The Buccaneers dropped to 3-4 on Sunday with a 37-34 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati. Jameis Winston put Tampa Bay in a 34-16 hole before Ryan Fitzpatrick led a huge comeback to tie the game at 34 with just over one minute left. From there, the defense fell apart and allowed a game-winning field goal as time expired.
The Bucs didn’t get a whole lot from their 2018 rookie class in Sunday’s loss. Let’s check in on how those guys looked in week eight.
CB Carlton Davis
If the Bucs had a rookie of the week award, this week’s would absolutely go to Carlton Davis. The cornerback out of Auburn is developing faster than any of his fellow rookies and he is doing so while being thrown right into a huge role. He has pretty much had to be the No. 2 corner (and sometimes even No. 1) from the start of the season. Brent Grimes was hurt for a short time and Vernon Hargreaves III went down for the season in week one, so there was no easing in for Davis. Despite having to adjust quickly, he is playing better than anyone could have expected.
On Sunday, he matched up with A.J. Green for much of the day. The same A.J. Green that has been wrecking the NFL for years was largely held in check by Davis, who has played less than 10 games in the league. That has to encourage the Bucs. He totaled two tackles and a pass defended, playing all 66 snaps on defense. There hasn’t been a lot to love about the 2018 class for Tampa Bay thus far, but Davis has been a fairly consistent bright spot throughout the year. As the secondary continues to undergo a rebuild this offseason, Davis will be a good guy to build around.
DT Vita Vea
Tampa Bay’s first-rounder is still very clearly a work in progress, but he is making strides simply by getting more snaps. With Gerald McCoy out on Sunday, the Bucs needed Vea a bit more. He ended up playing 47 snaps (71 percent), assisting on one tackle. Tampa Bay as a whole struggled a bit more against the run on Sunday. That doesn’t look good on Vea, whose top priority is stuffing the run up the middle.
There was good and bad for the rookie against the Bengals. He continued to push some guys around up front in an attempt to collapse the pocket, but there were also a couple of times that he got manhandled and taken completely out of a play. He is still working his way into the NFL game, so there are going to be growing pains. Considering what has gone on elsewhere in the rookie class, Vea is among the least of Tampa Bay’s worries.
RB Ronald Jones II
After seemingly taking steps forward in recent weeks, Sunday was rough for Ronald Jones. He played just 11 snaps (12 percent) before going down with a hamstring injury. He will now miss “significant time.” It’s a tough blow for the second-rounder, who hasn’t caught on quickly like Tampa Bay expected him to. On Sunday, he had negative yardage on the ground and caught just one pass for four yards before leaving with the injury. Going forward, the Bucs will have to ride with Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers and potentially undrafted rookie Shaun Wilson until Jones is ready to go. Regardless of whether or not he returns this season, year one has definitely been a disappointment for the former USC star.
The best of the rest
Overall, the rest of the rookies didn’t do anything too notable one way or the other. Jordan Whitehead played 52 snaps (79 percent). He picked up four tackles, including a big tackle for loss on a fourth down early in the game... M.J. Stewart had a forgettable day. One of the big knocks on him as a prospect is his lack of speed, which was on display at times throughout Sunday’s game. He eventually left the game with a leg injury, finishing the game with two tackles while playing 44 snaps (67 percent). It’s still somewhat hard to believe that Tampa Bay picked him before Carlton Davis... Justin Watson caught one pass for five yards, playing 12 snaps (14 percent) on offense and 18 (55 percent) on special teams... Alex Cappa and Shaun Wilson were both inactive.