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Buccaneers of the Week: vs. Saints

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best during Sunday’s 34-17 loss to New Orleans?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

A disaster. That’s what this Buccaneers team is right now.

One week after a deceiving win over Arizona, Tampa Bay was once again outclassed by the class of the NFC. The New Orleans Saints came to Raymond James Stadium and took over, going up 20-0 early and never losing control of the game.

The Bucs are an absolute mess. Bruce Arians and his staff were hired to come in and turn things around. Instead, it’s been more of the same. It’s not even Thanksgiving and yet, the talk is already about next year’s draft.

It’s truly anyone’s guess as to where this team goes from here. We don’t have the time to get into it here, so let’s do what we can to look at the positives from Sunday. It’s time to award some Buccaneers of the Week points. But first...

Honorable Mentions

Chris Godwin was largely absent in the first half, but he did come up with a nice 30-yard catch and run for a touchdown in the third quarter to get the Bucs within 10 points. He finished with three catches (on six targets) for 47 yards and a score... Considering the situation he’s been thrown into, it wasn’t an awful day for Sean Murphy-Bunting. He had his lapses (as any rookie does, especially in the secondary), but he’s certainly growing as an NFL corner. He finished Sunday’s game with five tackles (all solo) and a pass defended... Ndamukong Suh had two of Tampa Bay’s three tackles for loss in the game.

5. Matt Gay (One point)

You know it was one of those days for the Bucs when one kick lands Matt Gay in the top five of these weekly standings. But it was legitimately a heck of a kick from the rookie to make the best out of a bad situation. The offense put together a nice drive to start the second half, but Mike Evans had a crucial third-down drop that cost the unit a first down and possibly a touchdown. It set Gay up for a 55-yard field goal, which he absolutely drilled to cut the New Orleans lead to 20-10 early in the third quarter. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t mean much. But at the time, it was big for the Bucs to get something out of that drive. Had Gay missed, we might’ve seen a 27-7 game before we even got to the halfway point in the third quarter.

In addition to the bomb of a field goal, the fifth-round pick connected on both of his extra point attempts. While the rest of the team might be in disarray, he has been a consistent bright spot. When you think about the ridiculous stretch of kicking failures this team has had for much of this decade, it’s nice to finally see a guy come in and perform well. Through 10 games of his career, Gay is 20-of-23 on field goals, including 4-of-5 on kicks from 50-plus yards out. He gets another point in this week’s standings, and if things keep going the way they are, he might become a regular every week...

4. Mike Edwards (Two points)

From one rookie to another we go. Third-round pick Mike Edwards made a big impact on the game early. Although he was quiet the rest of the afternoon, he did enough on the first drive of the game to impress and show the potential we’ve been waiting to see from him since the season started. He was another guy that showed growth in this game, even if there were some struggles mixed in. Edwards allowed a big gain to Jared Cook on the game’s first drive, then stepped up and almost single-handedly kept the Saints to a field goal. He sacked Taysom Hill on a blitz — his first career sack — before making a great open-field tackle on Alvin Kamara to bring up a fourth-down field goal attempt.

Overall, Edwards only had six tackles (five solo) and the sack, but it was encouraging to see him contribute in this one. Coming into the season, there was a lot of hype about the one who models his game after “The Honeybadger” Tyrann Mathieu. But until Sunday, we hadn’t really seen much yet. The Kentucky product is still going to take time to develop, but that’s what the rest of this already-lost season is for. Growth and evaluation. There will be some trial-and-error with these rookies the rest of the way, but if they can take these games as learning experiences and grow from them, the Bucs will be better off in the long run. For now, though, Edwards gets two Bucs of the Week points to establish a spot in the season standings for the first time.

