The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have improved every preseason game so far, and week three was no exception. The Buffalo Bills stood no chance against a dominant Tampa Bay defense, coupled with a solid performance by Doug Martin, Josh McCown and Mike Evans in the first half.The Bills managed to claw back in the second half, mostly by having their starters play against backups, but the Bucs held on without too much trouble, winning 27-14.
With the starters in on both sides, the Bucs took a massive 24-0 lead on the back of their defense, which managed two sacks, one interception, a slew of third-down stops and even a touchdown. But the offense kept up its part of the deal, with Doug Martin running in a touchdown, Mike Evans catching another and turning good field position into a field goal. Overall, it was a pretty good first half for the Bucs, who simply looked like the better team.
Once the Bucs put in the backups, things did not go as smoothly E.J. Manuel marched down the field on the Bucs' backup defense, although that was a case starters going against second- and third-string defenders. Those second- and third-stringers actually managed two sacks, but couldn't prevent Mike Williams from grabbing the score.
This defense is going to be good
First-team defense: one touchdown, two forced (and recovered) fumbles, two sacks, one interception and no points allowed. The defense was all over the place, despite the fact that they were missing two cornerbacks in Mike Jenkins and Alterraun Verner (who played only a few drives), while Jonathan Casillas was left at home for disciplineary reasons.
This defense is going to be really, really good -- as long as Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David stay healthy.
The defensive line showed up this time
Speaking of Gerald McCoy, the defensive line actually played well, and one second-quarter play summed up their efforts: Adrian Clayborn and Michael Johnson combined to sack E.J. Manuel, force out the ball, and Clinton McDonald picked it up to run it in for the touchdown. It was a total team effort, and this defensive line looked much better as a group this week.
Beyond that sack, pressure repeatedly forced E.J. Manuel to get rid of the ball, while the run defense was shutting things down once again. Gerald McCoy is ridiculous, of course, but Michael Johnson showed some improvement as well. One of the first-half highlights was a huge hit on E.J. Manuel by Clinton McDonald, and even Adrian Clayborn got a pressure and a half sack.
Even the backups got in on the action, with Steven Means grabbing a sack and newly-signed Larry English adding two. The backups were missing a couple of players, including William Gholston and Da'Quan Bowers, so that's fairly impressive.
The Bucs need a great defensive line performance, and that's been lacking the first couple of games outside of McCoy. This matchup gives the Bucs a little more reason for optimism.
The offensive line is improving, a little
With Kyle Williams out the Bills offensive line isn't quite as dominant as usual, but it's still a very talented group -- and the Bucs' offensive line didn't get completely killed. They still had a few lapses and you can't call them a good or even average unit. But they were somewhat competent and didn't totally cripple the offense. That's improvement, right?
As has usually been the case, Oniel Cousins and Patrick Omameh have struggled, with Cousins slightly worse than Omameh but neither player looking good, exactly. They did improve on their previous efforts, though, so they shouldn't be the totally crippling disaster they looked to be initially. No one among the backups really looked good enough to take either guard's job, although new addition Rishaw Johnson did not seem to get any playing time.
Lansanah and McDougald may get a lot of playing time
Danny Lansanah got a lot of playing time last week, and that continued this week as he was promoted to the starting lineup. He got that chance because Jonathan Casillas was not with the team because of disciplinary reasons, per Scott Smith. That's not good.
Why McDougald got the start over Mark Barron is copmletely unknown, though. He got back on the field on the team's second series, and it doesn't seem like he's in danger of losing his job. He made a couple of big tackles once he got back in the game, too. But it may be an indication that McDougald is going to get a lot of playing time again.
Josh McCown is secure as the starter
Don't get me wrong, Josh McCown did not look great. His offensive line didn't help him much, but he still fumbled the ball and threw an interception (though the tight end fell down on that play).But he did look like a competent game manager who managed to move the chains with some consistency throughout the first half. He ended the game going 13/16 for 118 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one sack. A solid statline for a game manager against a pretty good defense.
He did nothing to lose his job, and Mike Glennon didn't look good enough to take it away from him, either. Glennon had a couple of good throws, but also had a few near-interceptions and one comical slip that turned into a sack. He didn't look bad, just not good enough to win the starting job, completing five of seven passes for 44 yards and one sack.
Doug Martin will be fine
Doug Martin is clearly the Bucs' bell-cow back this year. He got 12 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown, with another two catches for 27 yards before he was pulled. The Muscle Hamster barely left the field, got time as a rusher, as a blocker, as a goal-line back and as a receiver and looked good in all three situations. He's going to get lots of playing time, though that might decline a little once Mike James and Charles Sims get healthy. Sims is out for at least half the season, though, so that may take a while.
Mike Evans and ASJ got involved, a lot
Austin Seferian-Jenkins seemed to be on the field constantly. The second-round draft pick didnt' actually see any targets in the passing game, but he was consistently used as a blocker and running routes. It's pretty obvious that he's won the starting job at tight end, and he should see a lot of playing time this season.
The same is true for Mike Evans, of course. He managed three catches for 43 yards, including one beautiful double-move, 24-yard touchdown catch. Vincent Jackson is still the number one receiver on this team, as he managed five catches for 43 yards, but he'll see plenty of work this year.
Just one injury
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a few injuries in this game. Most notably a knee injury to Bradley McDougald which ruled him out for the game. The Bucs didn't say how serious it was, but that has to be disappointing for a player who started the game with the first-team defense.
Solomon Patton has this returner job locked up
Want to know who the Bucs' punt- and kick-returner will be this year? Solomon Patton. He got almost every return opportunity last week, and he was the returner on every single punt and kick return this week. He hasn't muffed a punt, fumbled a ball, and has generally looked explosive as a returner. He hasn't gotten involved on offense much, but the Bucs obviously see him as their return specialist.