NFL Preseason Week One: TAMPA BAY 26, MIAMI 24

By the time the first game of the NFL preseason rolls around, it is a welcomed sight to simply hit somebody else in pads besides your own teammates. In that first week, game strategies are usually as vanilla as the ice cream you eat with your apple pie, and the hopes surrounding the new season are as high as the August sun and temperatures.  After the first game of the 2018 preseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their fans, everything seems to be on schedule thus far. There were some positives, and there were some things that could prove to be problematic, but all-in-all, the Bucs accomplished the main goal(s), which was to have more points than their opponents on the scoreboard, as well as exit the game without any severe injury to a starter so consider it mission accomplished. 

The collective effort of the Bucs’ three QB’s on the roster might have been the biggest story of the evening, with Ryan Fitzpatrick, James Winston, and Ryan Griffin combining for 37-of-47 for 336 yards passing and one touchdown. It was Fitzpatrick leading the first drive straight down the field capped by a Peyton Barber 4yd rushing touchdown on a drive that was balanced and sharp, while Ronald Jones III picked up his first rushing touchdown under live fire on a 3yd rush to put them ahead 13-3. That drive was set up as a result of a forced fumble by Ryan Smith that was recovered by Isaiah Johnson. The Bucs Defense, with a bend-but-don’t-break mentality the majority of the evening, gave up a rushing touchdown to Senorise Perry capping an 8-play, 75-yard drive for the fish leaving the score at 16-10 in favor of the good guys going to the break. 

Buccaneer QBs huddle up during training camp. PC: Robert Barnes

The second half was all about Griffin as he completed a 10-yard pass to Allen Cross to push the score to 23-13 following Catanzaro’s extra point, a drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock, chewing up 88 yards on 17 plays. The Dolphins then rattled off 11 unanswered points to put themselves ahead with just a few minutes to play, but it was Griffin that did his best to impersonate one of the greats, leading the Bucs 67 yards down the field on 7 plays in under 90 seconds to put them in field goal position for Catanzaro to nail a 26-yarder to send everyone home. 

About those positives—we mentioned that the QB’s were fantastic. We also want to mention that even though they didn’t get a ton of snaps, the Bucs defensive front-4 looked as good as advertised.  Both Gerald McCoy and second-year man Noah Spence registered sacks in the game, plus the secondary—both rookies and veterans—looked sharp.  While the Bucs Defense had their moments between the 20’s, they stiffened up appropriately, not allowing a single Dolphins’ third-down to be converted in the first half.  Even though CB Ryan Smith had somewhat of a tough outing, he finished the game with an interception, and unfortunately, Vernon Hargreaves III left the field after the second series due to a groin injury. 

Buccaneers DE Noah Spence works bag drills during training camp.

The first team OL also looked great, even though the Bucs finished with just 39 yards rushing in the first half, 5 of those yards had resulted in touchdowns.  The QB’s stats and a little bit of film prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the pass protection aspect of the game for the Bucs was stellar without exception, without giving up a sack all night. As mentioned, the play-calling tends to be a little light on the complexity this time of year, but still, we give the coaching staff high marks under the circumstances. The squad gets back to work at One Buc Place today and will begin prepping for their next opponents the Tennessee Titans on Saturday the 18th in Nashville. Kickoff for that contest will be at 8:00 pm. 

 – Doug Pugh