FAB 3. With Jones At QB, Bucs Must Stop Barkley

Part of the reason why New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur feels comfortable about benching veteran Eli Manning and turning the offense over to rookie quarterback Daniel Jones in Week 3 is because Jones will be doing a lot of turning around and handing the ball off to Saquon Barkley.

Despite the Giants being 0-2, Barkley has already had two 100-yard games this year, including an 11-carry, 120-yard effort against Dallas in Week 1, and a 107-yard day with a touchdown against Buffalo in last week’s contest.

Bucs MLB Riley Bullough - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs MLB Riley Bullough – Photo by: Getty Images

Barkley is coming off an impressive rookie season where he rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns on 261 carries (5.0), while catching 91 passes for 721 yards and four more TDs. The Penn State product had seven 100-yard rushing games as a last year, including 142 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s 38-35 win over Tampa Bay in New York in which he averaged 5.3 yards per carry and had two catches for 10 yards and another TD.

Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was on injured reserve last year and didn’t get to play against Barkley, but watched in awe as the rookie ran roughshod over Tampa Bay’s defense.

“He’s amazing,” Hargreaves said. “I love watching him. If you’re a football fan you love watching him. He’s great. There’s not a way to not like that guy. We’ve got to find a way to slow him down.”

On Tuesday I asked Bucs head coach if the fact that his defense had success in limiting Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey to just 37 yards rushing gave Tampa Bay’s defense more confidence that it could contain another talented, multi-purpose back like Barkley. The answer was no.

“They’re on different planets,” Arians said. “Saquon’s bigger, stronger, faster. He’s got more 50-yard runs than anybody I’ve seen in a long time.

“He’s hard to bring down. He doesn’t run over many people – he runs around them and runs past them. The size and the speed combination are extremely rare.”

The 6-foot, 233-pound running back was the second overall pick for a reason a year ago prior to winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year and making his first Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro. Simply put, he’s a beast.

“You’ve got to gang tackle,” Arians said. “It’s got to take everybody getting to the ball and [having] gap integrity – you can’t try to do too much. If you try to do more than your job, you’re going to open up a gigantic hole and he’s going to find it. Stay in your gap [and] get everybody to the ball. Our defensive backs are going to have to tackle really well, and if a safety takes a bad angle – Todd [Bowles] showed about 20 clips today in the meeting – you take a bad angle, it’s a touchdown.”

Penn State RB Saquon Barkley - Photo by: Getty Images
Penn State RB Saquon Barkley – Photo by: Getty Images

Safety Jordan Whitehead knows that all too well. Whitehead had eight tackles in last year’s loss at New York, and has been trying to tackle Barkley for years, dating back to their days in college when Barkley played at Penn State and Whitehead was at rival Pittsburgh. In 2016, Whitehead had seven tackles and a fumble recovery in a 42-39 win over the Nittany Lions.

“From playing him in college I just know what kind of worker he is and what kind of player he is,” Whitehead said. “He brings it. He’s got every move in the book. If one guy misses a tackle, he’s gone. If you misfit you gap, he’s gone. If you take the wrong angle, he’s gone. He has a big run every game, so you’ve got to respect him.

“People say that he doesn’t run you over, but he runs through your arms. He’ll break at least one tackle per play, so we have to gang tackle. He’ll do a spin, he’ll jump, he’ll cut – we have to be ready for it all.”

With Jones, who was the sixth overall pick this year, getting his first NFL start in Tampa Bay, the Giants will want to help him navigate his first game by featuring Barkley extensively.

“He’s definitely one of the most explosive backs in the league,” Bucs defensive end Will Gholston said. “You turn on the film and you see him doing jump-cuts, hurdles, breaking tackles. He can do it all. He’s a patient, shifty back who can run you over if he wants to.”

The Bucs haven’t had much recent success against rookie quarterbacks, despite beating Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and San Francisco’s Nick Mullens last year. Despite those wins, rookie QBs are a combined 12-3 against Tampa Bay dating back to 2011.

Giants QB Daniel Jones
Giants QB Daniel Jones – Photo by: Getty Images

According to The Athletic’s Greg Auman, rookie quarterbacks have thrown a combined 19 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 14 games against Tampa Bay if you remove Buffalo’s E.J. Manuel’s four-interception game in 2013. Rookie quarterbacks in their first career start are 4-1 against the Bucs since 2007, with Tampa Bay losing to New York’s Geno Smith, St. Louis’ Austin Davis, Jacksonville’s Quinn Gray and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota.

The Bucs’ lone win versus a rookie QB in his first start came against Indianapolis’ Curtis Painter in 2011.

