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 their embarrassing, 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saint on Sunday Night Football.
Despite being a game-time decision with his finger injury, Chris Godwin led the way in snap counts for the Bucs receivers, playing all but three snaps. Mike Evans was followed closely by Antonio Brown, who played 39 of the team’s 50 offensive snaps despite having to be told what route to run a healthy amount of the time by Tom Brady.
Perhaps most disappointingly, Scotty Miller saw his snap counts plummet from 53 to 19 with Brown in the lineup. For the receiver who entered last night leading the Bucs in receiving yards, it continues to befuddle me how the Tampa Bay coaching staff looked at Miller’s first eight weeks of the season and said, “not good enough.”
With Godwin and Brown both out there in Week 9, Tyler Johnson unsurprisingly saw his snaps go from 35 in Week 8 to just six in Week 9, while Jaydon Mickens played just one rep after a season-high 44 the week prior.
In the tight end room Cam Brate, Antony Auclair and Tanner Hudson’s workload stayed about the same, while Rob Gronkowski saw his numbers take a big hit as the Bucs deployed a ton of 4-receiver looks. The score dictated some of that, but I would still bet on lower snaps for Gronkowski over the season’s second half compared to what he’s been putting up.
Tampa Bay’s running back room continued to tilt in Leonard Fournette’s direction for the third straight game, although this usage was dictated heavily by the score. As their top receiving back, it wasn’t surprising to see Fournette at 51 snaps to Ronald Jones II’s 17, as the Bucs were in pass-heavy mode most of the game.
That’s five games without a missed snap for Devin White and Lavonte David, as they combined with cornerback Carlton Davis III to go the distance on every miserable play of this contest. Backup linebacker Kevin Minter got into the game for a pair of snaps in run-obvious situations.
The Bucs continued to ride with Jamel Dean as the outside cornerback opposite Davis, while Sean Murphy-Bunting’s role diminishes weekly. After taking almost every snap through most of the first half of the season, Murphy-Bunting played just 51 percent of the defensive reps last week, before dropping to 36 percent this week. That was largely due to the Saints deploying a lot of two-receiver sets, which limited the Bucs need to be in nickel.
The only real change on the interior defensive line was Rakeem Nunez-Roches going from playing the least of any of the Bucs’ big four to playing the most, with 55 snaps on Sunday night. The Bucs are desperately searching for someone to give their interior pass rush a spark, but the quest has been an abject failure since Vita Vea was lost for the season in Week 5.
It was also as little as we’ve seen Shaq Barrett (50 snaps) play this season, as Anthony Nelson played a healthy 22 snaps despite his lack of impact as a pass rusher. Mike Edwards continues to not see the field despite his excellent play, as Todd Bowles rolled him out for just seven snaps on Sunday night.
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