The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played very well against the Cincinnati Bengals, which means that plenty of players stood out and worked their way up the depth chart, or solidified their spot on it. Who stood out for the Bucs last night? Let's find out.
Where Winston was a little shaky and inconsistent in his first outing, he was anything but in his second. Winston completed 8 of 13 passes for 90 yards, but that understates the quality of his performance. Tim Wright dropped a would-be first down on third-and-16, for instance, and none of Winston's throws came even close to being intercepted. He had only one misfire, and that came under pressure, while he did well to navigate and at times escape the pocket when it collapsed.
Overall, this is the quarterback the Bucs thought they were drafting. If Winston can keep up this performance, he'll have a very good season.
1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits and four tackles in just 15 snaps. That's a really good result for any player, especially one who looked nondescript last week. Johnson did particularly well when moving around Gerald McCoy's pressure, confusing offensive linemen and creating space for himself to go after the quarterback. He still wasn't quite a consistent edge rusher who beat offensive tackles in space, but he was an important part of a consistent four-man rush. That's likely going to be the Bucs' modus operandi this year: they'll use defensive end movement around the pressure created by the defensive tackles to get to the quarterback. It's not quite as good as having Simeon Rice, but it can come pretty close.
A fourth-round pick starting at middle linebacker is always risky, especially in a Tampa 2 scheme where that position carries heavy responsibilities in the passing game. But Alexander didn't skip a beat from his quality performance last week and solidified his spot as the team's starter. He didn't look out of place at all, showing off his sideline-to-sideline speed repeatedly and dropping back into the deep middle of the field with ease. Alexander led the team with four tackles, and his physical play really stood out -- he looked like a throwback, "thumper" linebacker, not unlike Hardy Nickerson in his day, while still displaying the speed and agility necessary to work in coverage. That's a rare combination, one that should really benefit the Bucs this season.
In the mean time, Bruce Carter is going to have to compete for a starting spot on the strong side with Danny Lansanah and while he didn't look like a liability, he didn't exactly stand out either. Unlike Lansanah, who managed to pick up a safety and showed a few more flash plays. Expect the $4 million in salary the Bucs are paying Carter to spend the season on the bench.
I didn't have high hopes for Swearinger when the Bucs picked him up off the waiver wire. He was cut by the Texans both for being a liability on the field, and reportedly for refusing to special teams. So far, neither issue has showed up in Tampa. Swearinger took six special teams snaps on Monday Night, after taking 10 the week before -- and hea actually made a tackle on a kickoff return against the Bengals.
More importantly, he showed up on defense, too. Swearinger came up with two passes defensed and two more tackles on defense for what looked like a pretty solid day. Granted, it's easier to pick out the highlight plays than those where he's out of position -- but early returns on Swearinger are promising, and he may have earned himself a roster spot and even some playing time yesterday.
Yes, the punter. Yes, he had one bad punt -- but bad punts happen, and he looked good beyond that one try. He managed to get a punt to the four-yard line, got a 49-yard punt and did well on a kickoff. Over two games he hasn't looked substantially better than Koenen, whose punting has slightly improved, but he doesn't really need to. He's so much cheaper than Koenen that any close result will see the Bucs keep Schmitz -- and right now, that's exactly the scenario they're facing.