The Tampa Bay Buccaneers earned their first loss of the season in a 20-14 letdown against the Carolina Panthers, and as is the case with any NFL game, there were bright spots among the generally dark, depressing reality of a loss.
So who were the best and worst players for the Bucs in Week 1? Here are my picks in the first "Three Up, Three Down" of the season.
Alterraun Verner: The Bucs new "shutdown" corner did his job, as he was targeted only once all day, and it was on 3rd-and-16. Kelvin Benjamin hauled in a four yard pass, and was tackled immediately. Otherwise, Verner was shutting down Carolina receivers and getting the "Richard Sherman" treatment from Derek Anderson
Gerald McCoy: I will eventually have to take McCoy out of the running for this award, since he's going to earn it every week, but he definitely did his part on Sunday. He was disruptive, earning double and triple teams all day, and picked up the Bucs only sack of the afternoon.
Solomon Patton: The former Gators speedster settled into his new role as the Bucs' return specialist, breaking off a nice return and generally looking comfortable despite playing in his first NFL game. And yes, it tells you a lot about how this game went when a punt returner who didn't score is one of the three best players on the day...
Vincent Jackson: The Buccaneers' leading receiver last season started off where he left off in 2013... but not in a good way. Jackson dropped two early Josh McCown passes that could have helped establish a positive rhythm for the offense, which instead sputtered and stalled until the fourth quarter.
Josh McCown: McCown did settle into the game eventually, but his mistakes ultimately cost the Buccaneers a chance at victory. Trying to do too much while under pressure led to two costly interceptions, and waiting too long to pull the trigger in the pocket nearly allowed a fumble to end up in the hands of the Panthers. McCown clearly improves when he's more under control, and struggles when he's trying to force things too much. This must change.
The offensive line: This is a cop out, as it's tough to single out any one lineman for this distinction. Garrett Gilkey struggled in all facets of the game as the replacement for Logan Mankins, while all of the linemen struggled to pave the way for a running game that never had a chance. Josh McCown's pocket was broken and collapsing all game, and that was the fuel that accelerated the dumpster fire Buccaneer offense for three quarters.