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Buccaneers at Steelers: Preseason Game 1 Instant Reactions

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The wait is over, football is officially back. Let’s react.

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the wait is officially over Buccaneers fans... how do we feel? We’ll take a look at the offense and defense as well as some special teams. We’ll comment on the play as well as some of the play calling.

Now on with it.

The Buccaneers won the toss and elected to receive, giving fans an immediate glimpse as to what they can expect come the regular season. Bruce Arians promised change and the first drive gave fans a reason to be excited. Byron Leftwhich orchestrated a beautifully called touchdown drive with Jameis Winston at the helm. The first team offense went right up the field with little push back from the Steelers defense.

Jameis Winston looked poised and magnificent in his 2019 debut. The Buccaneer quarterback finished the day 5-of-6 passing with 40 yards and a touchdown pass to Chris Godwin. Winston got rid of the ball quick and the play calling couldn’t have been better designed. Aside from a missed deep throw, Winston was doing everything right. No play made myself smile more than watching Winston with the heat on, defenders in his face, pull the ball down while looking down field and simply scramble for the first. Being smart with the football is going to be key this season, especially with a defense that in all likelihood will be struggling to stop a nose bleed let alone an opposing offense.

The backup quarterbacks were just that... back up material. Blaine Gabbert had himself a Gabbert moment early on as he nearly threw a pick against good coverage. Gabbert received a roughing the passer call on the play to keep the drive going thankfully. Ryan Griffin got the lions share of the work with it being Week 1 and he did what a veteran in the league should do against 3rd and 4th stringers.

At running back, Peyton Barber got the starting nod as expected and played as he always does... solid. Barber had a good blitz pickup and three good runs. It was Ronald Jones however, who grabbed the spotlight with his 4 runs for 18 yards to go with his reception on a designed screen. The play only went for 5 yards, but it was the fact that Jones caught the pass that will make the headlines. Jones is coming off a pathetic rookie campaign and the fact is, he finally had something to smile about coming out of this ball game. Andre Ellington got his first game action in over a year and appeared to be about average all while Dare Ogunbowale got plenty of opportunities to make a case for himself. Dare scored a pair of touchdowns including a last minute touchdown to pull the Buccaneers to within 2.

The Buccaneers showed off their receiving talent in this one and it started early on the first drive with Winston finding Breshad Perriman for the first 1st down of the season. Three plays later and Perriman again was the target on a deep pass down the sideline but Winston couldn’t connect. Seven plays after that, Chris Godwin got into the mix, taking a screen for a touchdown. Godwin shook off a defender after the catch and one thing that showed early on in this game was that the Buccaneer receiving core is a lot to handle for opposing defenses.

The offensive line looked solid on the opening drive, opening lanes for both running backs and giving Winston a good amount of time to read the defense and deliver the football. It’s early, very early, but the linemen’s play was a nice sight to see.

Taking things to the defensive side of the football and quickly it showed that it was a mixed bag of results. Starting things off was Jordan Whitehead who blasted his way into the backfield on the opening play for the defense, making a tackle for a loss. Things instantly turned around as the very next play the same defense got zero pressure up front giving Joshua Dobbs eons worth of time to find his man down field with Vernon Hargreaves in coverage.

The defensive front had a few plays here and there that were nice, none more so than William Gholston blowing up his man en route to a Dobbs sack by Deone Buchanon. Noah Spence flashed some incredible athleticism early on and even made a play against the run. It was a positive showing for the most part by Spence, who sadly will mostly be remembered by head coach Bruce Arians by his boneheaded penalty that negated an early interception.

Devin White is about all there was by way of linebackers with Lavonte David. White was constantly seen around the football and was a missile up the middle on what ended up being an early sack by teammates. White certainly appeared to enjoy his limited time on the field in week one.

The sole focus on the secondary for myself today was none other than Vernon Hargreaves III. VH3 got toasted on a deep play early on but made a quick turn around of things with what should have been a drive killing interception that was unfortunately called by thanks to a Noah Spence penalty. Whitehead made a solid play early on but it wasn’t all rainbows after that. In fairness, it’s tough to blame the secondary too much when the reality is the defensive front struggled to put pressure on the Pittsburgh quarterbacks.

The special teams did an alright job in this game and one can’t ignore the fact that rookie Matt Gay nailed a 55 yard field goal in the first half.

As for the final reaction... I give you this. It’s a start. The play calling and creativity both on offense and defense was a breath of fresh air. There is a clear difference in how things will be done this season. If the offense can execute like it did against Pittsburgh on a week to week basis, this team will be in good position to make some noise this year. That was the positive, now for the negative.

Depth... yuck. This team is lacking depth and to be honest, it appears it’s lacking a defensive front in general. No Vita Vea and no Jason Pierre-Paul is a lot to overcome. Vea will eventually be back, so will Lavonte David.