FAB 2. Inside The Bucs’ Over The Jaguars

Tampa Bay got its first win in the preseason in Jacksonville, 12-8, and there were several things that stood out to me in the victory. Here are some of my notes on the Bucs vs. Jaguars game.

• Rookies Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard were impressive in the passing game at Jacksonville with the wide receiver catching two passes for 30 yards and the tight end making two catches for 28 yards. Each rookie had a 15-yard gain and Thursday night was the first time that Howard had been targeted in the passing game during the preseason. Godwin caught one pass for 14 yards during the preseason opener at Cincinnati. Both players will see significant playing time during the regular season.

• Quarterback Jameis Winston started the Jacksonville game hot, completing 14-of-18 passes for 138 yards in leading Tampa Bay on two field goal drives and one touchdown drive. He finished 21-of-29 for 196 yards against the Jaguars and has put together two very good preseason performances.

Bucs WR Mike Evans - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

While he hasn’t thrown a touchdown in the preseason – Winston had a potential 43-yard TD pass dropped by Mike Evans at the goal line – Winston hasn’t thrown an interception yet, either. Although he nearly threw two against the Jaguars, including one in the end zone that was negated when the officials ruled him down and whistled the play dead before he threw the ball.

What’s been most impressive is his accuracy, which has taken a considerable jump this preseason. Winston was a 62 percent passer last year, but has completed 71.4 percent of his throws (30-of-42) through the first two games for 295 yards and a 91 QB rating. It’s doubtful Winston will complete 71 percent of his passes over the course of an entire season, but even if he improves to 65 percent this year that’s quite an improvement.

• The Bucs’ adventures in kicking continued in Jacksonville. Nick Folk’s first extra point attempt was blocked by 6-foot-8 defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who blasted past guard Evan Smith to block the kick, which is a little lower than Folk should have kicked it. However, he did make a 35-yard field goal on the first play of second quarter and later connected on a 29-yard field goal.

But Folk missed a 47-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that would have put the game away, and his miss was eerily similar to Roberto Aguayo’s miss last week at Cincinnati. Aguayo’s miss also came from 47 yards, and like Folk’s, it was wide right kicking from the left hash.

After the game Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter was less than pleased.

“Nope, not quite what we were looking for.” Koetter said.

Bucs K Nick Folk
Bucs K Nick Folk – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs will definitely need to score more touchdowns this season because the field goal kicking situation still can’t be trusted in Tampa Bay. Of course the Bucs still haven’t made an extra point in either preseason game, but six points is still better than three.

• Caleb Benenoch and Leonard Wester split time at right tackle with the starting lineup in the second quarter after Demar Dotson suffered a groin injury. Benenoch, who gave up a sack last week, had a holding penalty in the second quarter that backed the Bucs up and set up first-and-19 on a drive in which Tampa Bay didn’t convert and was forced to punt.

Wester replaced Benenoch on the final drive of the first half and surrendered a sack-fumble to Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. The Bucs certainly hope that Dotson won’t miss much time as the production of the offense declined in the second quarter in his absence.

• Wide receiver Josh Huff had a 29-yard gain on an end around negated on a 10-yard holding penalty by tight end Luke Stocker. Huff is a great athlete with good speed that the Bucs would like to see make the team as a kick returner and fifth wide receiver, but his hands are just not consistent enough and he doesn’t always make the best decisions on bringing kicks out of the end zone. Huff finished the Jacksonville game with one catch for six yards, a 10-yard run and a 27-yard kick return.

Huff’s main competition for the fifth wide receiver role appears to be Bernard Reedy at this point. Reedy had a 29-yard kick return, averaged 9.5 yards on two punt returns and had two catches for 16 yards against the Jaguars. As always, the fifth receiver spot will come down to which player contributes more on special teams.

• Reserve running back Peyton Barber has been impressive during training camp and the preseason as he fights for playing time this year, especially in the first three games during Doug Martin’s suspension. Barber had a strong showing in Jacksonville where he led all rushers with 42 yards on nine carries (4.7 avg.), including a 13-yard run. Barber has 17 carries for 63 yards (3.7 avg.) to led Tampa Bay in rushing through the first two games.

