It was another defensively dominated game as the Bucs took on the Browns Friday night. Both starting offenses were ineffective, and the Tampa Bay offense in particular could not protect quarterback Jameis Winston. The result of this led to six field goals kicked in the game, with only one touchdown coming form the Bucs. In the end, Ryan Griffin orchestrated a long drive down field to set up Matt Gay for the game winning kick with 15 seconds left, as lone touchdown as the Bucs won 13-12.
Here were the most impressive players from the game.
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DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches
In all of the Bucs pass rushing attempts, it was only Nunez-Roches that was able to get to the quarterback until the fourth quarter. Nunez-Roches recorded two sacks on the night, taking down Baker Mayfield for one and Drew Stanton on the other. He’s been getting more playing time with the injury to Vita Vea and “Nacho” is making the most of it, while also playing for the entirety of the game.
Outside of the stat sheet, Nunez-Roches took on many double teams and helped clog the line of scrimmage against the run. He’s proving that the Bucs can feel more confident in playing him in important minutes if Vea were to miss time in the regular season.
S Jordan Whitehead
The second-year safety was in on the action early and often during Friday night’s game. Whitehead had a crucial pass breakup in the end zone which held the Browns to a field goal. He later followed that up by picking off Baker Mayfield on the last play of the half when the Browns were attempting to get into field goal range.
Whitehead was also the team leader in tackles in the first half with four, making his presence felt both in the pass and run game. Wherever the play was, Whitehead was involved with it in one way or another. He held his own in coverage and made timely tackles in open space with good form if he wasn’t getting his hands on the ball. His final stat line was four tackles, two passes defended and one interception. It was a strong game for a player that is in contention to be Tampa Bay’s starting safety.
WR Chris Godwin
The Bucs offense had a difficult evening protecting against the Browns’ pass rush, but when they did, the ball was finding Chris Godwin. The true highlight play for the offense came on a screen pass to Godwin when he had a nasty stiff arm on the defender and broke free for 20 yards. He was the top target all night for Jameis Winston, being on the receiving end on four of Winston’s eight completions. Godwin’s 52 receiving yards also led the team and was over half of Winston’s total passing yards. He looked like a number one receiver with Mike Evans not playing.
CB Carlton Davis
Davis is another second-year player that looks more comfortable out there with a year of experience under his belt. During a big third-and-short play in the red zone, Davis quickly read a pick play that was designed at him. He instantly reacted and did a great job of getting his helmet on the ball and hands of the receiver as soon as the pass got there. He later had a great recovery on a pass to the back of the end zone that was in Rishard Higgins’ hands, but punched out by Davis. He made a nice open field tackle on a third down to force the Browns to punt, wrapping up a good game.
QB Ryan Griffin
Griffin’s night started a little earlier than expected when Blaine Gabbert exited the game with a shoulder injury. It was no problem for Griffin, though, as he took the Bucs down the field and threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett on his second offensive drive. Griffin has been the quarterback responsible for the Bucs only touchdowns over the last two preseason games. One week after leading a game winning drive to set up the game winning field goal, he did the same this Friday night with three minutes left on the clock. Griffin caught fire and made throws to Justin Watson, Bobo Wilson, Scotty Miller, and more as he navigated the Bucs offense down the field and put them in close field goal range to hit the game-winning kick. That final drive was over seven minutes long and went for 72 yards. His night ended going 11-of-17 for 121 yards and a touchdown.
TE Tanner Hudson
Hudson continues to have an excellent preseason as he once again was able show off his talent as a receiver. It was another second half for Hudson in which he was a big factor in helping the Bucs drive down the field for a game winning kick. He made some highlight reel plays as well, which included another one-handed catch for a first-down. His most important moment came on a big time 15-yard reception on a third-and-13 that continued the drive. He ended the night with a team best seven receptions and a second best 49-receiving yards, which was only behind Godwin. Hudson has been a star for the Bucs in this preseason and is making this a very difficult decision for the coaching staff.