The 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie class will play a major role in the team's success this year, and they're off to a good start so far. Let's go through all the rookies and see how they did on Sunday.
S Mark Barron - 7th overall pick
The Bucs drafted Mark Barron with their first first-round draft pick this year to fill a major hole in the secondary. With both Tanard Jackson and Sean Jones leaving the team, the Bucs had no returning starters at safety. Cornerback Ronde Barber was pegged to play the free safety role, and Barron was drafted to be the starting strong safety. A strong in-the-box safety, Barron also has the range to play deep and the skill to be a quality defender in man coverage on tight ends. That certainly showed up on Sunday, as the safety's presence certainly was felt. He ended the game with three tackles and two pass defenses, and a number of highlight plays. In fact, the Bucs trusted him enough to leave him out on the field for every single defensive play: no rest or protection for this man.
Barron's big hit on Steve Smith was impressive, but sadly came at the end of a thirty-odd-yard catch-and-run. Still, it showed his skills as a big hitter - and gave the fans something to cheer even on a negative play. Much more impressive was his crucial third-down pass defense, coming all the way across the field to jump in and deflect a pass at the last second with a superb display of athleticism. For those who didn't think Barron didn't have the range to be a deep safety: think again - that played showed more than any other that Barron is a complete safety. Fly, Mark Barron, fly!
To cap it all off, Barron even played on 10 special teams snaps.
RB Doug Martin - 31st overall pick
Coming out of college, Doug Martin was supposed to be a complete back. Going into the NFL, that's exactly what he looks like. He was the every-down back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early on, although D.J. Ware took the third-down role later in the game. Martin was impressive carrying the ball, despite some lackluster blocking at times. Finishing the game with 95 yards on 24 carries is a pretty good result, and he added some 4 catches for 23 yards to that total. That's a pretty good debut for a rookie, and Martin looked like the all-around workhorse the Bucs hoped he would be. Plus, he showed his really impressive skills as a receiver with this incredible catch:
LB Lavonte David - 58th overall pick (2nd round)
I have no gifs for you for Lavonte David, but the rookie had yet another impressive game. Here's one statistic to show you how impressive: he was the only linebacker to be on the field for every defensive play. He quickly worked his way up from being a backup linebacker in the first game of the preseason to being the starting will linebacker, one of the two nickel backers and the only dime backer - and, as a consequence, the signal caller on defense. David looked fast and physical out there, and nothing showed this as much as the first play of the game, when he blew up a pulling guard allowing Aqib Talib to come in and tackle Deangelo Williams for a loss. David was active throughout the game, and appeared to always be in the right spot in run defense. However, it appeared to me that he was perhaps at fault in a few of the problems in coverage the Bucs had. That's tough to say definitively without knowing what he was actually asked to do on those plays, however. David led the team in tackles with 6. Like Barron, he participated in 10 special teams plays.
LB Najee Goode - 140th overall pick (5th round)
Goode didn't dress for the game. I guess they don't know what to do with a one-dimensional run stuffer who doesn't do too much on special teams.
CB/S Keith Tandy - 174th overall pick (6th round)
Tandy didn't get a chance to strut his stuff on defense, but was in on 8 special teams snaps, making one tackle.
RB Michael Smith - 212th overall (7th roudn)
I'm not sure what happened to Smith, who looked explosive on his kick returns during the preseason, but during this game he was horrendous. None of his three returns made it back to the 20-yard line, which is the bare minimum a kick returner has to do when taking the ball out of the endzone. He didn't get a chance to do anything on offense.
CB Leonard Johnson - Undrafted rookie
Johnson didn't get any snaps on defense, but he was asked to play on 11 special teams snaps. He didn't make a tackle.
TE Danny Noble - Undrafted rookie
I didn't notice Noble during the game, but he participated in four offensive snaps during the game. Perhaps as a blocker - although it wouldn't surprise if those 4 snaps just happened to be the four kneeldowns the offense performed. He also played in 3 special teams plays.