The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs.

This week’s topic: What Should The Bucs Be Thankful For?

Scott Reynolds: Young Bucs’ D Showing Signs Of Star Power

After its best showing of the year with a whopping 16 pass breakups, a season-high six sacks, two turnovers and a defensive touchdown, Tampa Bay’s young defense finally showed some signs of life and star power in last week’s 35-22 win in Atlanta. I say young because Todd Bowles’ unit starts four rookies in inside linebacker Devin White, cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting along with defensive back Mike Edwards; in addition to second-year starters nose tackle Vita Vea, safety Jordan Whitehead and cornerback Carlton Davis. That’s seven of 11 starters on Tampa Bay’s defense that have little to no experience playing in the NFL.

Bucs ILB Devin White
Bucs ILB Devin White – Photo by: Getty Images

On Sunday in Atlanta – and at times in wins over Los Angeles and Arizona this year – we’ve seen the vast potential this unit has if it can continue to grow up in a hurry and make more strides in tighter coverage, better tackling, creating more takeaways and getting to the quarterback more often. We saw a combined 10 pass breakups and one interception from Dean and Davis against the Falcons. We saw White come through with eight tackles and two impressive sacks of Matt Ryan. We saw Vea not only swat two passes down at the line of scrimmage and record his first full sack of the year, the massive and agile 347-pounder also lined up at fullback and caught his first touchdown pass. We even saw some of the old veterans like outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh join the youngsters in the splash play department and team up for a sack-fumble and scoop-and-score against the Falcons.

After spending the first several drafts building Tampa Bay’s offense with players like quarterback Jameis Winston, wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, tight end O.J. Howard, and offensive linemen Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet, general manager Jason Licht wisely stocked up on the defensive side of the ball over the last two years. And after a frustratingly long wait, it appears as if it’s starting to pay off. The key will be consistency. As Aristotle once said, “Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” It’s time for Tampa Bay’s defense to play like that on a week-to-week basis.

One game against a 3-7 – now 3-8 – Falcons team doesn’t prove anything except show the potential of this very young unit. But that game, plus the effort in the win over the Cardinals two weeks prior, could be the start of something. We’ll see if the Bucs can get back-to-back wins for the first time this season in Jacksonville. For that to happen, Tampa Bay’s defense needs to continue to play well and make big plays. We need to continue to see its star power. It’s taken some time, but it seems like some of these premium defensive draft picks by Licht are starting to pay off, and for that, the Bucs should be very thankful.

Mark Cook: Veteran Pass Rushers Coming Through For Bucs 

In Tampa Bay’s 4-7 season, not much has gone according to plan. Young players have been slow to develop, the play of some veterans is stagnant, and questionable personnel decisions abound as the Bucs seem destined for another double-digit losing season.

But imagine if the Bucs didn’t sign outside linebacker Shaq Barrett as a free agent. Imagine if outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul had been cut following his car accident or had been unable to recover from his broken neck suffered this past spring. Imagine if this defense had 15 less sacks this season – more than half of its 28 sack total just gone. Poof!

Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Tampa Bay and their fans should be very thankful to have both of these players on the roster. And both of these players should be thankful for each other as well, as both help the other get pressure on the quarterback.

While their numbers are impressive, both provide some veteran leadership, particularly Pierre-Paul, who wills his defensive teammates to be better. That attitude rubs off. And why wouldn’t it? Pierre-Paul has a heck of a rèsumé and knows not only what it takes to get to the playoffs, but to also win a Super Bowl ring. And Barrett has a ring as well – won with the Broncos.

In a locker room filled with young players, can you even put a price on that? The Bucs will soon find out, as both will be free agents once the year ends. The organization should make bringing both of them back for 2020 a priority if they have any notion of competing for the playoffs. And getting both of these players under contract for 2020 would give Tampa Bay fans many reasons to give thanks for the future of this team.

Trevor Sikkema: The Sack Attack Shaq Barrett

This Bucs season has not gone according to plan in many ways. Winston is still very much the hot and cold quarterback we have witnessed for the last few years, the young secondary — though they’ve had a bit of resurgence as of late — made it tough for this team to win games early on, and the coaching staff has had more questionable decisions than most thought would be the case with such a veteran staff.

At 4-7, this season was not what many expected, but even then I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said the words “can you imagine where this team would be without Shaq Barrett?”

LB Shaq Barrett – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Barrett is currently tied for the league lead in sacks with 12.5. The now 27 year old pass rusher recorded nine sacks in the first four weeks of the season, tying an NFL record. After five years in Denver with the Broncos, Barrett took a chance on himself in free agency this past offseason, knowing he wouldn’t get starter reps behind the likes of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in Denver. The Bucs signed him to a 1-year, $4M deal as sort of a “prove it” situation.

Barrett has more than proved it.

Barrett was the catalyst of what could have been for this Bucs season. His three sacks against Carolina were a big reason why Tampa was able to come out of that game victorious. His four sacks against the Giants should have been enough to win that one. And his interception in Los Angeles was a key moment in the upset out West.

