The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their first preseason game, 23-12 to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bucs’ first team units looked better than the Bengals, but once depth had to get on the field Tampa Bay was clearly outclassed.
The Bucs opened the score with a field goal and added a Ryan Fitzpatrick touchdown scramble in the second quarter, but couldn’t do much more than that. The Bengals were largely stifled early on, with a beautiful Vernon Hargreaves interception on the goal-line snuffing out their best chance of scoring, but Jeff Driskel of all people managed to score two touchdowns to get them the win.
Still, the Bucs’ stars showed up and did some work. Mike Evans had a few good catches, Cameron Brate was reliable as always, O.J. Howard looked really good as a blocker but didn’t get many receiving opportunities.
So let’s look at the top five takeaways from the game.
Jameis Winston looks great
The Bucs offense struggled a little to get the running game going, but Jameis Winston didn’t skip a beat. With Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson on the field and pass protection holding up, Winston marched the team down the field twice in the two drives he got.
Winston finished the game completing 9 of 13 passes for 99 yards with, surprisingly perhaps, no runs. Winston scrambled a couple of times but found a receiver down the field every time. That was good to see, too: Winston does need to reduce the number of hits, and not running as much would help a lot.
Overall, this was a very strong performance for Winston. He was accurate, got the ball out on time, and found the open option every time. No interceptions or near-interceptions, no bad decisions—just good football.
The offensive line’s issues look exaggerated
The Bucs offensive line has been much-maligned this offseason, but the starters held up well. And that’s with starting center Ali Marpet out due to an ankle injury. They were especially impressive in pass protection, with Donovan Smith having a few dominant plays—to be fair, he had a few less-than-perfect plays, too.
The run-blocking was a little less impressive, which is a little concerning. But that should be better with Marpet back in there, and some of it may be due to lackluster running back play. In fact, Charles Sims was the only running back to really impress today, though most only got a few carries to work with.
All that said, the Bucs’ backup lines were no match for the Bengals’ pass-rush. That was really ugly.
The defense needs to work on its run fits
The Bucs had some issues stopping the run throughout the game, and most of it appeared to be missing run fits: players not being where they need to be in the defensive scheme. The result was the Bengals collecting 140 yards on 36 carries—not a good day for a defense that had issues stopping the run last year, and added a few big players in an effort to improve there. Though, to be fair, that’s only 3.9 yards per carry, so perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh.
Roberto Aguayo missed a field goal and an extra point
Last year’s second-round pick had two short kicks, and missed one of them. That’s not good. And then he got a 47-yard attempt at the end of the game and missed it too. Oops.
Nick Folk, on the other hand, was perfect. One complicating matter: Aguayo got the first kicks, which generally (though not always) indicates he was ahead of Folk coming into this game. But I think we’re past that now.
The Bucs have a backup quarterback issue
The Buccaneers have two Ryans as their backup quarterbacks, and both of them have problems. Fitzpatrick’s problem is that he’s not any good at throwing the ball, and his arm is a noodle now. He completed XXXX of XXXXX passes for XXXXX yards and an interception and just looked plain terrible.
Griffin’s problem is that while he looked decent, he had to go to the locker room with a shoulder injury that almost immediately got him ruled out for the rest of the game—not a good indication.
There’s still this one unsigned guy out there who I hear has some talent...