The Buccaneers’ first-team offense and defense came to play on Friday night and even though the Bucs suffered a 30-28 loss to the Steelers, there was a lot to like on both sides of the ball.
Jameis Winston picked up where he left off last season, making good decisions with the football, taking the Bucs down the field in his first and only possession of the game and scoring on a nine-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin. One of Winston’s highlights was a second-and-five play where he scrambled to his left for a nice 22-yard gain. Winston finished the night five-for-six with 40 yards and a touchdown.
Ronald Jones was involved early and often as he opened the game with a19-yard kick return. Jones had a catch out of the backfield, and also ran the ball four times for 18 yards, finishing with 23 total yards. It was a good start to the pre-season for Jones who struggled last season picking up the offense.
Wide receiver Spencer Schnell, from Illinois State, had an outstanding game and developed some good chemistry with backup quarterback Ryan Griffin in the second half, hauling in seven catches for 119 yards. With Mike Evans, Godwin, and Breshad Perriman having the top three receiver positions locked up barring an injury, Schnell just put himself in the running for one of the remaining two or three receiver spots, competing with Justin Watson, Bobo Wilson, and Scotty Miller.
Tight end Tanner Hudson looked very good and could work his way onto the roster as the third tight end behind OJ Howard and Cameron Brate. Hudson finished with seven catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Pro Football Focus graded Schnell with a 90.8 ranking, the highest rating of any Buccaneer player against the Steelers. Tanner Hudson finished with ththird-highestst grade of 71.8.
Dare Ogunbowale got the bulk of the carries at running back in the second half as he had 10 carries for 34 yards and two touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, there was a lot of moving around and very aggressive play from this defense. Take the 43-yard pass play from Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs to James Washington away and the starting defense looked very good in the one possession that they played.
Noah Spence and Carl Nassib had a sack, and Devin White also brought some heat to the Steeler quarterbacks when they were playing.
Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, and JuJu Schuster did not play for the Steelers.
Nobody on the Bucs could cover James Washington, who had four catches for 84 yards and one touchdown.
Arians said before the game that he wanted to get a look at a lot of young players and that was the case defensively. Of the three rookie defensive backs, Sean Murphy-Bunting did not have the debut he was looking after after making a ton of plays in practice. Also, the overall communication in the secondary seemed to be lacking as the game went on.
Arians had this to say about the play of Murphy-Bunting: “I was waiting for the play to happen, because he’s made so many plays in practice, getting his hands on balls. He was just there. I kind of told him after the game, ‘Did you play? You didn’t do anything bad, but you didn’t make that play.'”
Mike Edwards had two tackles while Jamel Dean and rookie D’cota Dixon did not make the trip. Dixon has been placed on the IR.
The penalties really hurt the Bucs on both sides of the ball as the team racked up 14 penalties for 112 yards. This will have to be a focus for this team going forward as Arians will not tolerate these penalties.
Kicker Matt Gay kicked a 55-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. That was the longest field goal in Hienz Field in the last 18 seasons — that includes both the regular and pre-season.
Some good, some bad in the first game for the Bucs. Next up is the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium next Friday Night. The Dolphins will be in early this week for joint practice sessions with the Bucs on Tuesday and Wednesday.