FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• The Bucs finished the 2019 preseason with a 3-1 record with Tampa Bay’s only loss coming in the opener at Pittsburgh by a score of 30-28. That was the game new head coach Bruce Arians went for a two-point conversion three times and came up empty. Had Tampa Bay kicked three extra points, the team would have had a perfect preseason record. Does that matter? To Arians, winning in the preseason does matter.
“I think your first three years you have to establish a winning attitude and a winning culture,” Arians said. “After your third year, let’s just get to the first game healthy with everybody because I know what I have. I think teaching guys and finding ways to win, whether it’s guys that got cut or not, it still permeates through your body.”
The Bucs had some bright spots in the preseason, including the stellar play of third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin and backup tight end Tanner Hudson, the emergence of key reserves like running back Dare Ogunbowale and defensive tackle Rakeem “Nacho” Nunez-Roches, and the pass rush that outside linebacker Shaq Barrett brought.
Oh, and the Bucs found a kicker in rookie Matt Gay. That was kind of important, too, as was the play of a turnover-free Jameis Winston in three games.
But what were some areas of concern heading into the 2019 regular season? The offensive line giving up five sacks in a half against Cleveland was a big one, especially with new starter Alex Cappa surrendering two. But let’s dive deeper.
While second-year running back Ronald Jones II had a much better preseason and looked like a competent NFL rusher, where was the big-play ability? The team keeps raving about Jones’ speed, but we’ve yet to see it.
In 61 total carries from both preseasons and his regular season as a rookie, Jones’ longest carry has been 10 yards, and that came this past August. That’s a concern. If it hasn’t happened yet, will it happen?
Another concern is the play of rookie inside linebacker Devin White, the team’s first-round pick. White didn’t post a tackle against Pittsburgh or Miami and had just two tackles and one assist in the Cleveland game. We’ve yet to see a splash play from White, either.
That doesn’t mean a slew of tackles and splash plays aren’t coming, but by comparison, Steelers rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush, who was also a first-round pick, recorded 18 tackles in the preseason, including 11 in one half against Tampa Bay in the opener.
The Bucs are expecting better play from Cappa and the offensive line, in addition to Jones and White in the regular season. Let’s hope we see it.
• Another area of concern for the Bucs is the health of free safety Justin Evans, who finally returned to practice two weeks ago after missing all of the offseason and training camp with an Achilles tendon injury. Evans practiced the week leading up to the Dallas preseason game, but experienced soreness and hasn’t practiced since.
The team is very worried about the health of Evans’ heel, as it just won’t seem to heal. There is some concern over how long the Bucs can keep him on the 53-man roster as Tampa Bay enters the 49ers game with just three healthy safeties in Jordan Whitehead, newcomer Darian Stewart and rookie Mike Edwards, who is coming off a preseason hamstring injury.
If an injury were to occur against San Francisco in the season opener, the Bucs would be down to just two safeties, and lack depth. That might force Tampa Bay to give up on Evans and place him on injured reserve, which is where he finished the 2018 season after his toe injury got so bad that the team shut him down last November.
The Bucs have cross-trained nickel cornerback M.J. Stewart at strong safety, but MO linebacker Deone Bucannon would be the first player to sub in at safety if needed, so the team does have some reinforcements at the position if the safety spot takes a hit against the 49ers. Both Whitehead and Edwards can play free safety, but this is definitely an area of concern heading into the regular season.
• There was a time when Tampa Bay’s roster was littered with Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes back in the 1990s, as those colleges were among the elite teams in college football back in the day. Now the school most represented on the 2019 Buccaneers is Wisconsin, as there are three Badgers on the 53-man roster in nose tackle Beau Allen, running back Dare Ogunbowale and inside linebacker Jack Cichy, as well as safety D’Cota Dixon, who is on injured reserve.
All four former Badgers were in attendance Friday night as their alma mater came to town to beat the University of South Florida, 49-0, at Raymond James Stadium.
“That was really fun having those guys come down here,” Allen said. “It’s kind of rare to catch a Badgers game. I think I’ve been to two since I’ve been in the league. It was kind of cool to be on the visitors side for a change and start the season with a win.”
Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor, last year’s leading rusher in college football and a player who is considered to be the top running back prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft, had four touchdowns in the win. For a defensive player like Cichy, he liked the fact that Wisconsin got a shutout, which came on the heels of his stellar performance at Dallas on Thursday night when he had a handful of tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.
So which night was better – Thursday night or Friday night?
“Both were pretty good!” Cichy said. “I had a good week. Luckily the Badgers came down and capped it off pretty well. It was fun with me, Dare, Beau, D’Cota and a few former teammates were all on the field for the first quarter and that was a great, fun time – to see those first scores and the offense clicking. And of course the defense played great, too.”
• THE PEWTER NATION PODCAST – 2x PER WEEK! The 2019 regular season is finally here and that means a pre-game Pewter Nation Podcast and a post-game Pewter Nation Podcast are on tap each week for you – Pewter Nation! The Pewter Reporters taped the Bucs vs. 49ers pre-game podcast on Wednesday, so make sure you give that a listen before Sunday’s kickoff. The next Pewter Nation Podcast will be taped at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night – so be on the look out for that as part of our post-game coverage.