Even more than that, though, Shaq is an awesome dude. He loves this game and this team. He wants to do whatever he can to win. He proved that early on with his stellar start to the season, and he’s once again proving it in the second half of the season, as he has had to adjust his game to stay effective — and he has.

This team’s record is not what many hoped, but I can’t imagine what it would be without Shaq Barrett.

Taylor Jenkins: The Lethal Duo Of Evans And Godwin

I’m sure many of you can relate to that feeling of walking through the store around the holidays as a kid when you see it – that perfect gift. It catches your eye like a flash and it instantly becomes the focal point of your letters to Santa Claus. Anticipation grows until that fateful morning when you wake from your slumber and rush downstairs, eyes still half-shut, but your mind racing at all of the possibilities sitting underneath the tree.

But what is this? Not only did you get the perfect gift, but it came in the form of two solid gold bars. That’s what the Bucs received when they drafted wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin
Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Evans arrived at his superstar status in the more traditional fashion, being selected to Tampa Bay with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft before rattling off a record-setting six consecutive seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards to begin his career, a feat only accomplished by Evans and legendary pass-catcher Randy Moss.

For Godwin it was a different path. Godwin was a third-round selection out of Penn State in 2017 and spent his first two years in the NFL as the Bucs’ third receiving option behind Evans and DeSean Jackson. Despite playing a role in all 32 games over those two years, he was given the starting nod just seven combined times, reaching 525 and 842 receiving yards in his first two seasons, respectively.

Now a full-time starter, Godwin has exploded for 70 catches 1,071 receiving yards and nine touchdowns through 11 games in 2019, trailing only Michael Thomas for the league’s best mark and sitting just ahead of Evans’ 1,043 yards this year. Godwin and Evans are two of three receivers to reach 1,000 receiving yards so far this season. In a time of the year dedicated to giving thanks, Tampa Bay doesn’t have to look much further than their two star receivers who sit among the league’s most elite names at the wideout position.

Matt Matera: Jones’ Improvement From Year One To Year Two 

Where Ronald Jones II is now compared to a year ago has been a huge jump forward. Jones went from a hesitant, confidence-lacking running back, who was inactive for several game days, and hardly saw the field when active, to becoming the Bucs’ starting running back halfway through this season and improving Tampa Bay’s entire running game. Labeled as a bust after being a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Jones has proved that it takes more time for some players to develop in the NFL than others, but the wait has been worth it.

Jones into the 2019 offseason with a new workout plan and a new set of confidence. He got bigger (221) and stronger as a result. That added size and confidence led him to a have an excellent training camp, where we saw the type of player that many had predicted him to be. Jones had been a spark plug coming into replace Peyton Barber early in the season before taking the starting role where he has showcased the combination of breakaway speed and a shiftiness needed to get to the second level. It took literally one game for Jones to surpass the amount of rushing yards that he had from a season ago, and with a modest average of 4.0 yards per carry, Jones has shown he can be the go-to guy at running back. It’s only a matter of time before he starts breaking off long touchdown runs.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

As good as Jones has been on the ground with 474 rushing yards and five touchdowns, it’s his receiving game that has shown the most improvement. Jones struggled mightily to catch the ball last year as a rookie, but has thoroughly corrected those mistakes and became better this year. A lot of credit should go to running back’s coach Todd McNair for coaching up Jones as a receiving back and improving his hands. Jones has 218 receiving yards on the season, averaging 10.4 yards per reception. Most notably, Jones has become a reliable option for Jameis Winston in the passing game on swing routes and dump off passes, letting Jones do the rest with the ball in his hands. This was highlighted in a Week 10 game against the Cardinals, when he had a career high 77 receiving yards on eight receptions.

Long story short, Jones has become another weapon for Tampa Bay’s offense as a runner and receiver while vastly improving this season. Jones has made himself the starting running back of the future for the Bucs with much more to come.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

17 COMMENTS

  1. Seems we have a lot to be thankful for, except for our won, loss record. Every year we seem to say the same thing, wait till next year. Big off season, a lot of veteran FA’s, including our QB Jameis Winston we’ll have to make decisions on, can’t keep them all. What direction do we take in the draft? Guess we’ll know more as these final games play out. One thing for sure, we better not be out of the playoffs already next Halloween, and talking off season at Thanksgiving. Speaking of Thanksgiving you all have a good one.

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  2. Good article Happy Thanksgiving Guys! I’m looking forward to seeing a beat down in Jax! If the Bucs take an early lead I think the Jags give up! that team is in disarray. Another bonus, taking the water taxi to a football game is never a bad thing! Go Bucs!

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  3. I hope these young players keep getting better.

