More than halfway through the season, the Buccaneers’ 2018 rookie class has yet to come together as hoped. It’s usually not a great idea to judge rookies before they have even played a full season, but what we can say is that Tampa Bay’s bunch has collectively disappointed for most of this season. That’s why it was no surprise to see the Bucs missing from NFL.com’s list of top rookie classes that was published last week. The rest of the team’s NFC South rivals cracked the top 10.
Let’s get into how the first-year pros looked in Sunday’s frustrating 16-3 home loss to the Redskins.
CB Carlton Davis
In the first nine games of the season, Carlton Davis has been the one Tampa Bay rookie to show pretty consistent upside. He had another pretty solid day on Sunday, coming up with five tackles (three solo) and 1 1⁄2 tackles for loss against Washington. The second-rounder has been asked to take on a lot of responsibility in the defensive backfield, and as a rookie, that can’t be easy. Despite that, Davis has progressed well.
With Vernon Hargreaves III suffering a season-ending injury in the first game of the year, Davis has had a heavy workload. When the Bucs drafted him, he was pegged as a potential top corner on this team at some point in the future. It’s only been nine games, but he is already assuming that No. 1 spot a lot of the time. Brent Grimes hasn’t been himself this year, which has left even more on Davis’ plate. He has handled all of it. In Sunday’s game, he played 57 snaps (98 percent of the defense’s total). The Auburn product rarely comes off the field and lack of depth isn’t the sole reason for it. He broke into the Buccaneers of the Week Standings this week for the first time and is continuing to improve while the rest of the class comes along much more slowly.
DT Vita Vea
Vita Vea continued to be an inconsistent part of the Tampa Bay defensive line on Sunday. There were far too many times when he was getting stood up by the Washington offensive line, but there were a couple of snaps in which he got some good push. Overall, he only played 28 snaps (48 percent). He did quietly pick up his first career sack, which should make the day a memorable one for the first-rounder. Despite that, he didn’t get a lot of love from the announcers calling the game. They openly questioned his production, which is fair. Vea has a long way to go if he wants to prove himself to the extensive number of doubters he has, even within the Buccaneer fan base.
The best of the rest
The rookie class as a whole hasn’t done a whole lot to help the case of general manager Jason Licht. Considering the coaches have their backs up against the wall, Licht isn’t necessarily safe either. He has gone out and acquired some nice talent, but misses at kicker, on defense and in drafts puts him near or on the hot seat. Sunday’s game wasn’t notable for any of the other rookies... Jordan Whitehead finished with four tackles (three solo) while playing 33 snaps (57 percent). He nearly had his first career interception, but dropped it... Undrafted rookie running back Shaun Wilson ran two times for seven yards and caught a pass for a loss of four. He played 10 snaps on offense (14 percent) and eight on special teams (40 percent)... Justin Watson played six snaps on offense (nine percent) and 11 on special teams (55 percent)... Ronald Jones II and M.J. Stewart were still sidelined with injuries... Alex Cappa was once again a healthy inactive.