Loser: Offensive Line
One of the most impactful moments of the Bucs game on Saturday happened off the field. General manager Jason Licht joined the Tampa Bay broadcast booth and revealed that starting center Ryan Jensen was being placed on IR and would miss the entire season.
There had been rumblings that Jensen might miss time, specifically the start of the season, due to the lingering effects of a knee injury he suffered last year. Jensen being ruled out for the entire season before it even beings, though, is a massive blow to an offensive line that already looks like the Bucs squeakiest wheel.
Tristian Wirfs switched to a new position this offseason to account for the loss of left tackle Donovan Smith, which means the Bucs will have new starters at both tackle spots. Robert Hainsey is expected to step into Jensen’s role as the starting center, and next to him will be rookie Cody Mauch and free agent Matt Feiler.
Essentially, the Bucs are beginning the season with brand new starters at every position on the offensive line. Guys like Hainsey and Luke Goedeke have started games before, but this is an entirely new-look group in front of Baker Mayfield to start the season.
One of the major things that caused last season to go so aggressively off the rails was the failure of the offensive line to protect Tom Brady. We can’t judge the group before we see them in the regular season, but this will be the second straight season that begins with massive questions about the whether the offensive line can hold up.
Winner: Undrafted rookies and Jason Licht
When the Bucs revealed how many young players were going the team at training camp, it emphasized perhaps better than anything else how the team was entering a new era.
Tom Brady might be gone, but the fire in the belly of the Bucs is still raging.
Roughly 18 UDFAs joined the Bucs and a handful of them used the final preseason game on Saturday cap of an impressive campaign. Sean Tucker, Christian Izien, and Rakim Jarrett are easy names to point to as success stories but the list of undrafted rookies who earned a roster spot — or at least serious consideration for one — is much longer.
Guys like J.J. Russell, Kaevon Merriweather, Markees Watts, Raiqwon O'Neal, and Keenan Issac all stepped up in big ways all offseason to either secure jobs with the Bucs or show enough to potentially catch on somewhere else.
The youth movement in Tampa Bay is sign of times changing, but the level of talent the front office was able to identify is the surest sign that the future is bright.