Preseason Week 3 finally came and went as fans got to see the first team offense and defense play a full half versus the lone series they got in each of the first two games. The offense faced a formidable front seven from Cleveland and the defense got to face the Baker Mayfield led new-look Browns offense.
With each side getting a full half of football in, let’s take a different approach to this weeks instant reactions and dive into both sides by half. Up first, the first team offense and their first half of football.
First Half Offense
Jameis Winston and the offense took the field in what should have been a nice tune up game before the regular season. They left the field at the half with more questions than answers and some far too familiar issues from seasons past. Issues started up front and if we’re all honest with ourselves, we knew that the single drives from the first two games that they performed well were a farce.
The offensive line, while relatively the same exact group with another season of continuity under their belts, has always been a sore spot on this team. The group struggled to provide protection and running lanes to the complete demise of the entire offense. Winston was left on his back 5 times with sacks and quickly began looking like bad Jameis in this ball game.
Winston had a wide open Breshad Perriman streaking down the line that he not only didn’t connect on, he flat out threw it out of play. Something we regularly see from Winston when he begins pressing. Another pass flew incomplete that could have easily been picked and before you knew it, the offense looked no better now than it did with Koetter. Winston finished 9 of 19 from the field when his half ended.
The lone bright spot on offense in the first half was Chris Godwin who finished with 4 grabs for 52 yards, including a 20 yarder. The big play came on a quick screen that Godwin took down the line for the big gain. The play can be found below.
The running backs struggled to find space behind some poor offensive line play in this one. Barber looked average at best on his 3 carries, struggling to find any positive yardage with a big run of 3 yards to finish with... well 3 yards. Ronald Jones on the other hand... well yeah basically the same. Jones did finish with more yards, 8 total in fact on 4 carries and a long of 6.
The offense didn’t live up to expectations in this one but alas, it’s still the preseason and there is still time to get things in order. The staff is still working it’s magic and big things are to be expected when the offense gets back Mike Evans.
First Half Defense
The defense on the other hand... impressive. Todd Bowles appears to have made an immediate impact on the defense all around. The ferocity to which the players are flying about the field is simply refreshing to see. The team had Baker Mayfield in shambles and unable to find any consistency.
The front 7 were very active early on in this one with Rakeem Nuñez-Roches netting a sack in the first quarter. Noah Spence showed his speed off the edge and the pressure Bowles defense sent up the middle caused some chaos for Mayfield and company. Carl Nassib had himself another solid game but also will find himself on the interwebs after this would be sack.
M.J. Stewart got into the action with a nice pass break up as the defense brought some of that pressure in the 1st quarter. The defensive backs were alive and well in this ball game as the young unit looks to build confidence heading into week 1.
It wasn’t just MJ Stewart getting his hands on the football as the defense was able to get a takeaway prior to the half ending. Jordan Whitehead, who has been all over the place this preseason in what looks like the makings of a big season for him, made the interception off of Baker Mayfield.
When the half ended, the Buccaneer defense had dominated Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns offense. Mayfield would add one more incomplete pass but the stat line here says it all.
Second Half of Football
With both sets of starters out and the depth guys in the ball game, things managed to get a bit interesting. Ryan Griffin got some more playing time than he most likely anticipated as Blaine Gabbert went down with an injury.
Griffin to this point has looked like the superior passer which shouldn’t be all too surprising given Gabbert’s past of ineptitude. Nonetheless, the injury is something to keep an eye on as one would have expected to see Gabbert as the veteran backup going into the season.
Dare Ogunbowale got into the game and did his thing and some, adding a very nice blitz pickup on what turned out to be a 20 yard touchdown pass. Andre Ellington bounced back a bit but sure looks like the odd man out at the time with Ogunbowale just looking like the fresher more impact worthy option behind Jones and Barber.
Jordan Leggett was the beneficiary on Dare’s blitz pickup as the tight end caught the pass for the touchdown. The depth at tight end from a pass catching perspective has been down right impressive early on for this team.
On defense, it’s worth noting that Noah Spence played into the 4th quarter and surprisingly put together a spin move to get into the backfield, albeit against guys competing for roster spots.
Wrapping it up
Overall, the team is about where fans should have expected them though admittedly the roles may be reversed. Where the offense in retrospect should have been expected to look good to this point while the defense comes along slowly, after this ballgame it’s quite the opposite.
Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwhich have a lot of work to do on offense to ensure Winston is protected and playing level headed, not pressing. Getting this offensive line to perform may be the achilles heel this season.
On the other side, Todd Bowles appears to be working magic. With a front 7 that is patch work built at best and backfield that is practically out of college, it’s impressive to see them shut down a dynamic young quarterback. There’s a lot of work left, but the early goings are giving fans hope.
With Week 4 coming up and the regular season around the corner, it’ll be interesting to see how some of the position battles shake out.