Bucs LB Lavonte David - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

• Now we see why the Bucs dedicate so much specific time to blitzing linebackers and working on blitz pick-up for running backs and tight ends in practice. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith unleashed some blitzes in Jacksonville and both linebackers Lavonte David and Adarius Glanton got to the quarterback and were unblocked. Smith’s defensive alignments confused the Jaguars quarterbacks and offensive line, and that’s the next step this year in the evolution of his defense – more blitzes. Expect both David, who had four tackles in Jacksonville, and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander to have at least five sacks apiece while blitzing more often in 2017.

• How important is defensive end Noah Spence to Tampa Bay this year? He is extremely important because the Bucs don’t have any pass rushers with any speed among the reserves outside of perhaps Ryan Russell and maybe George Johnson, neither of whom are guaranteed to make the 53-man roster. That’s apparent after two preseason games.

Tampa Bay’s reserve defensive linemen including Sealver Siliga, Stevie Tu’ikolvatu, Sterling Bailey, Channing Ward Tavaris Barnes, Justin Trattou, and Davonte Lambert don’t offer much in the way of pass rush at all and struggle to win one-on-ones against reserve offensive linemen. None of those players is exceptionally quick and only Bailey has a sack, which came last week at Cincinnati when third-team linebacker Riley Bullough missed Jeff Driskel on a blitz and forced the Bengals quarterback to step up and into Bailey’s arms.

Through two games the Bucs don’t have any sacks from their defensive line and look to only get them from Spence, Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Robert Ayers, Jr. and perhaps Jacquies Smith if he makes a full recovery from his recent knee surgery. The only players that appear to be capable of hitting double digit sacks in Tampa Bay are Spence and McCoy, though.

For more of my insight and analysis on Tampa Bay’s victory in Jacksonville, click here to read my post-game column, Bucs’ Running Game, Run Defense Come Alive In 12-8 Win.

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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]

12 COMMENTS

  1. The Bucs looked quite solid last night. I was impressed with the O-line in the first quarter with the amount of time Jameis had time to throw. The trick for Koetter/Bajakian will be to clear up that gray area in JW’s mindset when to give up on a play. I love JW’s scrap, but that INT illustrates the biggest weakness in JW’s game. I love everything else that he’s doing though. Watching MY team with the scary franchise QB that is going to win a lot of games for our team is truly a joy to behold. Other than that, I thought Doug was impressive and I hope that he stays on track.

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  2. So far I didn’t see a whole lot out of our defensive line rush except for McCoy. Chris Baker looked fat and slow. Ayers and Goldston looked like last year. McCoy was the only one who stood out as to our starters on the line. We’re talking so much about the offense all the time maybe we should start paying more attention to our defensive posture.

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  3. After watching last night’s preseason game, a couple of observations made. I re-watched the game today to be sure. Neither OT Caleb Benenoch nor Leonard Wester is ready to step in for RT Demar Dotson if he has to miss time due to injury. And we’ve seen the back-up QB play with Griffin out. The O-Line must now protect Winston like a Faberge’ Egg. If he goes down we’re doomed!

    The Bucs have lots of cap space even if they want to extend WR Evans sooner rather than later. The Bucs have made no attempts to bolster the O-Line at the tackle position. If Kevin Pamphile slides over, then we have a gap at left guard. I would find no comfort in seeing G/C Evan Smith moved there. There were moments in last night’s game where LT Donovan was having difficulty. Benenoch really struggled with Jags starting pass rusher Dante Fowler. He gave up at least one sack, had a costly penalty and a few other QB pressures.

    Jameis will be deadly when he has time to go through his progressions. But if we have to lose him for 2 or 3 games, we can forget about any playoffs because QB Fitzpatrick is not the guy to put this team on his back and pull it through.

    The Bucs FO is not acting like a team gearing up to make a playoff run. Other NFC teams Atlanta/Carolina/New Orleans are all attempting to bolster their O-Lines – it starts up front. I have no idea what the Bucs will do should such a scenario arise. I can only pray that we never have to face that situation. Go Bucs!

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    • Unlike me, Mac is (literally) nearly always right but I completely agree on OL, have been saying that for two years while PR was parroting (and gloating about it) the coaches’ positivity about the players they have to work with – what did you expect the coaches to say?

