The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveled down to Miami and beat the Dolphins 26-24 in both teams’ preseason openers. While you can’t make any long-term predictions based on the first game, it’s a good gauge when going up against another team. So who performed well and what can fans takeaway from this game?
Bucs Quarterback Situation Not Looking So Bad
One of the biggest questions heading into training camp was how was head coach Dirk Koetter going to split quarterback reps.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has already been named the starter in the first three weeks with Jameis Winston serving his suspension. So of course Fitzpatrick got the start against the Dolphins and went 6 of 8 throwing for 55 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown but orchestrated a great opening drive that lead to six points.
Winston came in two series later with the second team and looked ready to make people remember who the true starter is. His efficiency was fantastic and he didn’t force anything down the field. Completing 11 of his 13 passes for 102 yards in four series was a very welcomed sight. Even better was seeing Winston fit passes into a few tight windows that kept drives alive.
Ryan Griffin came in the second half and had eyes on him in a much bigger way than the past. Griffin is expected to be the back-up quarterback the first three weeks and Koetter wants to make sure he’s as prepared as possible. Despite working against third stringers, Griffin looked very solid, completing 23 of his 26 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown pass. He also lead a late game-winning drive.
Bucs QBs a combined 37-for-47 for 336, TD, no INTs tonight. Griffin 20/26 179, TD; Winston 11/13 102, Fitzpatrick 6/8 55 yards … as a team, 103.5 QB rating tonight.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 10, 2018
Ronald Jones Not Ready To Take the Reins
When the Bucs first depth chart came out earlier this week, some fans were surprised to see Ronald Jones II listed as the third running back. However, in his first NFL game he showed that he needed a lot more practice, especially in the passing game.
Early in the game Jones dropped a pass that hit him right in the hands with no one around him. On top of that, his running numbers left a lot to be desired. Despite running for a touchdown, Jones only managed nine yards on eight carries. Some of that can be attributed to poor offensive line play but the Bucs expect more from Jones moving forward.
Defense Bend But Don’t Break Mentality
The Bucs defense was one of the worst in the NFL last season. General manager Jason Licht put a lot of effort this season making sure the unit performed better. Four of the Bucs’ first six draft picks were on defense, with three playing in the secondary. Against the Dolphins, the Bucs looked improved.
Despite giving up 393 total yards, the Bucs held their ground when it mattered most. The Dolphins only managed 10 points in the first half against the Bucs’ starters. They also didn’t give up a single third-down conversion and only two out of 12 the entire game. I’m sure coaches will want to force more than just two punts but this is a good start for the defense.
Rookie Defenders Looking Good
Speaking of an improved defense, the best defenders on the field turned out to be the rookies. With Brent Grimes out for the game and Vernon Hargreaves leaving early in the game, Carlton Davis and M.J Stewart got a lot of reps. Both more than stepped up to the plate. They combined for seven tackles and Davis himself had two pass breakups. Stewart didn’t have an official pass break up, but he was playing tight coverage on receivers all night long forcing tough passes and a number of incompletions.
The shining star though was fourth-round pick Jordan Whitehead. When he finally got his shot, Whitehead made a number of plays. He combined tight coverage with a couple of important pass breakups, including one in the back of the end zone to prevent a touchdown.
If these guys keep up this level of play, expect them to be prominently featured in the regular season.
Up next: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-1)