Buccaneers 30, Browns 13: Immediate Reactions

Aug 26, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws a first down pass during the first quarter of a football game against the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 26, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws a first down pass during the first quarter of a football game against the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buccaneers made their 2016 home debut on Friday night, beating the Cleveland Browns by a score of 30-13. Here, we have immediate observations and reactions from Tampa Bay’s third preseason game.

13. 53. 30. 48. Final

The Buccaneers got out to a fast start on Friday night against the Browns, putting up 27 points in the first half on their way to a 30-13 win.  The starters played into the third quarter, as is standard for week three of a preseason.  Tampa Bay’s offense clicked and the defense held up, but what other takeaways are there from Friday night’s victory over Cleveland?

Observations and Reactions- General

-The Bucs got off to a much quicker start this week, holding a 17-3 lead after one quarter.  The offense put up points on its first two drives and the defense held the Browns to three points in their first two drives.

-The starters did a much better job with penalties on Friday night, finishing the first half with just one penalty for five yards.  Overall, the Bucs committed just three penalties for 25 yards.

Observations and Reactions- Offense

-The up-tempo offense has worked for Tampa Bay throughout the preseason.  Running the no-huddle produced some big plays, keeping the Cleveland defense on its heels.

Jameis Winston was very impressive this week, completing 16 of 25 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns.  He completed passes to six different receivers.

-Winston showed off some big playmaking abilities on the night.  His three-yard touchdown pass to Charles Sims in the first quarter was especially impressive.  Slimming down in the offseason looks like it will pay dividends for the second-year quarterback in terms of his mobility in and around the pocket.

-The Bucs’ wide receiving corps had its best night of the preseason.  Mike Evans caught five passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, Vincent Jackson went for 78 yards on four catches and Adam Humphries finished the night with two catches for 39 yards.

-Their stats didn’t stand out much, but the rotation of Doug Martin and Charles Sims in the backfield has a chance to be a really good one this year.

-The starting offensive line was without J.R. Sweezy, Ali Marpet and Kevin Pamphile heading into the game, so the depth of the line was certainly tested.  It held up well during its time in the first half, allowing Winston to have a big night.

Storm Johnson, still fighting for the third running back spot, hurt his chances with a fumble deep in Tampa Bay territory.  Peyton Barber didn’t do much to help himself either, rushing for 16 yards on nine carries.  Russell Hansbrough rushed for 27 yards on nine carries, but likely got his time due to Mike James being inactive.  With all things considered, no one really gained an edge in the competition on Friday night.

Observations and Reactions- Defense

Gerald McCoy returned to the lineup, but Clinton McDonald sat out.  The pass rush was much more effective this week, totaling eight sacks.  The defensive line picked up six of them, coming from Jacquies Smith (two), William Gholston (one), Noah Spence (one), Howard Jones (one), Kourtnei Brown (one), Gerald McCoy (half) and Robert Ayers (half).  Kwon Alexander added the Bucs’ sixth sack early in the third quarter.  The second-year linebacker finished with seven tackles (five solo).

Brent Grimes stood out for the wrong reasons early in the first quarter, getting burnt by Josh Gordon for a 44-yard gain.  Gordon also caught a long touchdown against Grimes late in the first half.

Johnthan Banks played well, which could keep him on the roster past the upcoming round of cuts.  He deflected two passes in the third quarter.

-The defense as a whole was strong, holding the Browns to 254 yards and 13 first downs.

Observations and Reactions- Special Teams

-Is it time for everyone to leave Roberto Aguayo alone now?  He finished the night three-for-three on extra points and connected on field goals from 48, 21 and 27 yards out.

Donteea Dye once again took the opening kickoff, but left the game with a hamstring injury.  If it’s serious, it might open the door for someone else to take the kick return job, which would be a bad break for Dye.  Bernard Reedy and Ryan Smith each returned one kick, but neither showed much spark.

-Adam Humphries was forced to call fair catches on most punts during the first two preseason games, but on his first chance on Friday night, he took the ball back 73 yards for a touchdown.

Bryan Anger punted twice for an average of 53 yards and Jacob Schum averaged 45.5 yards on two punts.  Anger might have the edge, but it doesn’t look like the competition has been decided just yet.

Final Thoughts

The fast start for Tampa Bay was great to see. Winston, Evans, Jackson and Humphries all shined and the defense held up strong with the pass rush returning to the form it was in during week one of the preseason.  No one stood out much once the starters were replaced, leaving some of the team’s position battles undecided heading into next week.  The starters will likely sit out next week to rest up and stay healthy for the season opener on September 11 in Atlanta, which allows the rest of the competitions to be resolved.

The Bucs will finish up the preseason next Thursday night at home against Washington. Kickoff is set for 7:30.