The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Minnesota Vikings yesterday in a fairly ugly performance for the Bucs, but there were a lot of standout players as well. In fact, while the result was ugly I came out of it encouraged by the play of some key players. So here are five Buccaneers who improved their stock last night.
Yes, Donovan Smith gave up a sack on his first snap -- but the rookie left tackle held up well afterwards, playing a whopping 31 snaps -- he was in there for basically half the game. Smith looked reliable in pass protection, riding edge rushers past Jameis Winston and shutting down inside rushing lanes consistently. He's more powerful than Kevin Pamphile, who himself did well in pass protection as well. Smith's feet still look just a tad slow, but his overall play reminds me of Donald Penn -- not dominant, but solid.
There are real reasons to be optimistic about the team's offensive line -- if they can find a way to compensate for Demar Dotson's possible absence. And that's where Smith's solid outing is important, too: it gives the team options at tackle, as Smith and Pamphile could be an okay pair of starting tackles based on yesterday's limited snaps.
We learned two things about Gilkey last night: he still can't snap the ball, but he can actually block people now. Gilkey's not going to make the roster as a center after two bad snaps in just a handful of snaps, but he actually held up well at right guard early in the game, getting some push in the run game and not giving up much pressure (if any) in pass protection. That's a huge step up compared to last season, and it bodes well for interior depth along the line.
Gilkey wasn't the only guard who stood out last night: Kadeem Edwards had a decent outing, although he made a few mental mistakes (or so it seemed). Once he got his hands on people, though, he was reliable at left guard, where he got most of the playing time as Logan Mankins only played five snaps.
Robert Herron did something he couldn't do all of last year: he caught the ball. Twice. Herron got a lot of playing time with the first and second team, and showed off his explosiveness from the slot. He's one of the few small receivers on the roster, and he could bring a unique flavor to the receiving corps. Herron got two catches for 38 yards on three targets, and is making a case for a roster spot -- and perhaps some regular season playing time, too.
Lawrence Sidbury Jr.
On a night when the Bucs just couldn't get any kind of edge rush, Sidbury may be crawling up the depth chart at defensive end. Not only did he force and recover a fumble, he also got a quarterback hit and was basically the only defensive end to beat an offensive tackle. With Larry English disappointing, Sidbury could win a roster spot with a solid preseason.
I bet Sidbury moves up the depth chart a little. Only DE Ive seen win one on one around the edge so far— Stephen White (@sgw94) August 16, 2015
The Bucs' fourth-round rookie is impressing in training camp, and that continued in his first preseason game: he seemed to be everywhere as soon as he got on the field. As a middle linebacker, he showed real sideline-to-sideline speed, putting up four combined tackles and playing with some real intensity. Bruce Carter didn't really stand out and there's a small chance that Alexander could unseat him at middle linebacker -- more likely, though, Alexander will get on the field as injury replacement this season, and we don't need to worry too much about a dropoff at that position.