After every game, we’ll break down the Buccaneers’ top five players of the week. Point values will be distributed to each, which will then be added up for our weekly Buccaneers of the Week Standings.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0. That’s right, there was no letdown for Dirk Koetter and his team after last week’s season-opening 48-40 win in New Orleans. They came back to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday and took down the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 27-21. Let’s dive into the top five Bucs from week two.
Any time you win a game in the NFL, especially against a team like the Eagles, it takes more than five big performances. Unfortunately, there will always be some deserving players that miss this weekly list. Some just need to be talked about, so that’s where we are here. For Sunday’s win over Philadelphia, some honorable mentions include: O.J. Howard (three catches for 96 yards and a touchdown), Chris Godwin (five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown), Ryan Smith (nine tackles, two passes defended), Lavonte David (nine tackles, one pass breakup, one fumble recovery) and Gerald McCoy (one sack, two quarterback hits).
No. 5: Mike Evans (One point)
Mike Evans had another big day on Sunday, his second straight, but a couple of mistakes kept him from potentially being higher on this week’s list. A dropped pass that killed one drive and a fumble that allowed the Eagles to get back in the game were low points of what was otherwise a great performance. The fifth-year receiver caught 10 passes on 12 targets for 83 yards and a touchdown in the win.
Evans picked up a couple of milestones on Sunday. He pulled into second place in franchise history for career receptions and tied the team record for most career receiving touchdowns. The 2014 first-rounder has been a stud in the first two games, being the Bucs’ reliable go-to guy. With so many other dangerous pass-catchers on this roster, it was uncertain how many targets Evans would be getting. But through two weeks, the number of weapons on the offense has effectively pulled some of the defense’s attention away from Evans. He hasn’t missed an opportunity to take advantage of that.
No. 4: Jason Pierre-Paul (Two points)
There was a lot of excitement when Tampa Bay traded for Jason Pierre-Paul in March. The pass rush in 2017 was horrible and that acquisition was part of the front office’s effort to turn things around. Pierre-Paul did some nice things throughout the preseason and was okay in week one, but week two belonged to him. The ninth-year veteran picked up five tackles, his first sack of the season and delivered four quarterback hits.
The Bucs need that type of disruption from their defensive line this season, especially with the injuries and overall youth of the secondary. Opposing quarterbacks will want to pick on the rookies and inexperienced starters as much as possible, but it becomes harder to do that when a guy like JPP is hawking you down at every turn. He is a huge asset for this defensive line that has already looked much-improved over last year. Watching the former South Florida Bull come out at Raymond James Stadium and have such a big day should have Buccaneer fans feeling very good about what he’ll do throughout the rest of this season.
No. 3: Kwon Alexander (Three points)
The opening drive of the 2018 season was a tough one for Kwon Alexander. Ever since, he has been the guy that the Bucs have gotten used to over the past few years. After having a pretty good day overall against the Saints, Alexander was all over the field on Sunday against the Eagles. By the end of the day, he had seven tackles (six solo), one sack-fumble and three tackles for loss. Tampa Bay would love some more of that.
Given the state of their secondary, the Bucs need to be strong against the run. Kwon is a big part of that, so his successful day on Sunday was huge for the unit. Philadelphia ran for 91 yards, which marked the second straight game that the Buccaneer defense held the opposition to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. 2018 is a big year for Alexander’s future, as he is expected to get a contract extension sooner rather than later. With more days like he had on Sunday, that payday will get bigger and bigger. For now, the former LSU Tiger debuts on Buccaneers of the Week with three points.
No. 2: DeSean Jackson (Four points)
If not for the top entry on this week’s list, it would be easy to crown DeSean Jackson as the team’s MVP for the first two weeks of this season. A largely disappointing 2017 season seems like a distant memory after just two regular season games in 2018. Jackson caught five passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns against New Orleans in week one, then picked up right where he left off by opening Sunday’s game against Philadelphia with a 75-yard touchdown catch. Overall, he caught four passes for 129 yards and the touchdown.
The 75-yard touchdown catch on the game’s first play tied D-Jax with Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for most career touchdown receptions of 60-plus yards. It was the 31-year-old’s 23rd such reception of his career and it came against his former team. This year, Jackson has been the deep threat that the Bucs had hoped he would be. He obviously has a strong connection with Ryan Fitzpatrick and the team has to hope that he has developed the same type of chemistry with Jameis Winston—whenever he does return. It’s clear through two weeks that Jackson still has plenty left in the tank, as he takes a top-three spot on this list once again.
No. 1: Ryan Fitzpatrick (Five points)
Obviously. Just like last week, there is no other choice for the top guy on this list. Ryan Fitzpatrick was dominant for a second straight game, tearing up a tough Philadelphia defense for 402 yards and four touchdowns on 27-of-33 passing. His first interception of the year came on a pass that should have been caught by O.J. Howard, so that has no effect on where the 14th-year veteran stands this week. He is simply on another level right now.
Fitzpatrick became the first quarterback IN NFL HISTORY to throw for 400-plus yards and four touchdowns in each of his team’s first two games of the season. He leads the NFL in passer rating (151.5) and has thrown for a total of 819 yards and eight touchdowns. All of that has happened in two games. No wonder he’s out there rubbing beards with Evan Smith pregame and taking DeSean Jackson’s clothes for his postgame press conference.
Never change, Ryan Fitzpatrick. pic.twitter.com/lMJ6HoXgMM— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 16, 2018
Updated Buccaneers of the Week Standings through week two:
- Ryan Fitzpatrick— 10 points
- DeSean Jackson— 7 points
- Mike Evans— 5 points
- Kwon Alexander— 3 points
- (TIE) Offensive Line/Jason Pierre-Paul— 2 points
- Vernon Hargreaves— 1 point