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.
The big surprise on offense was Jaydon Mickens out-snapping Tyler Johnson, although both players saw their biggest workload of the season on Monday night. Head coach Bruce Arians revealed after the game that Mickens stepped into Chris Godwin’s typical role, a curious decision given how Johnson had been performing in that spot. Mickens got the job done, however, with five catches for 36 yards.
Tampa Bay dressed four tight ends on Monday night, but Cam Brate didn’t see an increase in snaps, while Antony Auclair and Tanner Hudson played just three apiece. Joe Haeg as an extra blocker continues to be a go-to move despite its’ lack of success the past two weeks, as the veteran offensive lineman tied a season-high with 14 snaps.
Is a changing of the guard happening at running back? The Bucs season-long woes at the position continued on Monday night, as Ronald Jones fumbled on the team’s second possession of the game, after looking out of sorts running the ball early on. Leonard Fournette essentially replaced Jones for the rest of the game after the turnover, but he dropped two passes and managed just 52 yards on 15 carries.
After outplaying him for nearly the length of a full season, Jamel Dean finally replaced Sean Murphy-Bunting in base defensive packages, playing 100 percent of the team’s defensive snaps on Monday night. Murphy-Bunting saw just 51 percent as his playing time significantly decreased, but both players struggled mightily all game long.
At linebacker, Lavonte David and Devin White ran their streak of consecutive games without a missed snap to four. The Bucs moved to some three safety packages defensively, as it appears Antoine Winfield Jr. played some slot in place of Murphy-Bunting at times on Sunday. Mike Edwards’ 20 snaps were his second-most in a game this season, as his role continues to expand while Murphy-Bunting and Whitehead’s decreases slightly.
It didn’t take long for Steve McLendon to start out-snapping Rakeem Nunez-Roches, which is the right move based off of last week. This week all the Bucs interior defensive linemen struggled in the run game while providing very little spark against the pass. Anthony Nelson continued to see an increased role for the third straight week, but his lack of impact as a pass rusher has to be highly concerning with the trade deadline looming.
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