Buccaneers: Five players to watch versus Jacksonville

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 11: Tra Carson /

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field versus the Jaguars tonight at 8 p.m. Who are five players that all Bucs fans should watch during this match-up?

1. Kendell Beckwith

The Buccaneers young linebacker and third round selection, Kendell Beckwith, had his first NFL game time action this past Friday versus the Bengals. Although Beckwith’s play was not spectacular and there were mistakes, that is expected for any rookie entering his first game. At the end of the game, Beckwith was tied for a team best five tackles and was credited with one sack.

Throughout camp Beckwith has battled with second year linebacker Devante Bond out of Oklahoma for the starting SAM linebacker position, now Beckwith gets his shot with the ones. During Friday’s match-up in Cincinnati Bond was sidelined with injury, leaving the door wide open for Beckwith to take his starting job.

Expect Beckwith to step up to the challenge during tonight’s action and prove himself worthy of the starting gig. Head Coach Dirk Koetter has had high praise for the linebacker throughout his first training camp, and tonight is the night he gets his shot to make his mark.

2. Ali Marpet

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Unfortunately for both the Bucs and their offensive line, for their first real competition of the season they were without highly regarded center Ali Marpet. Marpet made a switch from right guard to center this year in hopes of stabilizing the struggling offensive line. Throughout camp the experiment with Marpet has gone perfectly to plan without any real road blocks, but due to an ankle injury the first test had to be postponed.

Will the perfection in practice show on the field? That is yet to be known, but having Marpet back can only help the offensive line that looked up to par last week versus the talented defensive line of the Bengals.

After practicing for weeks versus defensive stars such as Gerald McCoy and Chris “Swaggy” Baker, lets see how young Marpet holds up against an improving Jaguars front seven.

3. Justin Evans

The second round draft pick for your Bucs, Justin Evans, has had himself a quiet camp but still has grown in his short time in Mike Smith‘s system. After last Friday’s contest, many Buc fans took to Twitter and Facebook to berate the young safety along with his fellow corner Ryan Smith (covered later). Fans need to understand that as a young player adjusting from the collegiate level to the NFL is no easy task.

Although Evans showed his weaknesses, including a busted coverage that lead to a touchdown, there were many positives such as his explosion to the ball. Evans also was tied for a team leading five tackles throughout the contest.

The thing that sticks out the most when looking back on Evans’s tape is his athletic ability alone. “Man, is he smooth. We don’t have an athlete back there like him. We have some good athletes but he is very springy, explosive guy. He’s just picking it up. He’s a smart guy. He’s tough,” is how General Manager Jason Licht explained his young ball-hawk.

Watch for Evans to continue to perfect his craft still only weeks into Mike Smith’s defense. Just do not forget it took the Bucs defense till mid-way through the regular season in 2016 to get a slight grasp of how things ran.


Let the kid play.

4. Nick Folk

Ha! You thought you would make it through one Bucs’ article without reading about the kicker? Wrong.

For the most part, this should not surprise any Buc fans. After watching heart wrenching release of Roberto Aguayo on Hard Knocks, all eyes are on Nick Folk to NOT miss a kick.

The 32-year-old 10 year veteran now has the reigns of the Bucs kicking job… and after all the publicity, will need to take full advantage of his situation. 81% on field goals and 99% on extra points is some decent numbers for the new man in Tampa. Unfortunately the only two missed extra points he has ever had in the NFL came last season… relax Buc fans, remember its no easy knock in from the 15 anymore.

Is the kicking competition really over?

Good luck in the Windy City of Chicago Berto.

5. Ryan Smith

Yes, this list is heavily defensive – and it should be. Believe it or not Bucs fans, last Friday’s game was Ryan Smith’s first contest as a corner in the NFL. With that being said, the kid is going to make mistakes. Period. End of discussion.

After being selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft, Smith (who was a corner in college) spent his entire rookie season learning a new position… which never panned out. The young safety, who now is back to corner, did not log a single regular season snap on defense his rookie year.

After making the switch back to a full time corner this season, Smith was given the mighty task as being the third outside corner on the young Bucs defense. Unfortunately for the Bucs, but fortunately for Smith, Brent Grimes was injured the week of Cincinatti. This allowed Smith to jump into the starting lineup and receive the game time snaps he needs during the pre-season.

Was his first game as a corner pretty? Absolutely not. The cushion Smith provided to each receiver was eye opening but understandable. Smith was focused on not allowing any deep balls and keeping the receiver in front of him, which many young corners tend to do. Smith who ALSO was tied for a team leading five tackles got a trial by fire versus the Bengals, letting him go up against a receiver by the name of AJ Green.

Give the kid time and credit. Smith has about as much experience at corner as Evans does at safety and Beckwith does at linebacker, remember that.

Next: Buccaneers: Marpet returns, Grimes still sidelined

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