3. Scotty Miller (Three points)

Another rookie??? You bet. It was truly spectacular to see Scotty Miller come up big for Tampa Bay in Sunday’s game. This team has pretty much been without a third receiver all year long, and you know Scotty Miller has been putting in the work. It just hadn’t translated to real game action. Until Sunday, that is. Miller’s big play of the day was a 49-yard catch to set up the Bucs’ first touchdown of the day. It was nearly the rookie’s first NFL score, but he came up just a yard short. Despite that, it was great to see that kind of play out of the speedy receiver. He beat his man and hauled in a great pass from Jameis Winston. He didn’t stop there, either, as he brought in a couple more catches to finish with four catches (on six targets) for 71 yards.

Again, the rest of the 2019 season will be all about evaluation. More games like the one he had on Sunday will have Miller in a great position heading into 2020. Whether he gets the chance to continue to prove his worth remains to be seen. With the Bucs at 3-7, he should. Breshad Perriman is only here on a one-year deal, so why should he get the No. 3 receiver snaps/targets? Throw those Miller’s way and see what he can do as a consistent part of the offense. There’s a reason he was drafted, and we saw flashes of it against the Saints. Now, we should get the chance to see more. The former Bowling Green standout makes his debut in these standings with a solid three points.

2. Cameron Brate (Four points)

The offense as a whole was frustrating beyond belief against the Saints. Things were disjointed early and the unit never recovered. Part of those early struggles included an inexplicable play by O.J. Howard that led to an interception. From there, it was all about Cameron Brate at the tight end position. The veteran finished as the Bucs’ leading receiver, catching 10 passes (on 14 targets) for 73 yards. He was often a safe check-down, but he made the most of that. His 10 catches were a career-high, and they also tied a Bucs record for most in a game by a tight end (Jackie Harris had 10 against Green Bay in 1995).

The tight end position has been a massive letdown in 2019. It’s not all on the players, either. This coaching staff has neglected to use Brate and Howard to their full potential all year, and when they have been used, they’ve disappointed (Howard more than Brate). On Sunday, Brate returned to being what he used to be for Jameis Winston. He was a reliable go-to when his quarterback was getting pressured, and he had a pretty big day as a result. The Harvard man has always had a strong connection with No. 3, but we haven’t seen much of it this year. Maybe we’ll see more going forward, especially if Howard continues to play his way out of a top role. Regardless, Brate makes his season debut in the Bucs of the Week Standings with four big points.

1. Devin White (Five points)

The growth of Devin White over the last few weeks has been massive for the future of this defense. The No. 5 overall pick from this year’s draft led the Bucs in tackles once again on Sunday, finishing with a career-high 13 (11 solo) in the loss. And if we’re being honest, one of those should’ve been for a loss had the officials spotted the ball correctly. Plus, while we’re being honest about that play, it came at a crucial moment. White stopped Latavius Murray for a loss of one at least, which would’ve made it 4th & 2. Instead, it was ruled as no gain. The Saints, facing 4th & 1, went for it and converted — on another bad spot.

The point is, White came up with a huge play when the Bucs needed it. Had the officials been competent, Tampa Bay would’ve gotten the ball back down 27-17 with nine minutes left. Instead, the Saints took about four more minutes off the clock and effectively ended all of the Bucs’ hope. Regardless, White has been a bright spot over the past month or so, which is exactly what we needed to see after a sickness and an injury held him back early on in the year. The former LSU Tiger is continuing to develop — as a player and a leader — to form a formidable duo with Lavonte David. White claims the full five points this week to impressively pull himself into a top five ranking in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings.

Updated Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 11:

1. Chris Godwin — 18 points

2. Ronald Jones II — 17 points

3. Shaquil Barrett/Jameis Winston — 15 points

4. Mike Evans/Lavonte David — 13 points

5. Devin White — 7 points

6. Jordan Whitehead/Carl Nassib — 6 points

7. Vernon Hargreaves III/Jamel Dean — 5 points

8. Matt Gay/Cameron Brate — 4 points

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

10. Peyton Barber/Alex Cappa/Mike Edwards— 2 points

11. Andrew Adams — 1 point