As has been the case all preseason, rookie running back Ronald Jones III struggled to make anything happen. But as I’ve also said all preseason, bad box score games for a running doesn’t necessarily mean a bad performance. Take the following play for example:
This is just a few plays into the game. Jones does a great job here avoiding not one but two tacklers behind the line of scrimmage, which was at the 46. In fact, he even gets a couple yards out of it. So it’ll go in the box score as one rush for two yards, but that’s not really what happened, since at the time of his initial juke he was evading a defender three yards in the backfield. Tampa Bay didn’t really go out of their way to get Jones touches in open space this preseason, so it’s hard to fault him. The truth is the Bucs don’t have much depth on the offensive line, and it showed right from the opening snap in this game.
I thought overall Jones displayed good patience, agility, and decision-making as a runner.
Some other guys seemed to flash on the defensive line, like Jerel Worthy, who made the initial 53 man roster, and end Patrick O’Connor and defensive tackle Adam Reth. O’Connor and Reth got cut though. As for Spence, his athleticism and burst jumps off the tape. And look, I’m no talent evaluator, but there just seems to be a lot of wasted movement, and way too many steps here:
Spence is at the bottom of the screen; look at his footwork. Is it because he lacks a rush plan? His burst off the snap is good, and he decides to make an inside move when he sees the back drift outside to chip him. But the speed to power conversion you’d like to see isn’t really there, and his pad level seems to get too high. Regardless, there doesn’t seem to be anything really efficient about his movement, either. His development has been pretty frustrating.
Griffin is the same quarterback I’ve seen. He generally makes good decisions, and has good accuracy, but he can stare down his targets a bit on longer throws. He’s very good at the quick game within 10 yards. Where he gets into trouble is his velocity isn’t very good. So when he doesn’t have great eye discipline or he holds the ball waiting for something to develop downfield, and the ball takes a bit longer to get to where its going, that can give defensive backs enough time to jump it. And longer throws tend to hang in the air a bit too long like a rainbow, which will give good safeties too much time, or will allow a beaten cornerback back into the play. But again, with a quick three-step game he’ll do a good job of getting the ball out on time and accurately, and that was good to see. Also, I want to highlight something:
On the above play notice how Griffin throws this with anticipation, as he starts to let it go before receiver Bobo Wilson makes his break. That helps negates some of his velocity issues. I think Griffin will be a decent backup for Ryan Fitzpatrick while Winston is suspended.
I again liked offensive co-ordinator Todd Monken’s play-calling in this game. It fit Griffin’s strengths pretty well as he didn’t really ask Griffin to do a lot of things he couldn’t do. Look, it’s the preseason. Defenses play vanilla, and there’s lots of starters out all over the place. What happens in the preseason doesn’t always carry over to the regular season, and that goes for the good and the bad. But in my opinion, at this point after seeing four games, I’ll be pretty disappointed if Monken doesn’t retain play-calling duties. I think he did a much better job of managing the down and distance, made better use of the middle of the field, called plays to his players’ strengths, and did better in the redzone and on first downs. Perhaps anecdotally, we saw shot plays sprinkled in instead of being a staple, which I think is important for the efficiency of this offense and could lead to a lot more scoring opportunities. Even if Monken retains play-calling, we don’t know what if any input Koetter can or will have, or if he’ll over-ride Monken in critical situations. My bottom line is if Koetter retains it, or we see a different pattern of play-calling in the regular season, something closer to what Koetter typically calls, I would adjust the Bucs’ win total down a win or two. If Monken retains, I would personally up my expectation a win or two. But that’s just me.
I was also shocked to see Keith Tandy get released. I think he’s good enough to start somewhere, so I really have no idea what the Bucs were doing.