FAB 3. 5 Bad Things That Happened In The Bucs’ Preseason That Turned Out Good

The Buccaneers finished an up-and-down preseason on Thursday night in Dallas by obviously and wisely resting their starters. The team prevailed 17-15 to finish the exhibition season with a 3-1 record.

So what did we learn from the first three preseason games about the players that will comprise the 53-man roster, which will be announced on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET? We learned that the Bucs don’t have much at wide receiver past the top three players – Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Breshad Perriman – on the depth chart, and that Jameis Winston was turnover-free in the preseason, which is encouraging. The Bucs also seem to be four deep at tight end with the emergence of Tanner Hudson.

Bucs FS Justin Evans
Bucs FS Justin Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

We learned that with Dare Ogunbowale and Andre Ellington that the Bucs are a bit deeper at running back than it seemed in the offseason. We also learned that free safety Justin Evans is closer to returning to action from his foot injury, but it might not be until the second or the third regular season game.

All of the above is a mixture of good and bad things that happened in August. There are five other bad things that happened in the Bucs preseason that actually had a silver lining for Tampa Bay. Let’s take a look.

Jones’ Knee Injury

When Jones went to return the opening kickoff against Miami his knee hyperextended a bit when he planted and slipped on the wet field while fielding the kick. While he continued to play to play through the injury, rushing twice for seven yards, including a 10-yard dash, Jones was hurt and missed a couple of practices last week as a result.

But Jones returned to practice later in the week and surprisingly played in Friday night’s game against Cleveland, rushing four times for eight yards, including a six-yard run that he nearly broke wide open if not for a shoestring tackle by a Browns defender. Jones has seen Dare Ogunbowale suck it up through dings and nicks to practice every day and play in every preseason game.

“Yeah, he’s probably been as hurt as the guys that have missed practice and he hasn’t missed any,” Arians said of Ogunbowale. “That tells me a lot. I don’t buy into the past – I only buy into what I see.”

Ogunbowale leads the Bucs in rushing this preseason with 90 yards on 30 carries (3.0 avg.) and two touchdowns running mostly behind second- and third-team offensive linemen. Ogunbowale, who also has five receptions for 73 yards (14.6 avg.) this preseason, has gone from fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster to fighting for playing time and likely winning the third-down running back role this year.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo from Kevin O’Donnell/Fox 13

Coming off a disastrous rookie season and playing with a new coaching staff that was giving him a second chance to prove he’s a capable NFL back, Jones decided to suit up and play in the game, which impressed head coach Bruce Arians, and perhaps even Jones himself.

“I thought he looked really good,” Arians said. “He was doubtful to play and he sucked it up and found out a little about himself, too, as a young player to go out there and play. He looked really fast.”

Jones didn’t play in the preseason finale at Dallas on Thursday night, so his final preseason numbers were 33 yards on 10 carries (3.3 avg.) with a long run of 10 yards, in addition to one catch for five yards. Not exactly an amazing average, but way better than last preseason when Jones rushed for just 22 yards on 28 carries (0.8 avg.), and even better than last year during the regular season when Jones had 44 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries (1.9 avg.).

Jones has gone from looking awful to average, which is what a back that averages 3.3 yards per carry is – average. And he’s proven that he has a good deal of toughness in playing through an injury. Now the next step in the regular season is going from average to good, and then ultimately from good to really good, which is the expectation for Jones, who was drafted in the second round.

Starting O-Line Giving Up 5 Sacks vs. Cleveland

Is Tampa Bay’s offensive line better this year under new offensive line coaches Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert? The unit did look better against Pittsburgh and Miami in the first two preseason games, but seemed to take a big step back versus Cleveland, surrendering five sacks in nearly two quarters of action.

After the Browns game Arians said the offensive line, “Got their ass kicked – one-on-one – simple.”

Bucs G Alex Cappa and QB Jameis Winston
Bucs G Alex Cappa and QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The offensive linemen I spoke with this week said the issues are all correctable and that that many sacks should never have happened. The Browns game was a bit of a comeuppance for the offensive line and it gave Arians, Goodwin and Gilbert a chance to give the line a kind of butt-chewing that they’ve never heard before. Better have one of these awful games in the preseason rather than the first week of the season when Tampa Bay plays both San Francisco and Carolina.

