The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic related to the Tampa Bay Bucs each week.
This week’s topic: Which Bucs’ rookie from last year rebounds?
Table of Contents
Scott Reynolds: OL Alex Cappa
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I was not a fan of former Tampa Bay offensive line coach George Warhop. I know, I know – shocker, right? The Bucs front office gave Warhop 14 new linemen over the last five years to work with and develop, including six draft picks. Outside of team captain Ali Marpet and left tackle Donovan Smith to a degree, Warhop didn’t do much to elevate the play of the players he was given, and my hope is that run game coordinator Harold Goodwin and offensive line coach Joe Gilbert will be able to take a lot of the Bucs’ young offensive linemen to the next level.
One of those players is Alex Cappa, the Bucs’ third-round pick from a year ago. Cappa had a difficult transition from small school Humboldt State to the NFL. It wasn’t nearly as smooth as it was for Marpet, who played at small school Hobart College, during his rookie year in 2015. Not only was Cappa making a big jump in the level of competition during his initial season in the league, he also was transitioning from left tackle to right guard.
Bucs OL Alex Cappa – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Moving from tackle where linemen have more space to work with to inside at guard where the action happens much more quickly can be a challenge, as Caleb Benenoch, who was the starter ahead of Cappa last year, found out last year. Benenoch was a right tackle at UCLA and struggled with the move inside. Word out of One Buccaneer Place is that Benenoch will move outside to tackle after failing miserably at guard last year, and Cappa will get a look at both right tackle and right guard.
Cappa’s development was rather slow last year, as he didn’t get any playing time until the last two months of the season. The hope is that Goodwin and Gilbert can fast track him to success in his second year and refine his technique. I like the fact that he’ll get a look at both guard and tackle this offseason, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he winds up as Demar Dotson’s eventual replacement at right tackle sooner rather than later. He may not wind up as a starter this year, but I think Cappa makes some serious strides towards becoming a starting-caliber player with this new coaching staff.
Mark Cook: CB Carlton Davis
Davis wasn’t necessarily a bust in 2018, in fact, he started 12 games while playing in 13 games while notching 40 tackles as a rookie, along with a forced fumble. That isn’t terrible. However, as a starting cornerback, to only have four pass breakups all season is a pretty revealing stat. A player can get credited with a pass breakup if a ball hits him in the back of the helmet when running down field with his back to the quarterback. And to not record a single interception? Yikes. Not many saw that coming.
We all loved Davis’ introductory conference call when he was drafted by the Buccaneers last April. He was excited and came across as supremely confident. That’s something you very much want in a defensive back. Davis had a solid training camp and showed flashes in the Jacksonville preseason that made you take notice. The game didn’t seem to big for the young former Auburn standout.
Bucs CB Carlton Davis – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Then Week 1 arrived and the Bucs went on the road to New Orleans to face future Hall of Famer Drew Brees and the Saints. It was a whole different ball game for Davis and the young Bucs defense. Brees was no Ryan Tannehill. Davis quickly learned that the level of play is amped up by 100 once the regular season starts.
To Davis’ credit, he never backed down. Not to Brees, or any of the NFL receivers and quarterbacks he faced. But he and the Bucs found out the learning curve as a rookie is steep, and as good as the SEC was in college, it’s another level of speed on the game’s biggest stage. Davis was an inch away from about a dozen more pass breakups, and the hope is that with new cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross that he can become more of a playmaker and create turnovers in his second NFL season.
Having survived the bumps and bruises of his rookie season should be a good thing for Davis. There shouldn’t be any more deer-in-the-headlights looks from Davis in his second year. He faced, Brees, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Dax Prescott and others as a rookie and lived to tell about it. With better coaching and a better scheme, expect Davis to become more of what people expected him to be as a second-round pick in 2018. There will still be some bumps and bruises in Year 2, especially learning a new system, but there also should be a renewed confidence for Davis and his teammates.
Trevor Sikkema: WR Justin Watson
I’ll go a little outside the box here with my pick.
I think Vita Vea came along plenty well enough in the second half of 2018 to not necessarily call next year a “rebound.” I thought safety Jordan Whitehead played above expectations. We’ll see what happens with defensive back M.J. Stewart depending on which position they can play him at. Linebacker Jack Cichy will be coming back from an ACL injury, so he was an option, but who knows when he’ll be back. Mark Cook and Scott Reynolds named two of the others. And as for Ronald Jones, you’ll have my answer to that in an upcoming Cover 3 column.
Bucs WR Justin Watson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
I think Watson, who was relegated to special teams for much of his rookie year, could really be poised to have a breakout season. I guess I can’t really called it “bounce back” or “rebound” since his limited production last year was more a product of being in a crowded wide receiver room than anything else, but his 2019 outlook is promising.
The Bucs will assuredly be without DeSean Jackson next year, as it has been well documented that he is not happy in Tampa Bay and the team needs his $10 million in cap space, but then you also have to factor in that Adam Humphries might be elsewhere, too. If Humphries is going to command $8 million or more per year, he won’t be getting that in Tampa Bay – or at least he shouldn’t.
If that happens, Watson, who showed some good chemistry with Winston last preseason, would be in line as the team’s No. 3 wide receiver.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.