Each week I’ll be taking a closer look at the snap count distribution for the Bucs offense and defense, assessing what we can learn from who played the most and who played the least on Sunday.
Here’s a look at which Buccaneers played the most and the least in the team’s critical 26-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon in Week 14.
The Bucs ran just 46 meaningful offensive plays against the Vikings, as the team’s last five plays were simply a formality to run out the clock. Of their eight drives that mattered, Tampa Bay scored on five of them, including five of their last six meaningful possessions.
A combination of not being 100 percent and the game situation limited Mike Evans to a season-low 39 snaps, which is the least he’s played in a game since Week 14 of last season when he was injured against the Colts after just 18 plays. The Bucs continued to operate heavily out of 12 and 13 personnel in a concerted effort to establish the run, which meant lower snap count totals for all of their wide receivers except for Chris Godwin, who is a key blocker from the slot. Instead of playing more coming out of the bye as many hoped, Scotty Miller saw a season-low five snaps on Sunday, despite catching a 48-yard touchdown on one of them. His lack of usage remains difficult to understand.
Ronald Jones II led the way for Tampa Bay’s backs with 34 carries, but LeSean McCoy saw his biggest increase in reps since Week 6 against Green Bay, playing well in his 16 snaps as Jones’ backup. With Leonard Fournette inactive, rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn finally returned to the field, seeing just four snaps and one touch on the day.
Make it nine consecutive games where inside linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David have not come off the field for the Bucs, as the two iron-men continue to go the distance game after game. With Jamel Dean out of the lineup, Tampa Bay ran its top three cornerbacks as expected, with Ross Cockrell stepping into the nickel corner role admirably once again. Safety Mike Edwards’ 23 snaps were his second-highest total of the season, a good sign that the Bucs are aware his playing time needs to increase.
On the defensive line, the team rotated as deep as they have at any point this season. In addition to the six regulars receiving a typical healthy amount of snaps, Anthony Nelson and Pat O’Connor both set career-highs with 36 and 22 reps, respectively. With the Vikings running a whopping 79 offensive plays, the Bucs coaching staff went to the well to keep their starters fresh, and Nelson and O’Connor, who got his first career sack on Sunday, held their own in the run and pass game.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft