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Buccaneers rookie recap: Week nine

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It’s time to evaluate how Tampa Bay’s rookie class looked in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers fell to 3-5 on Sunday with a 42-28 road loss to the Carolina Panthers. There weren’t a lot of performances to write home about during the game for any of Tampa Bay’s players, including the rookies. It’s clear that this year’s class is still not performing quite how the front office would like. Some of the guys were out with injuries this week, but for those that did play, inconsistency issues continued. Let’s get going with this week’s rookie recap.

CB Carlton Davis

Sunday was another terrible day for the defense, one that didn’t include a lot of bright spots. Even Carlton Davis, the top-performing Buccaneer rookie for much of the year, struggled with the creative and potent Carolina offense. He finished the day with five tackles (four solo) and played 57 defensive snaps (92 percent of the overall total).

The Auburn product is having to play a huge role in the banged-up and ineffective Tampa Bay defense and some of his growing pains showed on Sunday. He missed tackles on back-to-back plays in the first quarter, which set the tone for what much of his afternoon would look like. First, it was Christian McCaffrey hurdling him for a long gain before D.J. Moore shrugged him off for another big pickup. Davis’ tackling technique is surely better than what he showed in Sunday’s game. His coverage wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t as good as we’ve seen it in previous weeks either.

Perhaps his biggest lesson of the afternoon came on a fourth-down stop. He did his job effectively on the play, dropping Devin Funchess short of a first down. But after the play, Davis got in Funchess’ face and was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The 15 yards set Tampa Bay’s offense back and even though the Ryan Fitzpatrick led a scoring drive anyway, Davis can’t put the team in that situation. Playing with passion is one thing, but when it crosses over the line, it can hurt the team. There’s no doubt that the rookie corner will learn from that.

S Jordan Whitehead

Sunday wasn’t a terrible day for Jordan Whitehead as he continues to adjust to the NFL. With the injury to Chris Conte earlier in the season, Whitehead has seen some more playing time over the last several weeks. On Sunday, he played 39 snaps (63 percent) on defense and came up with eight tackles (tied for second-most on the team), four of which were solo. The secondary as a whole continues to allow the opposing quarterback to be way too efficient, with Cam Newton completing 19 of his 25 passing attempts in Sunday’s game. Whitehead is a part of that effort, but his overall play wasn’t noticeably poor. He definitely has work to do alongside Justin Evans at the safety position, but he is managing to come along more and more as the season progresses.

DT Vita Vea

There wasn’t anything special at all about Vita Vea’s performance against the Panthers. He only played 20 snaps on defense (32 percent) and finished without a tackle. His decline in snaps surely came as a result of Gerald McCoy’s return. With McCoy and Beau Allen healthy, Vea has fewer opportunities to get in the game. That may not be a horrible thing for the first-rounder, as he missed all of training camp and the preseason with a calf injury. His progress has been slow and while there have been some good moments for him in the last couple of weeks, he has a long way to go.

The best of the rest

Undrafted running back Shaun Wilson was active this week, getting four snaps (six percent) on offense and 18 (56 percent) on special teams. He ran the ball two times for seven yards and returned one kick for 25 yards... Justin Watson was also active again, playing five snaps (seven percent) on offense and 16 (50 percent) on special teams... M.J. Stewart and Ronald Jones II were both inactive with injury designations... Jack Cichy obviously remained sidelined with a torn ACL... Offensive lineman Alex Cappa was once again a healthy inactive. He has yet to make his NFL regular season debut.