In Week 14, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started rough, got better, then turned downward again, and ultimately finished on top of the Indianapolis Colts to get their third straight win and fourth in the last five game.
The rookie performances in this game mirrored the tempo of the game. Some good moments, some bad, and ultimately just enough to get the job done.
Let’s take a look at how the first year players did when the Bucs hosted the Colts.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS ROOKIES
ACTIVE: LB, Noah Dawkins / CB, Jamel Dean / S, Mike Edwards / K, Matt Gay / CB, Sean Murphy-Bunting / OLB, Anthony Nelson / ILB, Devin White / CB, Mazzi Wilkins
INACTIVE: OLB, Kahzin Daniels / WR, Scotty Miller
ROOKIE OF THE WEEK: ILB, DEVIN WHITE
While he’s not likely to win his second straight - and third overall - Bucs Nation Community Player of the Week Award this week, Devin White was yet again a big part of the reason his Buccaneers came out victorious.
Specifically, the play pictured above where White very intelligently stuck his hand in at the ball as Colts running back Nyheim Hines was falling to the ground. The effort resulted in a fumble, recovered by fellow rookie Mike Edwards, and stopped the Colts offense on a drive where they had the momentum and were looking for a score which would have made it extremely difficult for Tampa Bay to come back from.
Outside of the forced fumble, White had a relatively quiet afternoon compared to his recent outings, and he recorded five tackles on the day. Edwards had three tackles to go with his fumble recovery.
Scotty Miller’s absence left the offense rookie-less, while Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean combined for three tackles and one pass defended between the pair.
Matt Gay came through with five extra points in five tries, helping get his team to the three point win.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS ROOKIES
ACTIVE: DE, Ben Banogu / WR, Parris Campbell / WR, Ashton Dulin / K, Chase McLaughlin / LB, Bobby Okereke / CB, Marvell Tell III / S, Khari Willis / CB, Rock Ya-Sin
INACTIVE: LB, E.J. Speed
ROOKIE OF THE GAME: S, KHARI WILLIS
Colts rookies didn’t jump off the screen as much as Bucs rookies did, even though Tampa Bay’s didn’t quite do as well as they had in recent games.
One player who jumps off the stat sheet at least, is safety Khari Willis, who led the Colts in tackles with eleven (nine solo). He also got a hit on Jameis Winston during Sunday’s contest.
While he didn’t come up with any of the splash plays, Willis was a steady presence for an Indianapolis squad who gave up points, or got a turnover on every Buccaneers possession but two.
Rookie receiver Parris Campbell returned to action after breaking his hand earlier in the season, but gained just twelve yards on three catches on five targets. He has since been placed on injured reserve, ending his first NFL season with three games to go.
Kicker Chase McLaughlin had a good game, but not good enough, especially considering his team lost by just three points and the rookie missed his last field goal try of the day.
Two for three on field goals and four for four on extra points is a good day for any kicker. Just wasn’t good enough on that one.
Rookie cornerback Rock Ya-Sin contributed four tackles in the losing effort, but also came up with a pass defensed and recovered the first quarter fumble by Bucs running back Dare Ogunbowale.
Fellow rookie defensive back Marvell Tell III turned in one special teams tackle of his own, and Bobby Okereke had three total tackles, including one on special teams as well.
Ben Banogu played on 18 defensive snaps, but didn’t tally any statistical data in Week 14.
Thirteen down for the 2019 NFL Rookie Class overall, with three games left to play. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have relied heavily on first-year players in defense and will continue to do so. They’ll have to look towards rookie wide receiver Scotty Miller a little more through the final three games as well, as the Bucs lost Mike Evans for the remainder of the season in their Week 14 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Like we always do, we’ll keep an eye on the rookies, in hopes they’re signs of a new culture of winning for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.