It was an impressive showing for many of the Buccaneers rookies as they got their first taste of the National Football League.
First impressions matter, especially in the NFL. Luckily for key Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookies, they made a strong one.
It all started with Carlton Davis. The second-round pick received an extended look as Vernon Hargreaves left the game after he suffered a hamstring injury.
On one of his first snaps, Davis appeared to have forgotten that the whistle doesn’t blow a play dead if a player falls to the ground. Albert Wilson picked up a few extra yards as Davis watched on.
Brain cramps aside, Davis had a few nice pass breakups in the process including a great diving effort to stop a potential first down.
For the past few weeks, Davis has been mentioned as a candidate to start at outside cornerback opposite Brent Grimes. Ryan Smith is the other option as Hargreaves would likely play the nickel back role.
The strong play from rookie defensive backs continued as both M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead put together strong performances.
Similarly, both Stewart and Whitehead received a ton of snaps on Thursday night. Whitehead broke up what could have been a game-tying touchdown pass and Stewart was active in coverage, doing a nice job keeping Isaiah Ford quiet.
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While it was just a quick glance at the young defensive backs, it’s the start they all needed. All three are poised to play important roles in a Buccaneers secondary which hasn’t been able to stop a nosebleed of late.
On the offensive side of the ball, all eyes were on second-round pick Ronald Jones. Yes, he dropped his first NFL target, but he did show his ability to cut on a dime on a short touchdown run.
While he may not have had the performance to jump Peyton Barber on the depth chart, Jones likely has a role as the number two back. Especially with the rest of the backs unable to gain any momentum against the Miami defense.
Not often do offensive lineman get credit but the Buccaneers offensive line deserves a ton of praise for how they performed in the preseason opener. Down four tackles, the Tampa Bay front somehow managed to keep their quarterbacks upright.
The running game was where the Bucs offensive line faced issues though. Rookie guard Alex Cappa had his hands full with former second-round pick Jordan Phillips in the second half. Cappa was able to hold his ground in pass protection, but Phillips manhandled him in the running game.
It was a great test for Cappa, who is battling Caleb Benenoch for the right guard position. While Benenoch was taking along slowly after sitting out a few practices before the game with an injury, Cappa got his first reps against veteran defensive lineman.
While the rookies have a long way to go in their NFL careers, Thursday was a step in the right direction for most of the highly touted group.