It’s been a down and up season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a year of renewal for the New Orleans Saints.
For the Bucs, they found a down week following an up week for the second time this year on their way to their third loss of the season. Meanwhile, the Saints continue to witness the renewal of Teddy Bridgewater’s career amidst new levels of confidence in their defense.
Amidst the back-and-forth and the comeback campaigns are the rookies, trudging along their first NFL season trying to find a way to ensure they’re career lasts long enough to experience more of these storylines for years to come.
Let’s check out how they did.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS ROOKIES
Active: S, Mike Edwards / K, Matt Gay / WR, Scotty Miller / CB, Sean Murphy-Bunting / OLB, Anthony Nelson / ILB, Devin White
Inactive: G, Zach Bailey / CB, Jamel Dean (inj)
ROOKIE OF THE GAME: K, MATT GAY
No NFL player wants to lose a game, so priority number one is always ending up on the winning side of things. But, if you’re a kicker, priority two might be not becoming the headline if your team does lose.
While the Buccaneers struggled as a whole, Gay quietly made all four of his kick attempts accounting for six of his team’s 24 points.
Cornerback, Sean Murphy-Bunting was also a candidate for the ‘Rookie of the Week’ this weekend, as his first quarter interception set up Tampa Bay’s first touchdown of the game.
It was the first of his career and an important moment in the game. It turned out to be one of few highlights turned in by the Bucs defense however, and the interception wasn’t enough to lift his status over Gay’s considering the unit combined to allow 314-yards passing and four touchdowns to Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
With Carlton Davis III’s ejection fairly early in the game, Murphy-Bunting got his biggest workload of his career, playing 60 snaps (86%) on defense.
Devin White made his return to active status. Now the Bucs will look to have White return to playing on the field next weekend against the Carolina Panthers.
White and safety Darian Stewart failed to play a single snap despite both players being active in New Orleans.
Rookie wide receiver Scotty Miller was active once again for the Buccaneers offense, and it appeared the unit was hoping to get him involved more in Week 5 than ever before. Miller was targeted twice (three times counting a target which was intercepted and called off for a penalty) and had one carry for 18-yards while playing on 23 offensive snaps.
Edwards led all defensive rookies with five tackles in the game and appeared on all but four defensive snaps in New Orleans. Continuing his early career contributions on the field, Edwards is going to be just one individual in the secondary looked upon to help lead the group out of the basement of the NFL moving forward in the 2019 season.
Linebacker Anthony Nelson also got 18 snaps on defense while turning in 15 on special teams. With his time on the field, Nelson turned in one tackle in the losing effort.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS ROOKIES
Active: S, C.J. Gardner-Johnson / DE, Carl Granderson / WR, Deonte Harris / OL, Erik McCoy / DL, Shy Tuttle
Inactive: OL, Ethan Greenidge / S, Saquan Hampton / WR, Lil’Jordan Humphrey
ROOKIE OF THE GAME: DE, CARL GRANDERSON
After going undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft, Carl Granderson signed with the New Orleans Saints as a defensive end prospect coming out of Wyoming. On Sunday, he got the first sack of his career in Week 5, and it was a pretty important one.
The Saints had a two score lead in the fourth quarter, but the always dangerous Bucs offense had the ball with just enough time to try and make the game interesting. But on 2nd and 10, Granderson got through the Tampa Bay offensive line and made his impact on Winston, dropping him for a nine-yard loss.
On 3rd and 19, Granderson’s veteran teammate Cameron Jordan took his turn getting to the quarterback, and the Saints defense forced the Bucs to punt the ball back to Bridgewater and the home team offense.
Tampa Bay didn’t touch the ball again until there was less than two minutes remaining in the game, and the victory for New Orleans was all but in hand.
Granderson’s story is....interesting. But getting his first career sack despite playing just nine defensive snaps is hopefully a sign of better things to come on and off the field for the undrafted free agent. For his sake and for the sake of those around him.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson played 21 more snaps than his fellow defensive rookie, and turned in just one tackle, but played a role in the Saints defense keeping stud wide receiver to zero catches, and bottling up the Buccaneers offense for most of the afternoon.
Defensive tackle Shy Tuttle appeared on twelve defensive snaps and four special teams reps, but failed to register any statistical data.
On offense, rookie Erik McCoy helped anchor the offensive line which successfully protected Bridgewater as the quarterback wasn’t sacked once and was only hit three times. Pretty impressive considering the Tampa Bay defense boasted the NFL’s leader in sacks coming into the game.
Wide receiver Deonte Harris had probably the worst day of all the rookies on the field in Week 5, as he muffed two punts and nearly (read: did) lost one of them. Harris played exclusively on special teams, so the Saints will be looking for their return man to bounce back in the near future from what can only be described as a forgettable performance.
Leaving the field Week 5, it was the New Orleans Saints rookies who got to celebrate (even Harris) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers freshman who will be looking to regroup in Week 6.
The Saints rookies will hit the road to face the Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday while the Bucs stay on the road and head to London for their second straight NFC South contest, and second on the year against the Carolina Panthers.