Jones, who played for David Cutcliffe at Duke, completed 85 percent of his passes and threw two touchdowns in the preseason. The Bucs will have to watch his ability to bootleg and scramble due to his athleticism and mobility.

“Changing quarterbacks doesn’t really change their offense. It does change some things – he is a heck of a lot more mobile than the other guy,” Arians said. “For us, we have to stop No. 26. It starts and ends with him.”

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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]

27 COMMENTS

  1. The article is incorrect, Jalen is playing his 4th season this year and his 5th year option was exercised and is roughly 13M next season.

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  2. NO WAY!!! this guy is cancer. Plus Licht will get rolled and give up too much

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  3. IF..our organization was truly smart, They would have traded or acquired a DE when JPP went down. We need to augment our pass rush and kick it up a notch. We don’t need Ramsey. Chemo has no effect on him.

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    • *cough taco charlton cough just passed on him cough cough *

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      • Didn’t want a 🌮 Taco and a Nacho on the same team. Lol.

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        • But we laugh while being losers and the joke of the NFL huh?

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  4. FAB1) not interested at all. Head case/in it for the $$$$/overrated/much better places to spend $20m of cap space.

    FAB2) Donovan Smith didn’t return to Tamp Bay because he’s some great team-player….we paid him….$14m/yr…more than anybody else (sensibly) was willing to pay for the perennially worst rated LT in the league…a guy who every single week gets “clowned” (as Trevor noted). Comparing his “desire” to be a Buc with Mike Evans or LaVonte is ridiculous!

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  5. Dotson better not bitch about being here, he’s lucky to be here, or on any NFL roster. Mike, and David have been paid, and treated very well during their time here, so I don’t see why’d they want out. Both have been part of the losing, so they shouldn’t complain. It’s great they’re low key guys, and good team mates, I’ll give you that. Saying we have to stop Barkley is two easy, every team game plans for him. This game to me comes down to Winston. If he comes out like he did against the 49ers, we’re in trouble no matter what Barkley does. He has to play like a fourth year franchise QB, and Jones has to play like a rookie getting his first start on the road. If it turns out the other way around, we’re in trouble, and the talk will be which QB we draft next year to replace Jameis. The pressure is on us, if Jones has a good game, and Jameis loses the game for us we’re back to square one.

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  6. Big Game! Go Bucs!

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    Rating: +12. From 12 votes.
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  7. No thanks to Ramsey, I like our young corners and I would like to keep our top picks.

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  8. Will not/cannot mortgage this team’s future with entertaining the idea of signing such a cancer and unstable prima dona like J. Ramsey! We just cleared out a head case and his addition would hurt team more than help! I’m just saying… Go Bucs!

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  9. We should have won the first game but beat ourselves, we won last week but in both games our Offense was stagnant. I hope this week they really start to settle in and find their groove. I have confidence in this Defense because they have held pretty strong so far against the run and getting pressure on the QB but you have to anticipate there will be a couple scores so before we hit the road here it would be really nice to see the Offense get things rollin.

    Starting in the NFL is a long way from Duke and I really hope Vea and Suh and Barrett and Nassib finds ways to welcome him, even though Rookies and backups seem to have our number a lot of times. This Defense gives me more hope than ones of recent years past so we will see.

    Again, I just want to see us continue to improve and get more comfortable with the Schemes and really make use of the talent on both sides of the ball, then the wins will start comin.

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    Rating: +8. From 8 votes.
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  10. And no way should they waste a 1st rounder (and more) on Ramsey. It would be great to have a young Pro Bowl CB but anyone driving a Brinks Truck to Camp is a Turd and hopefully teams have learned from the Brown situation that it’s not worth it.

    Plus that 1st round pick next year is either gonna be for a OT or god forbid a QB so we need that pick. Hargreaves is showin up, Davis has had too many penalties but Bunting will come around this year or next and Dean will be back from injury. With Edwards bound to get better and better and Whitehead back there our Secondary is young but there is a lot of speed mixed in and they are gonna continue to grow together and $20mil a year for one CB can be spent elsewhere like in the Trenches.

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  11. Just want to throw it out there Scott, Millenials never asked for participation trophies, most think they are dumb too. But it was our parents(Gen X and older), that thought it was a good idea. So if you want to blame anyone for “Millenial Entitlement” blame the generations before them that fostered it.

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    • Damn putting the name shameless in this post! I like it!

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  12. Bucs need to tranquilize Winston before games. Maybe TM meditation. He comes out very excited with happy feet and short strides his throws which cause them to be 5 feet of the receivers head, and 100 mph.

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    • IMO the surefire tranquilizer would be to run the first 15 scripted plays with west coast heavy concepts. If they were to move the pocket with designed rollouts to give Jameis easy quick hitters in the flat that gain YAC it would do wonders to get him in a rhythm. I just can’t figure out why this hasn’t occurred in almost 5 years here. It’s always drop back, sit in the pocket and push the ball past the sticks; rinse and repeat. Then we wonder why guys like OJ Howard don’t make an impact on the game, when guys like George Kittle are being moved around like chess pieces getting the ball delivered at or around the LOS and making multiple people miss for 8,10,12+ yard gains on a throw that went about 4 yards. Especially in the redzone. How many easy goal line touchdowns can you remember guys like Peyton or Brady throwing where it was a wide open floater to a guy in the flat? Now how many times have we seen play design like that with Winston at quarterback?

      Sorry for the rant. But yes I agree he’s erratic to begin games I just don’t feel like the gameplans ever do him justice to save him from himself right out of the gate.

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      • Rant away. I agree.

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  13. I can’t stand Ramsey. Not worth the baggage. Another Deshaun Jackson but with even bigger mouth.

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  14. No to Ramsey. Up until this year’s draft, the Ramsey rumors were definitely appealing. Kudos to Licht and coaching staff who drafted DBs and challenged VH3! We’re in no position to be losing draft capital for a DB when we have other needs on the roster for young 1st round talent.

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  15. The Bucs ticket to success this year will be that they will consistently get no love from the media. Thursday was the first taste of this. Big divisional win on the road in primetime – crickets. It will become their fuel to band together and set out to tell the world “F*** you!”. It won’t be this media love affair with the talking heads going “aww look at the Bucs doing well we knew they had it in them!” like many are hoping for. It needs to be a pissed off “you didn’t believe in us so don’t expect us kissing ass on NFLN” after every underdog win this year.

    Jalen Ramsey doesn’t fit this equation simply because the media slurps up anything related to him. Thinks he should be getting 20 million a year and wants to see him on the Cowboys or Chiefs. If he was the one making that game winning tackle against McCaffery it’d be world-news and people would be beside themselves talking about his greatness.

    I personally want no part in that. The Bucs can do it without this guy. Continue to stop the run at an elite level and these young cornerbacks will develop just fine. They are in maybe the best hands possible given their skillsets (Todd Bowles).

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  16. Let Ramsey walk on by.

    Big game on Sunday. Pressure is on Bowles to put a game plan together that welcomes Daniel Jones to the NFL in the tradition of the old Buccaneer defenses of Tony and Monte. And on Rhonde’s big day, nothing would be better!

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  17. Sweet irony what happened to AB today isn’t it? Lost endorsements and now his job. Nobody is bigger than the game…ask Pete Rose! I hope there is a solid game plan dialed up to gang tackle Saquan and pressure this young QB! Let them dogs loose and let’s eat this “W”! Go Bucs!

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  18. Fab 2 is one of the more pointless items I have seen on this site period.

    Who cares? Did anyone learn anything? Maybe just post an op-Ed about how you don’t like millennials, “participation trophies”, and how much you value a contract. Just don’t post it under the guise of something informative or like it has anything to do with the Bucs

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  19. You would play Eli against this Bucs team? He won 5 of the last 6 against us, sure. Yet you fall to consider way more important factors:

    1) This Bowles defense is completely different. We are creating pressure and our secondary looks competent.
    2) Eli has no ability to extend with his feet, and would get crushed. Jones may be a rookie, but he can move and has better tools.
    3) Anyone off the street could have beaten the Bucs the last 6 years (and did). That Eli record against us is a meaningless statistic.

    Bucs 30, Giants 13

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  20. This fab 1 is the reason we have sucked for so many years. Saving money for VH3? We are hoping and praying as a fan base that Hargreaves becomes half the corner that Jalen Ramsey is, then we would be happy to pay him? Instead of paying him and other average players, why can’t we accept the fact that licht just cannot draft corners well, he drafts a lot of them but not good ones (see MJ Stewart and Bunting). Our Achilles heal this season will be the fact that we don’t have anyone capable of shadowing a teams 1 WR, and we will get torn up when we go against teams with a premier WR like Julio Jones.

    When a walking future hall of famer because available in their primes, you break the rules. You trade a little more than you should. You let other average role players walk. Look at what the bears did with Khalil Mack. Is anyone saying today that they gave up too much?

    But my main point is this. Why do players who hate to lose become the villains? In our case, I feel like too many players like Gerald McCoy for many years didn’t care enough about losing. Our team needs more fiery competitors that hate losing more than they like winning. Only when we have players like that will we turn the culture around.

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  21. Who edited the copy of this piece? Embarrassing failure on the editor’s part with constant spelling, grammatical and word misuses. Mike Evans, don’t ever consider “living” us!

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