While Sunday was another excruciating loss for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and a loss that left many questions around the direction of the franchise, there were some impressive individual performances against the Bengals.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Who would’ve thought that when Fitzpatrick came in with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter that he would be able to make the most impressive list. He is on the list and he is at the top because of his play on Sunday. Fitzpatrick brought the team back from Jameis Winston’s mistakes an erased an 18 point deficit in the fourth quarter. Fitz finished the game completing 11 of 15 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns as well as 0 interceptions. The team was re-energized by Fitzpatrick and rallied around him as the fourth quarter went on. Fitzpatrick will be the starting quarterback going forward and I expect him to take full advantage of this opportunity.
Mike Evans: It doesn’t really matter who plays quarterback for the Buccaneers, Evans shows up weekly and does his job. On Sunday, he finished with six catches for 179 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came on a 72-yard bomb from Fitzpatrick to bring the Buccaneers back within striking distance. On the season, Evans has 46 catches, for 770 yards and four touchdowns. Currently, Evans ranks fifth in the NFL in receiving yards and is only 42 yards behind Julio Jones for second. Evans came into training camp on a mission, he is having his best season yet and will only continue to get better. He could become the best receiver in the NFL if Tampa Bay can just find a consistent quarterback.
O.J. Howard: Howard has really come into his own this season. After an up and down rookie year, he has answered the bell everytime he is called upon this season. He finished yesterday’s contest with four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown helped the Buccaneers tie the game with a minute remaining. Howard continues to be a matchup nightmare for linebackers all over the league, and Fitzpatrick will continue to exploit that in the coming weeks. Howard currently ranks fifth amongst tight ends in receiving yards on the season with 419.
Adam Humphries: When Winston returned in the second half of the Chicago Bears game, so did Adam Humphries. Hump is as reliable as they come as a slot receiver and played one of the best games of his career on Sunday. He finished with 7 catches for 76 yards and missed a touchdown by about 6 inches, literally. He is always reliable, always where he needs to be and has toughness that an undersized receiver like himself needs. We will see if the return of Fitzpatrick impacts Humphries, but if the production does stay the same, the Buccaneers should look to extend Humphries. Hump has done everything asked of him the last four years and the Buccaneers should reward him if his play continues.
Jason Pierre-Paul: Another Sunday, another sack for JPP. Actually, another two sacks for JPP. Pierre Paul also added two tackles for a loss as well. The veteran defensive end is up to eight on the season and is tied for second in the NFL and only two behind Aaron Donald, who has played one more game then JPP. It was JPP’s seventh straight game with a sack and he is well on his way to double digits sacks on the year and that is unheard of in Tampa Bay. Pierre-Paul is really the only defensive player that has shown up consistently on a week to week basis and to me, is the unquestionable leader on the defense.
Hopefully in the coming weeks there will be more of a balance on both sides of the ball in terms of who makes the list.