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: Who is the Bucs’ best depth player in 2021?
Scott Reynolds: Love What I’ve Seen From Bucs S Edwards
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The Bucs have two really good starting safeties in Antoine Winfield, Jr. and Jordan Whitehead. Winfield has Pro Bowl potential and Whitehead, who is in a contract year, has been a solid contributor, especially in the box and in man coverage against tight ends. Tampa Bay is fortunate to have another starting-caliber safety in Mike Edwards. In his second year with the Bucs, the former third-round pick, emerged as a play-maker. He recorded two big interceptions and a fumble recovery during the regular season. Edwards added another INT in the postseason.
Bucs S Mike Edwards – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
In significantly less playing time on defense, Edwards wound up with more picks than either Winfield or Whitehead, including the playoffs. His five pass breakups were one more than Whitehead and one fewer than Winfield. That speaks to his play-making ability. Edwards is an instant impact player when he’s on the field. Take the Green Bay game for instance. Winfield left the game for the a play due to injury and Edward stepped in and picked off Aaron Rodgers in his very first snap of the game. Two weeks earlier, Edwards made an acrobatic interception in the end zone to seal Tampa Bay’s win at Denver.
Chances are that the Bucs won’t re-sign Whitehead after this season as the team will have bigger priorities to address. That means Edwards will likely start with Winfield in 2022. But don’t rule out Edwards seeing more playing time this year, perhaps at Whitehead’s expense. Edwards has a knack for creating takeaways. His last-minute interception of Drew Brees in the playoff win at New Orleans is a prime example. It’s plays like that that will force defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to play him more in 2021. And that’s a good thing.
Mark Cook: Stinnie Has Already Proved His Value
Making a deep playoff run is nearly as much about being lucky with injuries as it is talent. Once you make the playoffs – with your talent, keeping the roster healthy can be the difference between 31 points and nine points. I think you see what I did there. Despite a 14-2 regular season in 2020, the banged up Chiefs offensive line was no match for the Bucs pash rush in the season’s final contest. In Tampa Bay’s case they were able to withstand a season-ending injury to a starter in the Wild Card and found a suitable replacement in Aaron Stinnie. The result? A Super Bowl.
Bucs RG Aaron Stinnie – Photo by: USA Today
Listen, the Bucs got somewhat lucky as it was a guard and not both tackles missing the Super Bowl. And there are just some positions that if you lose a player, your season is pretty much over. With the Buccaneers, losing quarterback Tom Brady for instance, would be devastating despite the proclamations from within the organization that Blaine Gabbert is the greatest backup in NFL history. That isn’t to minimize the job Stinnie did in relief however.
When Alex Cappa went down against the Washington Football Team things were concerning. Especially when veteran journeyman Ted Larsen filled in for the remainder of the game and was dreadful. The Bucs had already attempted to fill an injury at guard earlier in the year with Joe Haeg with similar results. So to find Stinnie on the bench and see his performance down the stretch, including starting in the Super Bowl, was remarkable. Cappa will be back in a starting role in 2021, but the knowledge that Stinnie can step in for him, or Ali Marpet, should have Bucs fans sleeping a little better at night.
Jon Ledyard: Scotty Doesn’t Know (How Valuable He Is), So Don’t Tell Scotty
With all due respect to what O.J. Howard can be, Mike Edwards’ ball-hawking and Giovani Bernard’s irreplaceable third down skill set, Scotty Miller is the Bucs most valuable depth player. Almost every play Miller made over the course of the Bucs season is a memorable one, largely due to his splash play ability. From Week 1 when Miller went off for 5 catches for 73 yards, it was obvious big things were in store.
In fact, if not for the addition of Antonio Brown as the Bucs third starting receiver, Miller would have flirted with 1,000 yards. When Brown joined the team in Week 9, Miller – not Mike Evans or Chris Godwin – was actually leading the team in receiving yards. But over the course of the rest of the season, Miller didn’t even hit 50 yards in a single game. His role minimized due to the added presence of the Bucs All-Pro receiver.
It’s no surprise during the Bucs 1-3 stretch in the middle of the season, Miller had a total of two catches on five targets for 14 yards. Following the bye week, Miller’s 48-yard touchdown catch against Minnesota jump-started the Bucs offense to an impressive finish to the season. The 23 year-old re-emerged with a big-time 29-yard catch against New Orleans in the playoffs, putting the Bucs in field goal range late in the game. Then Miller assured his place in Bucs history, and on this list, with his 39-yard touchdown before the half in the NFC Championship game. When he’s on the field, good things happen.
Matt Matera: There’s No Threat Like The Speed Of Scotty Miller
How many of these other depth players does the opponent have to plan for during the week? Not many other backup players can boast the impact that Scotty Miller provided last season. And though Miller is fourth on the depth chart, making him technically a backup, he’s quite valuable to the Bucs’ offense. It took two years for Miller to establish his role, but now that he’s found it, his speed is a prominent threat down field that you can’t take lightly. Ask Packers’ cornerback Kevin King about that.
No one on the Bucs’ offense can stretch the defense like Miller can. You want to play against him one-on-one? Good for you, and best of luck. He’ll smoke the defender down the field. You want to shade a safety over to his side or double cover him? Great, you just opened up the field for Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and the rest of the skilled offensive talent that the Bucs have. It doesn’t matter who the Bucs are playing or what the situation of the game is, Miller is only one play away from making his mark. You can look back at touchdown receptions such as at home against the Chargers, on the road at Las Vegas, and in the NFC Championship game at the Packers for example. While highlight reel plays, the point is that Miller is always a threat with what he brings to the game.
Miller was the next man up in the NFC Championship game when it was known Antonio Brown would be out. He surely did not disappoint. Not many depth players could have the same kind of affect that Miller did in that game, and his touchdown at the end of the half will go down as one of the most historic plays in Bucs’ history. He’s built a great connection with Tom Brady in one season, so should his number be called, there’s no worries about Miller performing. He recorded 501 yards on 33 receptions and three touchdowns last season, and Miller’s 15.2 yards per catch led the Bucs. I wouldn’t doubt if all those numbers go up again this year.