Welp, that certainly wasn’t what we were hoping for in the pre-season opener. A defense that couldn’t stop the run, an offense that couldn’t put it in the end zone and kicker who still can’t get it through the two big yellow things. Nope, it wasn’t pretty in the Buccaneers 23-12 whupping at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Pieces of Eight
- Let’s start with the positive – Jameis and the offense seemed to move at will against a pretty darn solid Cincinnati defense. Winston was decisive and accurate, connecting on 9 of 13 passes for 99 yards in two series of work. Twice Tampa Bay was backed up on their own goal line, the first time the Bucs drove 92 yards but settled for a Roberto Aguayo field goal. The second time, the Bucs drove it to their own 30 and nearly had another first down but Winston’s pass was slightly behind Evans and he couldn’t make the play on the ball. It was one of the few inaccurate throws by the Bucs QB in the game.
- It’s pretty obvious that as long as Desean Jackson is on the football field no one will be able to cover Mike Evans. Evans was open all night and quickly became Winston’s favorite target. As Jackson was essentially ignored, Evans racked up catch after catch, finishing the night with 4 receptions for 58 yards. Winston went to him twice in the end zone but couldn’t connect with his elite wide receiver.
- We’ve been hearing about Vernon Hargreaves being more aggressive on the football and it showed up tonight. Hargreaves took a shot and broke on a ball in the end zone, picking it off and ending a scoring opportunity for the first team Bengals offense. Hargreaves was fantastic all night and he is now the spitting image as a player of Brent Grimes. If he can become the playmaker Grimes is, VHIII could be destined for the Pro Bowl.
- Yeah, that’s about it for the good. The rest was a clown show. First on my list – the run defense – or lack thereof. What in the hell was that? Look, we know coach Dirk Koetter likes to protect his players by going “Thud” in practice and not having players be brought down to the ground but damn it, it makes them soft. The Bengals controlled the line of scrimmage on offense for the majority of the ball game and rolled up 140 yards rushing. The tackling by Tampa Bay was absolutely atrocious. The Bucs defense can’t hope to be competitive in the NFC South if they can’t stop the run. Perhaps some live sessions in training camp would do this team some good.
- All summer long we’ve heard about the greatness of Chris Godwin. One publication very close to our hearts predicted that Godwin would be the MVP of the pre-season as he would simply be unstoppable against opponent’s third team scrubs. The rookie’s line in Week 1? 1 catch, 14 yds. Godwin seemed to struggle to get away from his defenders and by the time he was open, the quarterback had already moved on to his next read. It’s his first game and he wasn’t Kenny Bell bad. It was just a bit underwhelming considering the hype he came in with.
- Doug Martin rushed for just 11 yards on 4 carriers (a 2.8 average). While he didn’t get much help from the offensive line, who were getting manhandled by the Bengals front four, we still aren’t seeing the back we saw in 2015. Charles Sims, Jeremy McNichols, and Peyton Barber all seemed more effective than the Dougernaut. I don’t know if Martin was just rusty or if we’re really getting 2.9 Martin again. I’d like to see a lot more of McNichols in the last three pre-season games as the kid looked like he will be a solid running back in this league.
- Kendall Beckwith stat line looks good – 5 tackles and a sack. However, I wasn’t really impressed at all with him. In fact, Hard Knocks star Joe Dirt – sorry – Riley Bullough popped with more flash plays than Beckwith did. Bucs GM Jason Licht has a weird one every draft that flames out miserably, this may be his flame out for 2017.
- Speaking of flame outs – geez Berto! It seemed Aguayo had distanced himself in the competition with veteran kicker Nick Folk, but Friday night that distance came crashing back to earth as Aguayo missed an extra point and a field goal while Folk drilled a 45 yarder. It’s still early, but that performance in the game may have negated all the good vibes he built during training camp. Practice kicks mean squat if you choke in games. Unless Folk completely spits the bed in the next three weeks, I don’t see a place for Roberto Aguayo on the 53.
DLT’s Favorite Tweet of the Game
— JC De La Torre (@jcdelatorre) August 12, 2017
The Bucs are back on the road to face their cross-state rivals, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville’s first round pick at RB, says the NFL is easy and not as fast as he thought it would be. Can the Bucs prove him wrong?