Grant: 5 Winners, Losers From Buccaneers’ Third Preseason Game

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers secured another comeback victory with a late, game-winning field goal by Matt Gay, this time against the visiting Cleveland Browns. Here are my winners and losers for their third preseason game.


Chris Godwin

It was not a pretty night on offense, to say the least, but the one saving grace in the first half was Chris Godwin. Working primarily out of the slot, Godwin hauled in four of his six targets for 52 yards, 31 of which came after contact (per PFF, subscription required). While it doesn’t sound like much, he accounted for more than half of Jameis Winston‘s 88 passing yards. When absolutely nothing else was working, Godwin was still able to go to work underneath against man coverage and move the chains.

Tanner Hudson

Starting to feel déjà vu yet? For the third week in a row, Tanner Hudson took over in the second half en route to making my winner’s list. Hudson finished with four catches for 49 yards on seven targets including a miraculous one-handed catch on the Buccaneers’ only touchdown drive. I declared last week fans could mark his spot on the roster in ink. Now I’m saying carve it into stone.

Carlton Davis / Jordan Whitehead

There was a bit of a logjam in my “winners” category so we are doubling up here. Starters Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead played lights-out football. The defense was hung out to dry with bad field position for the entire first half and it responded by holding the Browns to three field goals.

Davis allowed only a single catch for 12 yards on five targets, adding a pass breakup and a run stop. Whitehead had a pass breakup of his own to go along with an interception while surrendering a stingy 19 yards on two catches. If they can bring this level of play to the regular season, Tampa Bay’s secondary will go from a weakness to a strength in a hurry.

Carl Nassib / Shaquil Barrett

I’m going to cheat again, as it didn’t feel right leaving either of these guys off the winner’s list. While the secondary was flying around challenging balls, the edge rushers were really getting after the quarterback. Carl Nassib totaled five pressures on the night with four hurries and a quarterback hit. Shaquil Barrett picked up where Nassib left off in the second half with four pressures of his own. The Buccaneers may not miss Jason Pierre-Paul as quite as much as they thought they would three months ago.

Rakeem Nunez-Roches

Rakeem Nunez-Roches was a one-man wrecking crew Friday night. While only playing 32 snaps, he racked up two sacks, two hurries, and two run-stops. Miami’s second unit simply couldn’t handle him. I had him on the bubble in my first roster projection last week and will be moving him onto the 53-man in the final version coming later this week. Another game like this and I’ll be talking about him starting over Will Gholston.


The entire offensive line

This was a flat-out embarrassing performance. Eight sacks, 17 pressures, and three more quarterback hits. Winston was running for his life on practically every snap in the first half. There was virtually no push in the running game either. I have developed at least a moderate degree of confidence in every Bucs unit except for this one. I am absolutely terrified of what I have seen from the offensive line thus far. This group is paid way too much and has been together way too long to still be this bad.

Noah Spence

Noah Spence led the team with 59 (44 pass-rush opportunities, per PFF) snaps on defense. He managed only three pressures and one tackle. On a night where it seemed like everyone was getting pressure, Spence was largely invisible. We have seen this story before: Buzz coming out of camp, hot start to the preseason, then nothing. It’s probably time to start giving Shaquil Barrett some snaps with the first team.

Will Gholston

Speaking of movies I’m tired of seeing, Will Gholston was once again invisible Friday night. A batted pass and missed tackle is all he had to show for his 21 snaps against the Browns. I don’t understand how he is still penciled into the starting lineup at this point. He has trended downward ever since signing his five-year, $27 million extension. With Nunez-Roches and Jeremiah Ledbetter playing as well as they are and Nassib and Anthony Nelson both being able to rush the passer in sub packages, Gholston looks awfully expendable right now, especially with the team being as cash-strapped as it is.

Scotty Miller

I don’t feel great about listing Scotty Miller here as he didn’t have a bad game per se. It just wasn’t a very good one. Head coach Bruce Arians made it clear he needed to see Miller on the field to evaluate him.

I’d like to see Scotty Miller, get his (butt) back on the field,” Arians said.

Two catches for 15 yards on six targets is probably not what Arians was looking for from his sixth-round rookie speedster. I still do not think the team will risk exposing him to waivers, but the final roster crunch is going to be difficult. I’m guessing Miller will get plenty of work in the preseason finale to make his case.

Bradley Pinion / Punt coverage

One of the biggest culprits of the Buccaneers’ inability to score despite the offense piling up yardage has been poor starting field position. The team attempted to rectify that, in part, by inking punter Bradley Pinion to a lucrative four-year, $11-million contract this offseason.

Thanks to the stagnant offense, Pinion was very busy Friday night, punting seven times for an average of 41.9 yards. The problem? Six of them were returned for a total of 61 yards. A 33.1-yard net average on punts was a big part of why the starting offense could not get out of the shadow of its own goalposts for a good portion of the night. This has to improve for the Buccaneers to score points more commensurate with their raw yardage output.



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