Wednesday night in the rain and mud looked about as Week 4 of the preseason as it could get for the Bucs. Looking at just the defensive side of the ball, the unit surrendered 258 yards on the ground to Mack Brown and Rob Kelly, two rookies on the bubble, with a 60-yard TD by Brown in the second quarter.
In tough conditions, Tampa Bay’s front seven, composed of backups and players fighting for jobs, had trouble wrapping up and stopping runs at the first level.
“Very disappointed in how we tackled, No. 1,” Koetter said after the game. “We didn’t fit the run very well and we just had too many missed tackles. Hats off to Brown. I think they had two backs over 100 yards. They ran it too much and then our offense did nothing to help. We should’ve been running the ball better, controlling the clock and trying to keep our defense off the field. Overall, lackluster in the first half. Not what we’re looking for.”
The good news is the game didn’t count – and it meant even less than all other weeks of the preseason. But, there was a game Wednesday night so lets take a look at each position group. See if you agree with PewterReport.com and share your thoughts.
DEFENSIVE LINE Save for a great effort by Will Gholston on the opening drive to recover and chase running back Robert Kelly six yards down the field to stop a long run, there weren’t too many highlights from the Bucs front four.
Gholston, who’s had a good camp and drawn praise from teammates, finished with four tackles including one for a loss.
With Jacquies Smith, who finished with a sack and two tackles, and Noah Spence, who added two more tackles, as the only starters to dress out Wednesday, the defensive line didn’t click the way it did in Week’s 1-3. There may have been serviceable rotational linemen in there, but without a true anchor to set the tone it can be hard for one to emerge.
Akeem Spence finished with three tackles while A.J. Francis added two and Cliff Matthews one. Averaging over seven yards a carry, as the Redskins did in the preseason finale, says a lot about who won in the trenches. GRADE= D
LINEBACKERS While it wasn’t a great night tackling, Adarius Glanton and Luke Rhodes, each with six tackles, had some nice moments Wednesday.
Glanton combined with Gholston for a tackle for loss on second-and-17 and also had a pass breakup intended for TE Logan Paulson on the first drive of the game. Another highlight by the LB corps included a sack by Josh Keyes, who finished with four tackles.
With Devante Bond sidelined again, Glanton, Rhodes, Keyes and Micah Awe, all of whom figure to be battling for the last two LB spots and special teams roles, saw extra reps. The stat sheet wouldn’t appear to help their case, but coach Dirk Koetter values durability.
It wasn’t a great night overall for the Bucs front seven, particularly the linebackers, but it will still be one of the more interesting units to keep an eye on Saturday when the roster trims down to 53. GRADE= D
SECONDARY Redskins quarterback Nate Sudfeld only attempted 18 passes on a night where his team’s running game couldn’t be stopped, but in limited action a few Bucs cornerbacks were able to make a good impression.
Starting the game with Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves among the many starters out, Jude Adjei-Barimah made two key tackles in the first quarter and came on a successful red zone-blitz in the second. The second-year pro, who finished two stops, figures to be a lock for a roster spot in a deep secondary unit.
Another development in the back end has been the demotion of Johnthan Banks, yet the strong second halves he continues to have in the preseason. The former starter seemed to cover well and added three tackles on the night. Koetter was impressed and assured reporters the men upstairs were taking note.
“Johnthan Banks has come on strong the last two weeks or so and that’s definitely one of the positions we were looking at tonight,” Koetter said. “I know Jason was keeping a close eye on it and that’ll be when we look at that tape.”
Tape could be in Banks’ corner this weekend, as opposed to former UCF Knight Josh Robinson, who had two tackles but gave up a TD on Sudfeld’s best pass – a 13-yard fade to wide receiver Rashad Ross in the third quarter.
Still, Koetter won’t make any decisions until he gets a second look.
“It’s hard for me to get that from the game because of being at field level and everything, so that’s going to take some time,” Koetter said of player evaluations. “I talked briefly to Jason [Licht] about his opinion watching it from the box, but that’ll be more stuff that we talk about in the morning.”
Sudfeld finished 8-of-18 for 72 yards, one TD and no interceptions. GRADE= C
SPECIAL TEAMS Koetter said of Roberto Aguayo’s 50-yard field goal in the third quarter, “In a night of lowlights, that was one highlight.”
After a shaky start, the rookie kicker hit six straight field goals and five PATs to close out the preseason. Making his 50-yarder even more impressive were the conditions it was under. Koetter admitted that they wanted to avoid a FG, but given the offensive struggles the Bucs needed to find a way to put points on the board.
“We finally got a little but a drive, it was fourth-and-10, I didn’t have much confidence that we could make a fourth-and-10 play so I told Nate, ‘Lets give Roberto a shot,’” Koetter said.
Aguayo wasn’t the only impressive specialist Wednesday night.
“I think that probably the two brightest spots of the game were Roberto’s 50-yarder and Bryan Anger had a really nice night punting the ball,” Koetter said.
Anger, who officially won the Bucs punting job last week, booted kicks of 50, 52 and 53 yards, with a net average of over 45 yards. The Bucs took full advantage of his punts, Koetter said.
“Our coverage teams on kicks were good,” Koetter said. “That’s about the end of the highlights right there.”
Isaiah Johnson, who had a pick in Week 1 and is fighting for a reserve safety role, was the standout on kick coverage. The undrafted rookie out of South Carolina covered two 50-yard-plus punts with a tackle for loss and another after a gain of seven by the return man. Johnson made a strong case through his special teams play Wednesday.
The only area of special teams that Tampa Bay didn’t produce was in the return game, where Bernard Reedy had a little trouble fielding a wet ball and Jonathan Krause fair caught his chances for the most part. Adam Humphries is the punt returner, but it appears the Bucs have decisions to make in terms of the kickoff return game. GRADE= B
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: email@example.com