continuing his depth and was unable to break up the pass. The second completion Hargreaves gave way too much cushion, then to cap off the drive Hargreaves appeared to be in no-man’s land near the goal line, surrendering the touchdown with poor coverage and technique.
Hargreaves has regressed since the start of the year and despite the coaches blaming the issues on communication, the former Gator may be better suited to play inside once Jamel Deal returns to game action, hopefully next week in London.
CB Carlton Davis
Davis struggled against Michael Thomas in the season opener last year and started this game in much the same fashion giving up a 34-yard reception in the first quarter to Thomas. Later in the half, Davis was flagged for an illegal hit and ejected from the game, leaving the Bucs without their best cover corner, putting stress on an already fragile defensive secondary. It is debatable if Davis should have been ejected but Davis being ejected for the hit left his teammates in a bind.
OLB Shaq Barrett
One tackle and one assist was the stat line for the NFL’s leading sacker on Sunday versus the Saints. While you can’t expect multiple sacks every game, Barrett failed to register a quarterback pressure and was part of a pass rush that allowed backup rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to throw for 314 yards and four scores.
WR Mike Evans
Evans had went 67 straight games with at least one reception but the streak ended on Sunday in New Orleans. Evans did drop a third down catch that would have been good for a first down on the Bucs first drive but was never a factor after that.
The Saints did a good job of doubling Evans which opened the door for Chris Godwin’s 125 yard afternoon, but as the team’s No. 1 receiver and highest paid player, going without a catch the entire game is inexcusable. Whether the blame falls on the coaching staff, quarterback Jameis Winston or Evans himself, you must have some production from your captain.
RT Demar Dotson
Dotson came into the game nursing a sore calf and as the game wore on, he started falling apart. With the Bucs down 14 points in the fourth quarter and Tampa Bay needing a quick score to get back in the game, Dotson was run over by Marcus Davenport who sacked Winston for a nine-yard loss. Two plays later Dotson was beat again, but Winston was able to escape, however his third down pass was incomplete and the Bucs had to punt. Dotson also failed to cut block or even engage a Saints defensive end on a second half pass inside the 10-yard line that was nearly picked off.
All in all it was a poor performance from not just Dotson, but the Bucs entire offensive line, as Winston was sacked six times on the afternoon and was hurried and hit way too often.
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and the Buccaneers defensive coaching staff were clearly outreached by Sean Payton and his offensive staff. There is no other way to put it. While the defense did a decent jobs against the run, the secondary game plan was a mess with numerous breakdowns and Saints receivers running wide open.
Bowles did send pressure on a number of blitzes, but many were way too slow in developing or the Bucs blitzes were just stonewalled. The price you pay when you don’t get home on a blitz is opposing receivers finding themselves in easy one-on-one matchups with your secondary.
Bowles defense gave up 457 yards on the afternoon and that was with Drew Brees on the sidelines in street clothes.