After racing out to a 21-7 lead, the Buccaneers let the Falcons hang around in Sunday’s 48-25 victory. Atlanta tightened the score to 28-25 in the third quarter before Tampa Bay stormed back with 21 points in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t close to being a perfect game despite the fact that the Bucs improved to 2-0.
Here is a look at this week’s most disappointing Buccaneers.
CB Ross Cockrell
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Cockrell was called upon to start at nickel cornerback for the injured Sean Murphy-Bunting, but struggled in coverage, especially when matched up against Atlanta’s top receiver Calvin Ridley, who operated a good deal from the slot. Cockrell gave up several catches and finished with three tackles and no pass breakups. He also gave up a touchdown to Ridley in the third quarter that cut into Tampa Bay’s 28-10 lead.
Safety Mike Edwards was called upon to play in the slot a good deal in the second half and made a game-changing play in the fourth quarter when he stepped in front of slot receiver Russell Gage for a pick-six. Edwards did a better job handling the slot duties than Cockrell did on Sunday.
RB Ronald Jones II
Jones was the starter on Sunday and ripped off an 8-yard run on his first carry. He also had a 10-yard carry, but finished with just 27 yards on six carries, while Leonard Fournette had twice the opportunities that Jones did against Atlanta. Fournette had 52 yards on 11 carries, in addition to catching all four of his passes for 24 yards with a long of 16. Perhaps part of the reason why the coaches trust Fournette more is because of what happened in the third quarter.
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: USA Today
Jones stepped out of bounds after catching a pass for nine yards when it looked like he could have tried harder to pick up the first down. On the next play, Jones missed an easy-to-see hole on second-and-1, bounced the play outside and was tackled for no gain. Jones did redeem himself with a 5-yard run on fourth-and-1, though, which was encouraging to see.
Jones also whiffed in pass protection in the fourth quarter, allowing a blitzing Deion Jones to sack Tom Brady to set up third-and-27 for the Bucs. It was not a good showing for Jones, who hasn’t shown he deserves to be the starter.
RB Leonard Fournette
As stated above, Fournette outperformed Jones as a runner, a receiver and a pass protector. But he wasn’t without a few major flaws of his own on Sunday. Fournette’s biggest gaffe came in the third quarter when he caught a pass and gained just two yards while running laterally. Falcons linebacker Foye Oloukun punched the ball out and it could have been disastrous if not for a key hustle play by wide receiver Chris Godwin to knock the ball out of bounds at the Bucs’ 21 while trying to recover the fumble.
Fournette also failed to pick up a first down on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter at the Falcons’ 34-yard line. Fournette had a clear hole to the left, but didn’t see it, as Tyeler Davidson and Grady Jarrett teamed up to make the tackle for no gain.
ILB Devin White
White missed several tackles and only wound up with six on the day, including three solo tackles. It looked like White lost rookie tight end Kyle Pitts in coverage down the left sidelines for a 24-yard gain. That play led to Cordarrelle Patterson’s touchdown two plays later to get Atlanta on the scoreboard and cut into the Bucs’ early 14-0 lead. White also missed quarterback Matt Ryan point blank on an A-gap blitz. Ryan evaded the over-aggressive linebacker and threw for a huge third down conversion.
White finished with six tackles and it wasn’t necessarily a bad game for the third-year pro. But because White has raised the bar with his play from last year, today’s game was underwhelming by his standards.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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