The Bucs fell to the Saints in the season opener by a score of 34-23. Both sides of the ball had their issues at times, and below is my list of players who underwhelmed and contributed to the loss.
T Donovan Smith
Smith has been known for lapses of play where he does not look like a starting-caliber left tackle, sometimes in an alarming fashion. On Sunday we saw the pattern once again, with a series in the second quarter that saw Smith get blown up on a running play that cost the team three yards then followed it up by giving up a sack on the very next snap. In the third quarter Smith had a false start penalty, and in the fourth quarter Smith gave up another sack where quarterback Tom Brady was stripped of the ball but fortunately was able to recover. Smith must play better or Brady might not last 16 games.
S Jordan Whitehead
The Buccaneers defense had a chance to get off the field a number of times, only to give up first downs or to commit ill-timed penalties. On a third-down pass in the first half, safety Jordan Whitehead grabbed Jared Cook’s jersey and got flagged for pass interference, giving the Saints offense new life and continuing a drive that led to a score. Whitehead struggled in coverage at times as well and had few positive impact plays on the day other than one tackle-for-loss.
DT Vita Vea
The Saints made a decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 in the second quarter and fooled Vita Vea into jumping into the neutral zone and making contact with the Saints’ center on a hard count by Drew Brees. Making it even more egregious was the fact Vea was literally lined up directly over the ball, yet still broke a cardinal rule that is taught in Pop Warner football – don’t jump early on fourth down. Vea was also virtually non-existent on the stat sheet as well, notching just one assisted tackle.
CB Jamel Dean
Dean had a turning point play in the game when he inexplicably allowed Saints tight end Jared Cook get behind him on a second down pass play that went for 46 yards. The Saints would go on to score on the drive and was never really threatened by Tampa Bay after that. In the first half Dean also had an opportunity for another turning point, but couldn’t pull down a Drew Brees pass for an interception. Following the game, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, pointed out Dean’s missed opportunity for a turnover. Dean ended the afternoon with four tackles.
QB Tom Brady
I went back and forth on adding Brady to the list as his final numbers weren’t bad and some off his best throws turned into defensive pass interference calls. And while they won’t show up on the stat sheet as passing yards, they still were on target and helped the Bucs offense.
However, after listening to Brady himself in his postgame press conference mention several times about his two poor throws that went for interceptions, including one that went for six points, he is on this week’s list. On the afternoon Brady was 23-of-36 for 239 yards, with two touchdowns and the aforementioned costly turnovers. Brady is the least of my concerns moving forward, but one big reason he is in Tampa Bay was to cut the QB turnover numbers at least in half.
S Mike Edwards
Self-inflicted wounds haunted the Bucs in 2019, and through one game in 2020, it doesn’t appear much has changed. One of the oddest – and most costly – errors on the day was committed by Mike Edwards, who was on the kickoff return unit and attempted to field a pooched kickoff, only to collide with Jaydon Mickens. The Saints ended up recovering the kick and later scored off the miscue.