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Buccaneers of the Week: at Baltimore

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Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best during Sunday’s 20-12 road loss to the Ravens?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers put up yet another disappointing performance on Sunday, falling 20-12 to the Ravens in Baltimore. Tampa Bay dropped to 5-9 on the year, clinching another losing record with just two games to go. The cold, rainy day in Baltimore made for a pretty ugly game, but there were definitely some players who impressed. Let’s get on with the Buccaneers of the Week from Sunday’s loss to the Ravens.

5. Carl Nassib (One point)

The streak of strong performances continued on Sunday for Carl Nassib. The third-year pro got after rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson on numerous occasions. His ability to cause problems off the edge was a help to both himself and some of the other Buccaneer defenders. The Baltimore offense, which relied heavily on the run game, got creative plenty of times. On one end-around pitch, Nassib did enough to slow the receiver, which led to a tackle for loss by Riley Bullough. Nassib finished the day with three tackles (two solo), one tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. He has been a consistent force for the Tampa Bay defense this year, making general manager Jason Licht look really good for claiming him after he was waived by the Browns.

There were some times in Sunday’s game that weren’t so good for Nassib. He bit hard on the read-option a few different times, but a lot of credit for that should go to Jackson and his running backs for selling well. Plus, without knowing Nassib’s assignments on those plays, it’s difficult to come down on him too hard. Overall, he was one of the top players on the field throughout the day. He does a lot that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but even there, he had some pretty good numbers. For his effort, he grabs another point in this week’s standings.

4. Mike Evans (Two points)

The passing game for Tampa Bay was largely ineffective on Sunday, but Mike Evans was the one guy that saved Jameis Winston and the Bucs from a total disaster of a day. The Pro Bowl snub caught just four of his nine targets, but those four catches went for 121 yards. He was helped big-time by a 64-yard connection that came after Winston escaped some heavy pressure. That play was just as impressive on Evans’ part, as he stayed with the play and got open for a huge gain. There wasn’t much to write home about when it came to Winston’s day, but that play between him and Evans was definitely a highlight for the Bucs.

Sunday was Evans’ seventh 100-yard game of the season. He now has 1,328 receiving yards on the season, which leaves him less than 100 yards away from breaking the franchise’s single-season record. He ranks second in the entire league in receiving yards, playing a major role in Tampa Bay’s passing game that is among the NFL’s best. Sunday was forgettable for the offense overall, with Adam Humphries being the only other Bucs receiver to have double-digit yards in the game. Despite the overall disappointment, Evans deserves some accolades for yet another 100-yard day.

3. Vita Vea (Three points)

The Bucs’ 2018 rookie class has been very inconsistent throughout the season, but it seems clear that first round pick Vita Vea is improving each and every week. He’s getting more involved and his power and potential is starting to show more frequently. The Washington product was the team’s second-leading tackler in Sunday’s loss, coming up with nine tackles (six solo). Overall, the Ravens’ run-first approach worked. But it wasn’t as effective when they ran it at the big defensive tackle. Greg Auman of The Athletic ran the numbers to back that up:

There’s no doubt that Vea started his rookie year on a down note. He lost all of training camp, the preseason and the first three games to a calf injury. The value of that time can’t be overstated, especially for a rookie that already had some projected adjusting to do. But now that he has worked his way into the NFL game, Vea is looking like a solid player. He makes his second appearance in these standings this week, working his way up with three points.

2. Peyton Barber (Four points)

The passing game for the Buccaneers was a letdown on Sunday. Other than the solid performance by the defense, Peyton Barber was the only reason the offense managed to stay in the game. From the first play of the day on, Barber ran hard and had success. The former Auburn Tiger ran for 85 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Tampa Bay only managed 157 yards through the air, but Barber provided some balance and kept going, giving the Bucs a chance to hang around.

Late in the game, Tampa Bay seemed to move away from the run a little bit. That seems questionable at best, especially given the success Barber was having. This wasn’t the first time that the run game was abandoned after having success, which should be a sizable mark against the coaching staff. What Barber is doing as the primary running back has been overlooked for much of the year. He hasn’t gotten the help that was expected from rookie Ronald Jones II, but that hasn’t mattered too much. For the season, Barber has 762 yards and five touchdowns on 202 carries. He has been the team’s workhorse in the backfield, one that is honestly worthy of even more carries than he is getting. With four points this week, he moves into the top three of the overall season standings.

1. Lavonte David (Five points)

The run that Lavonte David has been on in recent weeks has been remarkable. The veteran linebacker is anchoring a bit of a turnaround for the Tampa Bay defense. Since the firing of Mike Smith, the unit has looked better. David missed some time, but upon his return, he has been excellent. On Sunday, he led the way with 12 tackles (10 solo), two sacks, three quarterback hits and a fumble recovery. The recovery was the 13th of his career, which gave him sole possession of the franchise record. He had been sharing the record with Ronde Barber, but he now sits alone at the top:

David has been constantly overlooked throughout his career, but he continues to ball out every week. His presence makes the defense better. His containment of Lamar Jackson at different points in Sunday’s game showed just how effective he can be when used correctly. His two sacks, both of which came via his ability to contain, brought his season total up to 3 1/2. Plus, he broke 100 tackles for the sixth time in his seven-year career. His impact on Sunday’s game was apparent throughout, earning him the top spot on this list. With five points, he moved into a third-place tie in the season standings.

Updated Buccaneers of the Week Standings through week 15:

  1. Jason Pierre-Paul— 27 points
  2. Mike Evans— 26 points
  3. (TIE) Lavonte David/Peyton Barber— 20 points
  4. (TIE) Ryan Fitzpatrick/Carl Nassib— 17 points
  5. Jameis Winston— 16 points
  6. DeSean Jackson— 11 points
  7. O.J. Howard— 8 points
  8. Chris Godwin— 7 points
  9. (TIE) Kwon Alexander/Chandler Catanzaro/Adam Humphries/Vita Vea— 6 points
  10. (TIE) Andrew Adams/Cameron Brate— 5 points
  11. (TIE) Offensive Line/Jacquizz Rodgers— 2 points
  12. (TIE) Vernon Hargreaves/Bryan Anger/Carlton Davis— 1 point