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  4. I am thankful that there is an abundance of optimism (Koolaid even) on PR to balance out my growing desire to throw the TV through the window. While it might feel satisfying for a moment – considering the guarantee of yet another single-digit win season (let that sink-in….Rah/Dom/Freeman were the last guys to lead us to double-digit wins) – in the end, it only hurts me, the window and the poor squirrel in my backyard who would be crushed….so thank you.

    You guys slay me sometimes though, (“it seems like some of these premium defensive draft picks by Licht are starting to pay off”…2 out of 8 ‘aint bad?) ….but I appreciate the balance, and so does my window…and the squirrel!

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  5. Great article, Pewter Report! There will be a beat down against the Jags. I had the feeling that team would go down hill when I heard they stupidly hired Warhop to be their OL Coach! LOL. I have been saying that Licht did a good job with this year’s picks but the haters labeled it a bust. Now they should be seeing that Licht can see the potential stardom in players long before they develop into stars. He made his best decision in bringing BA here who he knew could finally develop players like Jones who most had all given up on. We really have a great deal to be thankful to with the Bucs because the losing culture just took a big nosedive last Sunday. We will be able to believe we can win any game we play now and BA has always turned around every team he has taken over and we will not be an exception. We will not be a basement dweller again as long as BA and Licht are here! The Bucs are a winning culture now and that will help convince our players to stay with us and help us to become an elite team that could win the Super Bowl any year!

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  6. These next two games are going to tell us which direction we are heading.
    I’ll wait to reply then on this subject.

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  7. I’m of the mind that we have had two things working against our defense this year: it takes time to jell, especially in the secondary, and inexperience.
    First, I believe this defense, including experience players, are starting to jell. Remember there are several new faces and they needed to not only get familiar with each other, but learn a new defense.
    Second, with seven first or second year starters on defense they have to have time to glean experience. When you are inexperienced the game seems very fast. Only experience will slow it down. I will offer a quote as well, by Samuel Reshevsky “Young players calculate everything, a requirement of their relative inexperience.”
    I believe this defense has gelled, but it will still be subjected to the mistakes of youth, just fewer of them.

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  8. The Good of BA: He has turned around the careers of ROJO, Alex Cappa, and Carlton Davis. He has patiently brought along Bunting and Dean and they are showing signs of becoming first-rate corners.
    The Bad of BA: Game management has been questionable. Playcalling has been a bit off. Clock management and questioning ref calls have lacked consistency. Up until this last game, discipline was nonexistent. His defense of Winston was honorable at first, but now is sounding like a broken record. The next two or three games will give us some insight of what to expect next year.

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  9. I’m thankful for the pewter staff and fans here, happy thanks giving y’all.

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  10. Everyday is a gift! Here’s hoping everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family. Here’s hoping that the Bucs can make it 2 in a row on Sunday. Peace out Bucfans!

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  11. I’m thankful any time I’m able to wake up in the morning (usually too early) next to my wife of 50 years and have a nice cup of coffee while reading what the Pewter Report staff has served up and the comments from long-suffering fans like me. Today is always a bit more special with our adult children coming over for a great meal. It’s my favorite holiday. Food, Family & Football.

    This year is a bit happier since our Buccaneers looked so good last Sunday against the “red hot” Falcons. I’m thankful for the glimmer of hope that performance gave me. I’m left to wonder what might have been if Matt Gay made just one more kick against the Giants and if the referee hadn’t mistakenly blown his whistle against the Titans. Two games the Bucs realistically should have won. At 6 dash 5, we’d be thinking more about play-off scenarios than Draft position.

    I’ll enjoy this serving of hope as long as it lasts. Maybe……just maybe Jameis Winston can stop being so “giving”, the young secondary develops quickly and Matt Gay tweaks his aim to finish out the season.

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  12. I’m Canadian but I am still thankful for american thanksgiving and three football games today!

    Like some of the others, I am thankful for the hope provided with a good game last week. Hoping the bucs can string together a few wins. I’m hoping to finish strong so a complete re-build is not the main discussion (and that Jameis shows some consistency so we don’t have to start over). Great defense + good offense (with more quick play options – slants, screens, etc.) would be ideal to get us the next level consistently.

    Congrats on 50 years of marriage scubog – that’s amazing!

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  13. After relocating to Tampa this week after being gone 20 years I’m thankful to be wearing shorts and T-shirt and not dealing with snow, ice and 40 below temps!
    Looking forward to going to a home game next week with our great fans and rooting the Bucs on!
    Congrats Scubog for 50 years of marriage, a rare thing.
    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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  14. Welcome home Thunderman! We can use all the Bucfans we can get to root our Bucs to victory this Sunday! Go Bucs!

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  15. Cheers to u Scubug! What a milestone! An example to the young generation who sometimes would just rather cut and run when things r to their liking! Peace to all on this Thanksgiving! Go Bucs!

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  16. Thanks for the props guys. Our first date was the first game ever played at the old Tampa Stadium between the University of Tennessee and the University of Tampa (my alma mater) back in 1967. I knew she was a keeper.

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    • I’ve got Scubog beat by 2 years.

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