Next week, the Bucs travel to Carolina for a Thursday Night Football game against the NFC South division rival Panthers. Because of the short week, we’ll be taping our Bucs vs. Panthers pre-game podcast on Tuesday at the AdventHealth Training Center, and we’ll have a post-game podcast for you on Friday.
There is no better time to listen to a new Pewter Nation Podcast, which is presented by Chris Garrido of Westshore Financial, than on your drive home from work on Friday or running around doing errands or at the gym on Saturday.
The popularity of the Pewter Nation Podcast continues to grow. In addition to listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on PewterReport.com you can also subscribe to the free podcasts at PodBean by clicking here and on SoundCloud by clicking here. And of course the Pewter Nation Podcast is also available on iTunes. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode.
• The Bucs’ 2019 captains came out this week and the only real surprise was that rookie inside linebacker Devin White wasn’t named a captain. Not that White has earned it for his play yet, but as the quarterback of the defense and the fact that he has become the vocal leader of the unit it was a mild surprise.
As suspected, quarterback Jameis Winston, wide receiver Mike Evans and guard Ali Marpet were the captains on offense, with linebacker Lavonte David and outside linebacker Carl Nassib as the defensive captains. Running back Dare Ogunbowale was named the special teams captain.
The selection of Nassib might have surprised some, but he really stepped up his vocal leadership in the offseason, and his teammates definitely appreciated that – in addition to his oddball personality. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians called Nassib “crazy” in a press conference last week, and several Bucs agreed.
“Carl is crazy – Carl is great,” said Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. “I love Carl. He always has energy. Every day – it’s energy, energy. He’s always yelling and he’s always getting us going. We appreciate that. We need that. Losing JPP – he was that guy. He would get everybody going and get in your face. He would get practice going. Carl kind of stepped in to that role. He has a funny way of doing it. It’s Carl and we love it.”
• PEWTER REPORT HAS HIT 33,000 FOLLOWERS ON TWITTER! Thank you – Pewter Nation – for following the PewterReport.com Twitter account, as we reached 33,000 followers this past week. We cover Bucs practices, Bucs press conferences, Bucs games and break news on our @PewterReport Twitter account. So if you aren’t one of the 33,000 Bucs fans that follow PewterReport.com on Twitter please do so right now so you don’t miss out on our Bucs coverage, including injury updates, breaking news and notifications about the latest stories and columns on PewterReport.com. Follow us today!
• Nose tackle Vita Vea and MO linebacker Lavonte David weren’t the only Bucs defenders to miss the entire preseason. Rookie outside linebacker Anthony Nelson also didn’t play in the preseason after suffering an MCL sprain during training camp. Like Vea and David, Nelson finally returned to practice this week, but might not dress for Sunday’s game.
“I’m very much itching to get back to football,” Nelson said. “I came here to play football and I’ve been watching these guys work hard. I’m excited to get back out there and mix it up with them.”
The Bucs’ brass had been very excited about Nelson’s development prior to his knee injury, and they like his approach to the game and his football I.Q. When Nelson is given the green light to suit up and play in the regular season the team is expecting some big things from the rookie edge rusher, who has made the most of his mental reps and knows the defense despite missing four weeks of practice.
“It’s a mental game and you have to be locked in to your assignment on every play,” Nelson said. “Being physically injured limits the way you can do it, so I was just using mental reps to stay on top of it. There’s nothing like a real rep, being out there and doing it. But if you can go through it in your head so you know what to do when you’re healthy and your number is called – that’s what I was trying to do.”
• Because of the short week with the Bucs vs. Carolina game on Thursday night, I’ll be coming out with next week’s SR’s Fab 5 on WEDNESDAY morning rather than the usual Friday morning time slot. There will be plenty of Bucs game coverage for you to read and enjoy on Friday, including my 2-Point Conversion post-game column.
Be sure to read the debut edition of the Pewter Preview and Predictions: Bucs vs. 49ers later this afternoon on PewterReport.com. The Pewter Report staff will chime with their predictions for each Bucs game every Friday afternoon starting with the Week 1 Tampa Bay vs. San Francisco match-up.
• And finally, Yeoman’s Cask & Lion is home to two Pewter Report Watch Parties for both Bucs vs. Panthers games. The first happens next Thursday night when Tampa Bay travels to Carolina for Thursday Night Football on NFL Network. Pewter Reporters Mark Cook, Matt Matera and Taylor Jenkins will be there to talk Bucs football with fans for that game, as yours truly and Trevor Sikkema will be in Carolina.
Yeoman’s Cask & Lion is an English-themed pub and eatery located in downtown Tampa at 202 N. Morgan Street right down the street from Amalie Arena. Visit them online at YeomansCaskAndLion.com for driving directions, hours of operation and a full menu. Yeoman’s Cask & Lion will have different food and drink specials for both games. Their food is delicious and Yeoman’s has a full bar with several beers on tap.
The second Pewter Report Watch Party happens on Sunday, October 13 at 8:30 a.m. at the downtown Tampa location as Yeoman’s Cask & Lion opens its doors early at a special time for the Buccaneers vs. Panthers game in London. Come watch the game with Pewter Reporters Sikkema, Matera and Jenkins and lots of Tampa Bay fans, as Cook and yours truly will be in London covering the game overseas.
There will be door prizes that fans can win, and Pewter Report swag will available at both Pewter Report Watch Parties.