Featured image courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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.
In a really surprising and curious move, wide receiver Scotty Miller actually saw his snap counts decrease despite the absence of Justin Watson. Shockingly, so did tight end O.J. Howard, as he played just 49 percent of the Bucs’ snaps after being out there for 56 percent a week ago. Despite Howard’s strong performances as a receiver in Weeks 1 and 3, and his improved blocking, his playing time continues to decrease. Truly confusing for the team’s first-round pick in 2017.
Meanwhile, veteran tight end Rob Gronkowski played all but five snaps, as Tampa Bay clearly focused on getting him more opportunities in the passing game. Gronkowski uncovered consistently throughout the game, but I still don’t understand prioritizing him over Howard in the passing game. I’m also afraid Gronkowski’s body won’t hold up under such a heavy workload.
Miller played just 29 snaps – eight more than rookie Tyler Johnson, who dropped his only target in his first NFL game. It’s a good sign for Johnson’s future contributions that he was the No. 4 option over Cyril Grayson and Jaydon Mickens this week, but he has to make those opportunities count. Tight end Cameron Brate played just five snaps after four a week ago, and has yet to catch a pass this season.
In the running back room, Ronald Jones II easily led the way with 35 snaps to Leonard Fournette’s 25. Fournette had a fumble on a hand off from Tom Brady – that he recovered – but didn’t get much playing time after that. Back-to-back weeks with 11 snaps for LeSean McCoy suggests his role is remaining ancillary, rather than decreasing.
The Bucs’ Top 5 defensive backs continue to essentially go the distance, with rookie safety Antoine Winfield playing every snap after cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting bowed out with a hamstring/groin injury 19 snaps into the game. Winfield rotated to nickel cornerback and Mike Edwards manned the free safety position while Jamel Dean played 87 percent of snaps outside. Those three, along with Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead, will be Tampa By’s starting five if Murphy-Bunting can’t go in six days.
Everyone’s snap counts came down on the defensive line, as the Bucs were in complete control late in the game and took the opportunity to keep everyone fresh. The big winner was Anthony Nelson, who played a season-high 27 snaps and got an unblocked pressure on Lavonte David’s interception. Worth noting that the Bucs also only played 63 total snaps on defense – down 10 from a week ago. Combine that number with allowing just 10 points, and it’s a good indicator of just how dominant this performance was from the Tampa Bay defense.
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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