The Buccaneers opened up the 2016 preseason on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field with a 17-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Here, we have immediate observations and reactions from Tampa Bay’s preseason opener.
The Dirk Koetter era unofficially began on Thursday night, as the Buccaneers took the field for week one of the preseason. Tampa Bay left Philadelphia with a 17-9 loss, but at this point in the year, it’s about preparation for the regular season. It’s only the preseason and overreactions are flying around everywhere, but what takeaways are there from Thursday’s game?
Observations and Reactions- General
-The Bucs committed 10 penalties on the night for 92 yards. Koetter, Mike Smith and many of the team’s leaders have talked a lot about cutting down on penalties, which was a major problem a year ago. This wasn’t a great start, as many of the penalties were the avoidable ones that have been talked about at length in the offseason.
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Observations and Reactions- Offense
–Jameis Winston fumbled early, but recovered nicely to finish his night 7-of-9 for 97 yards and a touchdown in one quarter of play.
-On Winston’s fumble, it was Kevin Pamphile that got beat off of the line. Pamphile is currently a replacement on the starting line, but he will still be needed for depth once the injured J.R. Sweezy returns.
–Mike James looked solid on the Bucs’ scoring drive in the first quarter, catching a short pass and taking it 26 yards for a touchdown. It was a good start to the preseason for James, who remains in a battle with Storm Johnson and Peyton Barber for the team’s third running back spot.
-Speaking of the scoring drive, Russell Shepard came up with the touchdown grab on a 26 yard pass from Winston. He finished the night with three catches for 62 yards. He doesn’t seem to be talked about much as a receiver, but more flashes like he showed tonight could lead to more consideration for him.
-The second-team offensive line struggled, showing the lack of depth at the position for Tampa Bay. Backup quarterback Mike Glennon struggled as a result, not getting much time in the pocket. He finished 7-of-14 for 83 yards and an interception. Ryan Griffin, the team’s third quarterback, completed 13 of 23 passes for 148 yards and two interceptions.
Observations and Reactions- Defense
-Tampa Bay’s revamped pass rush looked great. The defensive line of Jacquies Smith, Clinton McDonald, Noah Spence and Robert Ayers was very effective, with Smith and McDonald picking up sacks. Spence applied some heavy pressure, shining in his first NFL action.
-2016 first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III nearly came up with an interception in the second quarter, but instead it was a nice leaping pass breakup.
-The biggest (maybe the only) issue for the defense on the night was its performance in the red zone. Two Philadelphia drives started inside the red zone due to turnovers and both ended in touchdowns.
-The third-team defense bent a couple of times, but didn’t break. Isaiah Johnson intercepted Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz in the third quarter.
-Overall, the defense allowed just 188 total yards (95 passing, 93 rushing).
Observations and Reactions- Special Teams
-Kenny Bell, the starting kick returner, fumbled the opening kickoff before immediately being replaced by Donteea Dye. Dye averaged 24.5 yards on two returns while Bell picked up 16 yards and Bernard Reedy came up with 18 on one return.
-Roberto Aguayo, one of the team’s second-round picks, missed his first extra point attempt, but later hit a 38-yard field goal.
-As the Bucs continue to figure out their punting situation, both guys in the competition had similar nights. Jacob Schum punted five times for an average of 41.2 yards while Bryan Anger finished with an average of 45.5 on two punts.
Tampa Bay looked bad early, turning the ball over twice and allowing two touchdowns on drives that started in the red zone. Winston and the offense then came back with a strong seven-play, 79-yard touchdown drive and the defense got a lot of pressure from the front four, resulting in four sacks. The Bucs certainly have a lot to work on with special teams and some questions about depth need to be answered, but there were a number of positives to take from the preseason opener.
Tampa Bay returns to One Buc Place for practice on Saturday morning, starting preparation for next Saturday’s preseason game in Jacksonville against the Jaguars.