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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.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

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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11 months ago

I’m a little bit surprise that the bucs didn’t take the opportunity to give other LBs and DBs some snaps and rest the starters for the long season.
Can be seen as a lack of trust in the backups and that worries me

Reply to  DerLutz
11 months ago

I think we knew going into the season that as talented as the defensive starters could be the depth would be lacking. I do think the snap count for JPP and Shaq went down this week though, so that is nice. I just don’t think it’s realistic for both guys to play 90%+ of snaps and have much gas left at the end of the game.

11 months ago

Definitely agree that Gronk is getting too many snaps given his age and injury history. Would be better to put OJ and Brate on the field for more snaps to keep Gronk fresh and healthy all season long. This may be a reflection of all the media and fan attention on the number of targets Gronk has been getting. Terry Bradshaw on Fox even called Arians “too stupid” to use Gronk – very, very strong, and undeserved words .. Bradshaw needs a better filter, or perhaps he just needs to retire, as his schtick is no longer funny, even if… Read more »

11 months ago

Thank you Jon; enjoyed it.

11 months ago

As I have said before, i bear Tyler Johnson no ill will and hope he succeeds as a Buc WR, but I think it’s time all you media type who had promoted Johnson to this teams third WR slot without him even taking a practice snap need to risse your hands and admit you made a huge mistake. Miller is playing lights out and Watson is doing well too. Both have the speed and hands necessary to play in the NFL. As for Johnson. I hope he at least has good hands and also the courage to go over the… Read more »

11 months ago

There’s only one ball to go around so it is virtually iimpossible to keep all you media types happy with who plays and catches the most. As long as the Bucs are winning and Tom is distributing the ball around to the open receiver why worry or complain about it unless you are these players agent. Would u rather have Winston in there trying to force the ball into double coverage. I wouldn’t. I have no problem with Arians sitting a player down if he makes a mistake. IT sends a huge message. I imagine Arians used Tyler Johnson more… Read more »

11 months ago

Interesting 50/50 split between 11 and 12 personnel–I like the balance as they explore different options in the air attack.
Now, Jon, on to your ideas on resuscitating the moribund ground game
through sheme changes.

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