What We’ve Been Waiting For

To me, BBQ means brisket. Without a doubt, that’s because I was born and raised in Texas. The catch with brisket is that, like some things, there’s significant preparation time. I suppose you could just buy a brisket, bring it home, and throw it right on the grill. That wouldn’t be right, though. In order for the flavor to really sink in, a brisket needs to marinate for at least 12 hours. On top of that, a rub needs to be applied at least an hour before you smoke the brisket. All the preparation takes time, but it’s worth it when you get to the finished product.

Right now, the Buccaneers are marinating. The third preseason game has come and gone. That means that the Lovie-Licht Connection is purchasing their brisket. The game against the Bills was really the first time we got to see the grill lit up, and I’m excited about what it’ll be cooking this season. While the second half of the game revealed some issues with our depth players, the first half was a perfectly executed proof of concept. Josh McCown got off to a rough start with an early interception, but the defense set the tone early and continued to dominate.

A forced fumble by Lavonte David six minutes in gave the ball back to the Buccaneers and subsequently led to a Doug Martin touchdown run. A fat man touchdown following a fumble recovery by Clinton McDonald and a Mike Evans touchdown reception highlighted the second quarter. By the time the first half of the game came to a close, the Buccaneers held the Bills scoreless and led 24-0. While the offensive line was still flawed, they did their job well enough in this moment. Lovie’s defense did exactly what has been hoped for in their first half shutout.

The Buccaneers are also deciding which sides won’t make it to the climactic meal. Really, the big decisions have been made. Main courses like Vincent Jackson, Gerald McCoy, Mike Evans, and Lavonte David will get to rest until dinner time on Sunday, September 7th when the Carolina Panthers come to Raymond James Stadium. Early Tuesday, news broke of the acquisition of the perfect seasoning for the offensive main course.

The Buccaneers traded Tim Wright and a fourth round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft to the New England Patriots for guard Logan Mankins. Mankins is, without a doubt, an instant upgrade for us at left guard. From what I could gather via depth charts at Ourlads.com, the only games Mankins didn’t start from 2005 to 2013 were a seven game stretch in 2010 due to contract negotiations. Tom Brady’s former protector is a six time pro-bowler, including the last five consecutive years.

Some have laid claim that Mankins’ play had been declining, and this is an understandable claim considering his age. However, there’s no question at all that he is an instant upgrade for the Bucs offensive line. Tim Wright was not a bad tight end, but we’ve got depth and other options at that position. The same could not be said about left guard. Mankins has the potential to instantaneously solidify our offensive line. We’ll see just how much of an impact he makes against the dominant defensive front of Carolina when the regular season begins.

Decisions have already been made on the more minor pieces that won’t be joining us this year. On Sunday, the Buccaneers cut out 12 players to help trim down the roster for this week’s mandatory drop to 75 total players. Many of these weren’t very surprising in the grand scheme of things. Offensive linemen Jace Daniels and Jason Foster had gotten to showcase themselves a little bit this preseason, but clearly the team saw them to be as lackluster as everyone else did. Unfortunately for them, their inability to hold a position in even our offensive line makes their chances at finding a new home this season very slim. Fullback Ian Thompson also had little chance considering how impressive Jorvorskie Lane has been this preseason.

No doubt the most surprising of the cuts to Bucs fans was that of wide receiver Eric Page. Page was also the incumbent kick returner, but that wasn’t enough for him to stay. Page isn’t very impressive as a receiver, and undrafted free agent Solomon Patton showed the Buccaneers what I saw when I looked at him for a previous article on our lesser known receiving options. Patton was a dynamic return man as a Florida Gator, and he also was the best receiver on a team mired in mediocrity last season.

Gator fans, including Feesh of the BucsBrief, have been excited to see Patton get a shot this year. When I’d initially looked at Patton, I worried that our sixth round choice of Robert Herron made his chances slim. However, I’d almost be more surprised now to see Patton get cut than I would if Herron got cut. Herron hasn’t stood out to me in the preseason, while Patton has slowly climbed up the ladder and may be a trusted return man this season.

A few final, though largely insignificant, moves on Tuesday brought the Bucs to the required roster total of 75 players. The game against Washington on Thursday will essentially be a glorified final interview for those lower on the depth chart still trying to secure a spot for the season. The majority of first team players will not see the field against the Redskins, therefore it means perhaps the least in the grand scheme of things. This placeholders will come and go while the important pieces rest and prepare for that fateful moment.

The regular season is days away, and it’s becoming more and more clear exactly who this year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to be. Jeff Tedford is recovering from surgery, and I certainly wish him a speedy recovery. His offense looked like it needed to be patched up when the preseason began, but they’re settling in now and look ready for Carolina on September 7th. If you don’t think they’re quite ready, then comment below and let me know!