The biggest issue was the play of new right guard Alex Cappa, who looked fine in the first two games of the season but struggled against the Browns. Cappa got beat on a twist and on a spin move by veteran Olivier Vernon. If the inexperienced Cappa struggles in the regular season, Arians won’t hesitate to tell Goodwin to insert veteran Earl Watford to stop the bleeding.

Vea And David’s Injuries

Let’s be clear. It wasn’t a good thing that both nose tackle Vita Vea or MO linebacker Lavonte David suffered knee injuries in training camp. But at least there was some benefit that could be achieved despite those unfortunate injuries occurring.

Beau Allen got to start at nose tackle and play more reps there without Vea in the lineup for many of the preseason games. The same could be said of super-sub Rakeem Nunez-Roches, also known as “Nacho.” With the added reps, Nunez-Roches, who had two sacks against the Browns, was really able to develop, secure a roster spot and earn some playing time during the regular season.

Without David in the lineup, rookie MIKE linebacker Devin White was able to play alongside veteran MO ‘backer Deone Bucannon and get used to his playing style. Bucannon got more reps as a result and got caught up on Todd Bowles’ defensive scheme.

Perhaps more important was that Jack Cichy was elevated to second-string MO linebacker and got more reps, which accelerated his learning curve in this new 3-4 scheme. It also allowed Cichy, who had a sack and a fumble recovery at Dallas, more reps to get back in football shape as he is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last year in Week 6. Cichy likely makes the team as a result.

Gabbert’s Injury

Bucs QB Blaine Gabbert
Bucs QB Blaine Gabbert – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

It wasn’t a good thing that backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert dislocated his non-throwing shoulder against Cleveland, but the byproduct is that No. 3 quarterback Ryan Griffin now gets to make the 53-man roster, as that was not a given despite how well Griffin played in the preseason. Gabbert knows Arians’ offense and has won games for him in Arizona, which carries a lot of weight. Griffin has been in the league for six years now, but has yet to see any action in a regular season game.

With Gabbert sidelined for a few weeks, Griffin will serve as Winston’s backup and the team will carry three quarterbacks.

“I’m more than comfortable, more than comfortable,” Arians said about Griffin. “He’s proven with some of the guys he is playing with – directing them; [he’s] poised. He’s moved our team up and down the field. Just like he did again [against Cleveland].”

Gay’s Missed Field Goal

Rookie kicker Matt Gay, the Bucs’ fifth-round pick, was a perfect 3-of-3 entering the Browns game, and had nailed a 55-yarder at Pittsburgh in his NFL debut, in addition to connecting on a 48-yard game-winner against Miami. Gay suffered his first miss against Cleveland in a game that didn’t count.

More importantly, Gay got the chance to make up for it in that game as he connected on a 21-yard game-winner against the Browns with seconds remaining.

“Yeah, he came back and made [the game-winning kick],” Arians said. “That miss – that spot on the field has been a little bit of a bugaboo for him all of camp – 38 to 41 [yards] on the right hash. So, he’s got to work on it.”

Bucs K Matt Gay – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Now that Gay has missed a kick and recovered from it in the same game in the preseason, he’s ready for it in the regular season. The worst thing for Gay would have been going into the regular season perfect and then suffer a miss against San Francisco or Carolina and have no frame of reference for recovering. It turns out that his missed field goal against the Browns would be his lone miss in August. Gay finished the preseason strong, nailing a 53-yard field goal at Dallas.

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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]

26 COMMENTS

  1. Shaq Barrett looks special, could be sack leader.

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  2. Hudson, Cichy and O’Connor should make this team. Sorry Spence, time to finally be released from this roster.

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    • With how many sacks. 4?

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  3. Good Fab 5 Scott. For the first time in a very long time, I’m feeling like the team is a real NFL team. I still have some doubts about a few areas, but they have diminished over the course of training camp. I don’t know how well this team is going to behave, but I feel like that the so called ‘experts’ have written us off and are going to be surprised.

    I’m pretty certain the defense is going to be a lot better than people expect.

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  4. Unless JPP blew all his money he’s made on fireworks, and expensive cars which he probably has, why would he want to risk his health with this neck injury? Gronk hung it up due to the pain of playing, and Luck shocked the football world by walking away while he can still walk. JPP has made more money then Gronk during his career so why? Love of the game, I doubt it. As you can tell I’m a skeptic by nature so I think he’s just trying to get his last 7 million he’ll ever make as an NFL player. Most of Licht’s FA signings end as badly as his second round picks, so I doubt the JPP saga ends well for the Bucs.

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  5. If he actually gets to play enough, Shaq Barrett will lead this team in sacks as long as JPP is out

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    • I must confess that Shaq Barrett has impressed me. I wasn’t sure what we were getting come over from Denver but he has shown that he’s going to have to be accounted for coming off the edge. Speed Rush, Bull Rush, a Spin Move occasionally he’s mixing it up pretty good in there and I think he leads us in sacks this year. The other thing I can’t way to see is when Vea lines back up next to Suh, if its anything like camp where we saw lineman bodies being thrown off the field we could see sacks coming from everywhere. I don’t want to make any predictions but with this aggressive scheme Bowles runs up front & these young hungry DB’s this team is looking more & more like Defensive threat rather than the Offensive threat we saw under Koettter.

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  6. I like the rising of Cichy and really the overall depth we have at just about every position whereas before I believed us to be a bit shaky in areas. I believe alot of guys will shine but I see our safeties and linebackers blowing up. Sure our CB’s will impress but I’m of the mind they’ll find their footing after 3 or 4 games but believe the safeties and linebackers will hit the ground running.(pardon pun)

    I’m hopeful Cappa learned something in Cleveland and all the “correctable stuff” verbiage is right on. I feel it to be. And, when we’ve heard an area that needs focusing on by an individual or a positional group, well those areas have then been addressed and improved. I have faith in the coaching now, they’ve walked the walk so far so who’s to say all that will just stop.

    The players seem to have bought in as well and you can just tell this team is about to make a big splash. It’s all going to look and feel very different.

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  7. I do not know! I do not think anybody knows who will come forward on the D , The mystery will start to unfold on the 9th against 49ers, I think that game will be a big tell for the season, Bucs have had no trouble beating 49ers last few years, this year there’s so many changes with a different system, coach and a lot of new faces and there is also the Jimmy G Factor.
    At this point it is a waiting game.

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  8. This coaching staff has made a world of difference. Looking on the sidelines, you see and feel a real difference. The game management, especially at the end of games has been extraordinary. I like BA’s not-so-quiet confidence. I expect there might be some early struggles but after the first six games, most of the teams on the schedule are beatable. Fans need to stay positive. This coaching staff has credibility and they are imposing the will of accountability. I think we can win any game we hold the opposition under 25 points.

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    • Did I miss something here? since when did coaches start making sacks? You might be right though. With this defensive line of the Bucs? Coaches might need to suit up!!!

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      • Ha! Of course coaches don’t literally make the sacks. But coaching puts players in position to make the sacks. The scheme is modern–finally. It’s an attacking, aggressive mode of defense grounded in deception. It will take time to master, but I really trust Bowles and his defensive staff, particularly the secondary coach who is worlds ahead of what we’ve had since Lake left.

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  9. I think Lavonte David will lead the team in sacks. Last time he had a legitimate chance to rush the qb consistently i believe was under greg schiano and he posted 7 sacks i believe. I could see him getting to a similar number in this scheme which I think would lead the team

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  10. Suh leads in sacks if Vea plays next to him most of the year.

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  11. Interesting tidbit re: McCoy’s complaint about his jersey # being given to Suh; Clay Matthews’ # was given to a rookie after he wasn’t re-signed after 10 years with the Packers. It’s a business for sure..

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  12. Bill Belicheat has trade for 3 OL in the last 48 hours for depth. Licht hasn’t done anything.

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    Rating: -4. From 12 votes.
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    • That’s because the New England Pats and Belicheat are WINNERS. They have a burning desire to WIn.To stay on top. They identify deficiencies and take care of them quickly..not in 3 or 4 yrs. The Tampa Bay Bucs are somebody’s hobby. And I feel sorry for the fans who have to watch the hype and consistent losing year after year. The O line we have is just a tad above average. It needs some reinforcement badly. But the defensive line is even worse..as you shall see. GO BUCS…Just try to Win 8 games and a lot of us will be happy. Not Bellacheat 8 wins for him is a losing season. That’s the difference.

