FAB 4. SR’s Notes On The Bucs’ Preseason Finale

With Tampa Bay’s preseason finale at Dallas being on a Thursday night, I didn’t have time to do a 2-Point Conversion and finish this week’s SR’s Fab 5, so I’ll finish off this column with some notes from the Bucs’ victory over the Cowboys.

• It was great to see two young Bucs defensive players really help their causes with tremendous performances in Dallas on Thursday night. Defensive lineman Patrick O’Connor had three tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a QB hit against the Cowboys, and finished the preseason with 14 tackles and two sacks. I had him making the final 53-man roster in my prediction last week, and his performance on Thursday should have solidified that.

Bucs DL Patrick O’Connor – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I also had inside linebacker Jack Cichy make the 53-man roster, and he had a tremendous performance with four tackles, one tackle for loss, one QB hit and one fumble recovery. Cichy finished August with 13 tackles, one sack, one QB hit, his fumble recovery and a pass breakup.

That’s quite a feat coming back from a torn ACL that he suffered last October.

• Rookie running back Bruce Anderson finally showed up in the preseason and may have snagged a spot on the practice squad. Anderson had underwhelmed in the first three preseason games. Anderson missed the first game at Pittsburgh due to injury, but had just three carries for three yards and one catch for six yards in the team’s win over Miami.

Against Dallas, Anderson racked up an impressive 70 yards on 20 carries (3.5 avg.), including a team-high 20-yard run, and scored a touchdown. The Tampa native (Newsome High School) also had one catch for seven yards. That might not be enough to keep him on the Bucs’ 53-man roster ahead of Dare Ogunbowale and Andre Ellington, but Anderson needed this performance to potentially earn a practice squad spot in Tampa Bay.

• Cornerback De’Vante Harris dropped two interceptions in Dallas that would have helped his cause for making the 53-man roster. Rookie cornerback Mazzi Wilkins has forced two fumbles in the preseason, including one against Dallas that stopped a potential Cowboys scoring drive. But Wilkins missed a key tackle on Jalen Guyton’s 69-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, which didn’t help the USF product. Harris had great coverage on Dallas’ ensuing two-point conversion, which was no good and preserved the win.

The Bucs will need to keep a fifth cornerback for the first four games until Ryan Smith is eligible to return from his four-game PED suspension. Both Wilkins and Harris are good options for depth and this one could be a toss up on Saturday afternoon.

• Matt Gay locked up the kicking duties in Tampa Bay with an impressive showing in the preseason finale with an extra point and a 53-yard field goal. That was Gay’s second field goal from beyond 50 yards in August. Gay, the team’s fifth-round pick, finished the preseason 5-of-6 (83.3 percent) on his field goal attempts and was 3-of-3 on his extra points.

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

Not only did Gay show off his big leg in the preseason right off the bat with a 55-yarder at Pittsburgh, he also drilled two game-winners in victories over Miami and Cleveland. Gay’s competition, veteran Cairo Santos, was 2-of-2 on field goals and 2-of-2 on extra points in the preseason, but doesn’t have the leg strength that the rookie does.

Gay will stay in Tampa Bay as the Bucs’ kicker this year, but Santos will get picked up elsewhere and will be kicking for another team in Week 1. If general manager Jason Licht is smart he’ll call the New York Jets and see if he can get a seventh-round pick for Santos as the Jets have really struggled with field goals this preseason.

• Tampa Bay tight end Tanner Hudson finished as the second-leading receiver in the preseason with 19 catches for 245 yards (12.9 avg.). New England receiver Jakobi Meyers just edged him out with 20 catches for 253 yards. But Hudson led the entire preseason with a league-high three touchdowns, including his first quarter TD at Dallas.

More importantly, Hudson might have secured himself a roster spot as the fourth tight end due to his superb receiving ability. His only problem is that he is a below average blocker. Will the team give him time to develop as a blocker and add more muscle in the weight room? Hudson has shown too much ability to stash on the practice squad for another year.

• Bucs third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin only played in the first quarter of the team’s win in Dallas on Thursday night, but it was enough to give him the preseason passing title. Griffin completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 744 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions – both of which came against Dallas and were fluky in nature.

Bucs QB Ryan Griffin – Photo by: Getty Images

General manager Jason Licht has always believed in Griffin, and the 29-year old Tulane product won over head coach Bruce Arians and the coaching staff in training camp and the preseason. He’s earned a spot on the 53-man roster – even with Blaine Gabbert’s shoulder injury.

• The Bucs went 3-1 in the preseason with the team’s only loss being a 30-28 loss in Pittsburgh in the preseason opener. Preseason records mean little and success in August doesn’t automatically translate into a successful regular season.

Yet for a team that needed a culture change and needed to learn how to win, the fact that the Bucs had come-from-behind victories in each of the last three preseason games is a mentality that Tampa Bay can build on come September.

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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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    • 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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