      We have no quality depth. Fingers crossed on Sweezy but he’s an unknown at this point and Marpet is our only OL that you’d actually draft If you started from a blank sheet of paper. If Smith can’t make the next step this year we will have over-drafted in the second round, again, and need to draft a LT next year when everyone else will be OL shopping in a supposedly deep year at those positions.

      Licht has done some very good things in mid-late rounds but the early rounds have been killing fields for him beyond the ‘obvious easy’ high first round decisions like taking the best WR and one of the two best QBs, and hopefully also the best TE (VH3 still TBD). After 2-3rd round picks like ASJ, Sims, Roberto and Smith, next year I propose that JL excuse himself from the draft room after the first round and come back at the top of the 4th 😀

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  4. I like seeing young guys redeem themselves from last week (Ryan Smith, Beckwith). But I was disappointed in the play of other young players (eg J. Evans, Moxey, VH3, etc).

    All in all this is still a young team so you are going to see up and down play. Pre season game 3 will be interesting though because none of the backup Dlineman have stood out so far.

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  5. Just a few observations: Jameis looked good and consistent. He seems to be cutting down on the eratic mistakes, with of course the one huge exception. I am sure many thought my rant on the one huge brain fart meant that I was a Jameis hater, actually he is by far my favorite player. If you are winning 30 to nothing take a shot, but at that stage in the game with the score margin what it was, cooler heads prevail. It shows he still needs to work on on “Patience,” and I doubt after several conversations with Koetter the last few days we won’t be seeing a repeat of that calamity. The Defense looked good. If a good OT gets cut at the last minute I would not have a problem paying for him. The Dotson injury concerns me and certainly reinforces the need for depth. Finally I see a significant drop off between the starters and back-up. By midway through the season I see a rotational approach to several positions. I realize for preseason play calling is vanilla so I am looking forward to a deeper playbook. One other thing that Jameis needs is work on the long ball. DJAX is going to need better accuracy to be affective.

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  6. Hey Scott, just read that Jaguars signed K Patrick Murray. He beat out Conor Barth and played really well for us a couple years ago before getting hurt – why didn’t go after him?

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  7. Nice Fab 4 SR.

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  8. If the Bucs have really screwed one thing last few years up it’s been the FG kicker. Not having anyone good since 2011 really says it all. It’s not just been one coach or regime getting it wrong either which is kind of crazy to me. Anyways finding a solid, not stellar kicker is just not that hard! It’s like come on man.
    Anyways back on topic of the Jags game. The game was good. I really enjoyed it. Jameis has improved his accuracy thus far. Really want to see him connect on some deep balls to Jackson. The TD Evans dropped was pretty long through with good touch I thought.
    I was disappointed that Sims and Rodgers didn’t play well like last week. Other than that not too many dissapointments on offense.
    It’s already been said but Jameis absolutely needs to learn to give up on a play. At 23 that should only get better with maturity. Koetter chewed his ass pretty good and he needs that. It’s pre-season yes but still don’t throw damn ball up for grabs when going down to the ground that’s just not acceptable and no pro QB does that that’s any good. Other than that nothing too terrbile on offense stood out to me.
    On defense there were lot mistakes and guys wide open. Lucky for us the balls kept getting dropped or thrown too short (Bortles).
    Lots work to do still but you have to be happy with the run defense. Of course we were playing a bad offense with no run game…..
    Still lot to be optimistic about. Hope Folk can give us a solid year until we find a better option. My gut says he can hit 85% or so ok just really have doubts about longer ones like 45-55 yards. He has two more games to get little streak going and get his head right.
    Go Bucs!!!!!

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  9. Having watched the preseason games to date I see the talent that has so many so excited. Unfortunately, as of yet the skill and talent of the players has not yet shown up in games. I know it is preseason but the passing of that period will soon be at hand. Here’s hoping repeated errors will become much more frequent than they are now. Perhaps the cuts will help get the team to that level.

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  10. Thanks for showing all Buc’s Fans how much better off we could have been if Licht had not made so many bone headed mistakes, Scott. If you had been the GM the same time we have had Licht, we would already have been to the playoffs and gone a long way. I watched the Titans last Preseason Game today and it is clear our former head Scout who was made the Titan’s GM already built up the Titans better than Licht has the whole time he has been here with the Bucs.

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  11. The Bengals have two excellent kickers while the Bucs have none. The Bucs should trade a sixth or seventh rounder next year for one of the Bengals kickers.

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