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 47-7 drubbing of the short-handed Detroit Lions in Week 16.
In a blowout like this one, it was a good opportunity for the Bucs to work some of their backups into the game, as Josh Wells and Aaron Stinnie got to see the field at left tackle and left guard, respectively. I was stunned the Bucs didn’t try to get Tristan Wirfs out of the game, as Joe Haeg continued to play as an extra tight end only.
It was almost as surprising to see Mike Evans basically go the distance at wide receiver, although it was clear the team wanted to bring him as close to 1,000 yards on the season as humanly possible. Is it worth exposing him to injury in a game that was over before halftime? Probably not, but I get the allure of the record for him. Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson got their fair share of playing time in the blowout, as did Tanner Hudson and Cam Brate with Rob Gronkowski sitting out most of the second half.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn led the way for the team in snaps at running back, with Leonard Fournette going from healthy scratch to getting some extra rest in a blowout over the past three games. Vaughn made the most of his opportunities, setting up an interesting decision for the Bucs coaches when Ronald Jones returns next week. Will Fournette return to the inactive list after two mostly uninspiring starts (he did make a couple good plays as a receiver on Saturday)? My guess is that the Bucs make a change at punt/kick returner and Kenjon Barner sits, or LeSean McCoy goes back to RB4. I don’t think you can sit Vaughn after the flashes he’s shown, especially considering the depth at running back is poor to begin with.
Lavonte David’s five-snap absence broke a 10-game streak where neither he or Devin White came off the field. There wasn’t much resting for the Bucs defensive starters in this one, as their top nine defenders played 72 percent of the snaps or more. In a blowout win the Bucs worked a heavy rotation on the interior defensive line, getting older veterans like Ndamukong Suh, Steve McLendon, Will Gholston and even Rakeem Nunez-Roches some much-needed rest.
In a handful of snaps safety Andrew Adams and cornerback Herb Miller impressed, with the duo blanketing a receiver deep in the end zone near the end of the game, and Miller coming up with a terrific interception in zone coverage in the fourth quarter. The Bucs unheralded defensive depth has shown up in big ways since the bye week, with Jeremiah Ledbetter and Anthony Nelson picking up their first career sacks this week, and Pat O’Connor notching his first two weeks ago. And Miller’s first career interception combined with Ross Cockrell’s steady play as the team’s no. 4 cornerback has made the Bucs’ secondary depth look far better than we would have imagined, even as recently as midseason.
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
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