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Buccaneers of the Week: at Titans

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Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s 27-23 loss to Tennessee?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I wrote a piece on this very website talking about how the Buccaneers better be “Tennessee-ready” this time around. And for the majority of Sunday’s game, it looked like they were!

But when you add up shortcomings in key areas, failures in key moments and an inexcusable mistake by the officials, you get a third straight loss. Tampa Bay played just well enough to lose another game it should’ve won. The loss puts Bruce Arians and his team at 1-3 in this stretch away from home and 2-5 overall.

But before we turn the page to the road trip-closing game in Seattle next week, let’s look at the positives from Sunday’s loss to the Titans. Which five players took home points in the Buccaneers of the Week Standings? Let’s find out.

5. Andrew Adams (One point)

The Buccaneer defense played a pretty good game on Sunday, holding the Titans under 175 passing yards and below 250 total yards. The strong performance was a team effort, with some big individual performances scattered around. One of those big individual games was from safety Andrew Adams, who provided some reliability at the safety position that was sorely needed. He finished the game with five tackles (four solo), one pass defended and a forced fumble. Plus, he should’ve had a fumble recovery returned for a go-ahead touchdown if the officials hadn’t inexplicably blown a play dead late in the game.

With Adams providing some stability at the safety position, the Bucs benefited greatly. Mike Edwards almost undoubtedly has a bright future, but he hasn’t been effective enough for Tampa Bay just yet. So, to have Adams step up was huge. He made an impression with the Bucs last year — most notably by intercepting Cam Newton three times in one game. If he can continue to be a good fill-in, it could certainly provide the secondary with a boost while Edwards continues to develop. After that three-interception game earned him five points in last year’s Bucs of the Week Standings, he grabs a point here to debut in the 2019 edition of the standings.

4. Shaquil Barrett (Two points)

After bursting onto the scene with nine sacks in the first four games, Shaquil Barrett was quieted in the next two games. But with the big return of Jason Pierre-Paul in Week 8, expectations for Barrett once again escalated. He delivered on those, picking up his 10th sack of the season while helping Pierre-Paul get his first early on in the game. On the latter play, he got a heck of a jump on the snap and pressured Ryan Tannehill before Pierre-Paul cleaned things up. Overall, Barrett finished with four solo tackles, the sack, two tackles for loss and two total quarterback hits. Plus, with his 10th sack of the year, he earned yet another $250,000 bonus for the year.

Barrett was one of the few highlights of the Bucs’ 2-2 start, but all of the attention he received led to him being on the receiving end of more chip blocks and double teams. But with such a formidable pass rusher on the other side of the defense going forward, Tampa Bay should be able to expect the same Barrett it got early on in the season going forward. With nine games left, he’s seven sacks away from breaking Warren Sapp’s single-season franchise record for sacks. Right now, he stays within range of the top spot in the Bucs of the Week Standings.

3. Jason Pierre-Paul (Three points)

The aforementioned return of Jason Pierre-Paul was one of the big stories in Sunday’s loss to the Titans. After an offseason car accident resulted in a neck fracture, no one was really sure when Pierre-Paul would be able to come back. Well, no one was even sure IF he’d be able to make a real comeback at all. But this is Jason Pierre-Paul we’re talking about. He returned from a firework accident that cost him a chunk of his hand. So, why should we be surprised that he was ready to return from a neck fracture after just five months on the shelf?

As if the fact that he made his return wasn’t enough, he also made an impact on Sunday’s game. The guy came up with a sack on his very first snap after recovering from a severe neck injury. Overall, he finished with the sack and three total tackles for loss. After a 12.5-sack season in 2018, Pierre-Paul is a major addition for the Tampa Bay defense at this point in the season. Adding a force like him to the group of pass rushers that includes Shaquil Barrett and Carl Nassib is big. Plus, he played 43 snaps (68% of the defense’s total). As he builds that snap count back up, there’s no doubt we’ll see even more production. But in his first game back, he earned a solid three points in the season standings.

2. Lavonte David (Four points)

Tampa Bay got a heck of a performance from Lavonte David in Tennessee. He finished as the defense’s leading tackler with 12 (six solo), two tackles for loss and a pass defended. The veteran linebacker was all over the field, per usual, playing a key role in the defense’s solid day. He was on the field for all of the team’s defensive snaps, providing leadership and playmaking ability all throughout. David continued to be a significant part of the best run defense in the league, helping the Bucs hold the Titans under 100 yards on the ground.

Moving to inside linebacker in Todd Bowles’ defense hasn’t hurt David’s production in the slightest, as he leads the team in tackles with 53 (32 solo). He’s on pace to break 100 tackles for the third straight year and the seventh time in his eight NFL seasons. But more than that, the 29-year-old’s leadership will continue to be extremely important going forward. With the Bucs at 2-5, the season is fading fast. And with potential changes coming to the roster and almost certainly more losing ahead, they will need David to be the same, calming presence that he has been as a leader for this franchise since he was drafted. With four points in this week’s standings, he pulls himself into a top-five position for the season.

1. Mike Evans (Five points)

There was reason to be disappointed in Mike Evans through the pre-bye week portion of Tampa Bay’s season. Aside from his big day against New York in Week 3 and a big play against Los Angeles the following week, Evans hadn’t been the same Evans we’ve all come to know and love. But in Week 8, the team’s No. 1 receiver was just that. He was especially dominant in the first half, coming up with seven catches (on eight targets) for 137 yards and a touchdown. He kept that up in the third quarter, but was inexplicably left without target in the fourth. But even still, he finished with 11 catches (on 12 targets) for 198 yards and two scores.

With his 43-yard catch in the third quarter, Evans tied James Wilder’s franchise record for career receptions (at 430). Just a couple plays later, he brought in catch No. 431, giving him the team record. With that, he is now the Bucs’ all-time leader in career receiving yards, career receiving touchdowns and career receptions. And for the season, he’s up to 38 catches for 662 yards and six touchdowns. That puts him on pace to break 1,000 yards for the sixth time in six seasons. Sunday was a reminder of just how good Evans is. He returned to being the top-five receiver we all know he is. With the full five points this week, he finds himself in the top five for the 2019 season.

Updated Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 8:

1. Chris Godwin — 18 points

2. Shaquil Barrett — 15 points

3. Ronald Jones II — 11 points

4. Jameis Winston — 10 points

5. Lavonte David/Mike Evans — 8 points

6. Jordan Whitehead/Carl Nassib — 6 points

7. Vernon Hargreaves III — 5 points

8. Sean Murphy-Bunting/Ryan Smith/Vita Vea/Jason Pierre-Paul — 3 points

9. Peyton Barber/Alex Cappa — 2 points

10. Matt Gay/Andrew Adams — 1 point