It’ll be a decade between Week 16 wins for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they take the field on that December day in 2020. And one reason to think they could be a team in position to win next time around, is the plethora of talented youth on the defense.
It was the youth who stepped up in an otherwise ugly appearance by the Bucs this past Saturday against the Houston Texans. And it’s because of them, fans of the franchise can draw a breath or two of hope for the 2020 season.
We’re one more week from the end of this regular season. And we get one more chance to see the rookies in action again. For now though, let’s look at how they did in Week 16 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the Houston Texans.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS ROOKIES
ACTIVE: LB, Noah Dawkins / CB, Jamel Dean / S, Mike Edwards / K, Matt Gay / CB, Sean Murphy-Bunting / OLB, Anthony Nelson / WR, Spencer Schnell / ILB, Devin White / CB, Mazzi Wilkins
INACTIVE: OLB, Kahzin Daniels
ROOKIE OF THE WEEK: CORNERBACK, JAMEL DEAN
Jamel Dean’s stat line ended up being a rather light one. One tackle, one pass defended, and one interception. It’s the quality, not the quantity, which gets him the nod as the Rookie of the Week for Week 16.
Despite the early struggles by Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers offense, it was a 17-10 game nearing halftime. With weapons like DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V, and Kenny Stills, Deshaun Watson was only able to put up ten offensive points with all of the opportunities he was given.
Tampa Bay’s young defense not only stepped up when their team needed them most, they absolutely dominated the Texans’ offense for much of the game. And, just when fans were preparing to usher themselves to the snack stands for intermission, Dean came through with what could have been the biggest play of the game had the Bucs pulled out the win.
After Sean Murphy-Bunting caused a fumble which bounced out of bounds before being recovered, it was Dean who picked of a Watson pass intended for Stills. Not only did he get the ball, but he ran it back 31-yards to give Winston and the offense back the ball on the Houston 39-yard line with forty-two seconds left in the half.
Winston and company made good on the takeaway and an eight-yard completion to Justin Watson, followed by a Matt Gay extra point, tied the game heading into the locker rooms. It was a big shift in the game, in momentum, and gave the Bucs a chance to erase all of the poor play which plagued them early on in the game.
Of course, we know how the story ended. But it shouldn’t diminish the effort and production of Dean and his teammates.
Devin White had a typically strong game himself, bringing down eight ball carriers and recovering a fumble which also could have been a swing play, but was ultimately squandered by the offense.
Murphy-Bunting added four tackles, a pass defended, and was credited with one sack while creating the fumble by Deshaun Watson.
Rookie safety Mike Edwards also had four tackles in the game, and came up with one pass defensed as the Buccaneers defense held Watson under 200-yards passing. The fourth time he’s been held under 200 in 2019.
Matt Gay had one field goal try blocked early in the game, and got pummeled making the tackle on the ensuing return. Other than that, it was another strong outing for the Bucs’ rookie kicker.
With Scotty Miller landing on the injured reserve, Spencer Schnell represented the only offensive rookie in this game. He got just one offensive snap and played eleven on special teams. He did not get a target on that one snap, and returned two punts for three yards while fair catching two others.
As it goes for the game, it went for the rookies. A strong outing for the defense, less than strong for the special teams, and poor showing for the offense.
That’s how Week 16 went when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost at home to the Houston Texans. They’ll get one more crack at winning to end the season, and one more shot to do it in front of the home crowd, before it’s officially draft season.