Buccaneers 12, Jaguars 8: Immediate observations and reactions

JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 20: Jameis Winston
JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 20: Jameis Winston /

The preseason rolled on for the Buccaneers on Thursday night in Jacksonville. An impressive first half by the offense was enough to propel Tampa Bay to a 12-8 win. Here, we have immediate observations and reactions from the victory.

Final. 8. 52. 12. 48

After some joint practices with the Jaguars earlier this week, the Buccaneers took care of business in game action. A strong first half from the starting offense was promising, and Tampa Bay held on through a mediocre second half to bring home a 12-8 victory.

Observations and Reactions- General

-The Bucs’ starters absolutely dominated the Jaguars’. In the first half, Tampa Bay outgained Jacksonville 240-59, held possession for 19:46 and put up 16 first downs.

-Tampa Bay was relatively injury-free last week, with the exception of quarterback Ryan Griffin. This week, however, a couple of key guys went down. Demar Dotson left early with a groin injury, while special teams star Josh Robinson left with a hamstring injury.

-Penalties weren’t much of an issue for the first-teamers until less than a minute remained in the first half. An illegal shift and a J.R. Sweezy hold killed the Bucs’ potential scoring drive. Overall, they were called flagged eight times for 66 yards in the game.

Observations and Reactions- Offense

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-For the most part, Jameis Winston was sharp again on Thursday night. He played the whole first half and finished 21-of-29 for 196 yards. However, the third-year quarterback did have a few head-scratching moments. One came on third down inside the red zone, when he threw up a prayer as he was going down for a sack. It would have been an interception, but he was ruled down by contact. A little later, he was nearly intercepted after forcing a throw on second down and long. Overall, it was a good night for Winston, but his decision-making still needs to improve.

Doug Martin looked like his old self on Thursday night. He carried the ball five times for 30 yards and a touchdown, while also catching two passes for 11 yards. If he plays like that in his return from suspension, the Buccaneer offense will be even more dangerous.

-The starting offensive line had another pretty good night, even without Dotson. Caleb Benenoch stepped in and played fairly well, though he still had his shaky moments. He appears to have a lot of potential, but he’s still figuring some things out.

Mike Evans got the most targets once again, catching five passes for 57 yards. Cameron Brate and Adam Humphries were featured prominently as well.

-After getting just one target last week, rookie tight end O.J. Howard caught two passes for 28 yards on Thursday night. It seems like the Bucs are easing him into the offense, which is probably a good thing.

-Once Martin left the game, the rest of the running backs split time. Peyton Barber looked the best, carrying the ball nine times for 42 yards. The rest of the group didn’t do much. Jacquizz Rodgers went for four yards on three carries. Charles Sims went for six on two touches, while Jeremy McNichols totaled just 32 yards on 11 carries.

-It’s only been two games, but McNichols hasn’t impressed at all. He’s still learning the playbook, but if he can’t show some promise soon, he may be in danger of not making the roster out of camp.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was just okay, completing six of nine passes for 47 yards. He threw an interception on a deep ball, which was his second pick in as many games. Personally, I was disappointed that Sefo Liufau didn’t get any playing time at all after a little bit of work last week.

Observations and Reactions- Defense

Gerald McCoy was pretty quiet in limited time last week against the Bengals. Well, not this week. He was dominant on the first defensive series, teaming with Lavonte David on a tackle for loss before a quarterback pressure that was very nearly a sack.

-David had a nice night, with four total tackles. Two were for a loss, with one of those being a sack on a blitz.

-Kendell Beckwith looked much better than he did last week, putting up two tackles for loss. It was encouraging to see him play well, especially after Devante Bond went down with an injury last week.

Ryan Smith improved this week as well, looking good in coverage. He’s certainly benefiting from Brent Grimes‘ absence early in the preseason. The more experience and reps that Smith can get in these game situations, the better off the team’s cornerback depth will be.

-Overall, Tampa Bay got better pressure from the front seven this week. Part of that can be attributed to a bad Jacksonville offensive line, but it was still a positive. The Bucs finished with seven tackles for loss, two sacks and four quarterback hits.

Adarius Glanton made some splash plays from the linebacker position, finishing with six tackles (two for loss) and a sack.

-The third-team defense was unimpressive, almost allowing a late touchdown to give Jacksonville the lead. The unit eventually stood tall, though.

-Hard Knocks star Riley Bullough picked up another five tackles. His chances of making the roster out of camp only improved on Thursday night, which will delight a lot of fans.

Observations and Reactions- Special Teams

Nick Folk got out to a rough start on Thursday night, getting his extra point attempt blocked. He then rebounded well, connecting on field goals from 35 and 29 yards out. The veteran later missed a 47-yarder, which did not please head coach Dirk Koetter.

Bryan Anger only punted twice. One only went for 36 yards, with the net being five after a 31-yard return. The next one was better, going for 42 yards before landing inside the 20.

-It didn’t feel like much progress was made in the kick returner competition, especially with only a couple of chances.

Final Thoughts

There was some progress on Thursday night, but the Buccaneers still aren’t where they need to be. That’s understandable, as it’s only the second week of the preseason. However, there still seem to be a few question marks in different areas that Tampa Bay would like to figure out quickly. Will Ryan Fitzpatrick be a reliable backup to Jameis Winston? Can the backfield perform well enough to make up for the absence of Doug Martin in weeks one through three? Will the offense be able to finish its drives? How will the rookies continue to develop on defense? There are a lot of questions that still need answering, but there’s still time for that.

Overall, there were more positives on Thursday night for Tampa Bay. The starting offense looked strong again, with Winston spreading the ball around quite a bit. Martin looked great, while O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin both hauled in a couple of passes. The defense stood tall, shutting out a struggling Jacksonville offense in the first half. The unit’s stars were out in full force, and that was even without Brent Grimes. The missed kick from 47 yards out was a downer, but Folk still got some work in. Preseason overreactions are all over the place, but if you’re a Bucs fan, try staying away from those. This team is on the right track. It’s the preseason, but it’s always a good day when the Bucs win, right?

Next: Buccaneers: Hard Knocks Recap (Episode Two)

The Bucs continue their preseason at Raymond James Stadium next Saturday night against the Browns. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.