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  13. I have really been pleasantly surprised with many of the developments this year. Going into camp and the pre-season, after the draft I had last year’s defensive backs in a precarious status to even make the team. I thought MJ would likely not survive the cuts. I had Carlton Davis making the team but only has a backup. And Whitehead struggling too. I was completely wrong. Davis will likely be a star in the secondary. MJ has really played well. And Whitehead looks to make the team and likely start. The negative surprise is that Bunting looks overwhelmed, Dean seems inconstant, and Edwards looks banged up. On to the front 7. The best news is that Vea and David will be returning. Hallelujah! If Spence and Nassib play well and the new guys step up we should be fine. I am nervous about the OL, and I am sure Coach is even more nervous. But I see some depth at RB. And I did not expect that. Tanner Hudson has been a blast to watch. I hope he makes the team. Anderson too. I am excited. Will we go to playoffs? Probably not. But if we can reach 8-8 I will be thrilled.

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  14. 8-8 Neha but now 9-7 and I will be happy.

    Go Bucs !!!

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  15. Winston hasn’t held this team back from the playoffs, the defense and it’s ex so called leader have.

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  16. Would love to see a rundown/appraisal of our competition in the NFC South. Now is the time. Assuming Brees stays healthy and does not play like a 40 year old, hard to see any other team finishing ahead of them. But are Carolina and Atlanta improved?

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  17. Broderick Thomas had 11 sacks in ’91, which was the last time a non defensive lineman led the team in sacks. I have an autographed poster of the “Sandman” tackling Barry Sanders in my office. Great poster.

    This defense is going to be fun. I think they have a chance to be a shut down defense. They’re all swarming to the ball with attitude and the defensive backs are playing fast and physical. The front 7 are bringing heat from everywhere and batting balls down. They could use more turnovers, but I think that will pick up during the regular season when starter play the entire game. Can’t wait.

    I’ve had nothing but great impressions from watching this coaching staff come in and handle their business. They have been bold in their vision. Impressive moves include:

    1. Unearthing talent by running two practices at once. More reps for everyone is a proving ground.
    2. Common sense rules: No blaring music at practice. Focus on learning your job.
    3. Adept at handling adversity. Kicking curses and JPP’s self inflicted accident have been no story.
    4. Diverse coaching staff which employs two female coaches, one on the defensive line.
    5. Accountability: Jettisoning low effort players like Desean Jackson and Gerald McCoy was step #1 and #2. Obvious no brainers that required guts.

    Can’t wait to see this season unfold. Go Bucs!

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  18. Surprisingly, Bob has had a couple of positive comments recently. Even garnered a few thumbs-up. Could it be that twspin is gaining on him as the most doom and gloom poster? Say it isn’t so Ethel.

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    • Voting on comments, especially down votes, is cowardly and lazy. When a post doesn’t conform to a person’s rose-colored thinking they down vote instead of making a well reasoned reply. It seems like the comments section around here are consistent for the most part and that’s partially because of the voting feature.

      For the record, I gave you a thumbs up because of your avatar.

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  19. I think they may share the same Bridge 😂 Don’t let Trolls fool you, their compliments are underhanded and any praise is only to lure you in.

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  20. Re: “But what has held him back from greatness – and the team back from the playoffs – is his penchant for untimely turnovers.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. Since Jameis has been QB, the Bucs have posted all of one season where they weren’t 21st or worse in scoring defense. What happened that year? The Bucs went 9-7 and barely missed the playoffs. We’ve all seen comparisons of Winston to some great QB and how their TD/INT ratio was not much better than Winston’s and often was significantly worse, and those “great QBs” won tons more games… but EACH of them played on a team with a top defense. Certainly QBs get the credit or blame for their team winning or losing games, but when it comes to the Bucs in the previous 8 years, they’ve had a decent scoring defense in all of 1 of those years. Every single other year their scoring D was 21st or worse, and was THE worst one year, and the 2nd worst last year. Simply put, you can have a great scoring offense, but if you can’t stop your opponent, it doesn’t much matter–your QB is going to have to try incredible things if you’re going to have any chance of winning.

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