For the second straight week the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played a preseason game at home, and won said game on a late field goal from rookie Matt Gay.
Before the game, we identified six players to keep watch over, and here’s how those guys did in their Week 3 opportunities.
SAFETY, DARIAN STEWART
Since we still don’t have a picture in the library of Darian Stewart in a Bucs uniform, enjoy this profile shot of Bruce Arians.
Anyway, it may have been a little unorthodox to have a second-team defender as a focal point in a third preseason game, but Stewart isn’t your average second-teamer.
He’s a former Pro Bowl veteran who signed on with the Bucs amidst a rash of injuries hitting the top portion of their safety group.
While Stewart didn’t play with the first team on Friday, he did play well when he was on the field. What has become kind of a trend for defensive backs is either making good headlines or no headlines. Sort of a ‘no news is good news’ type of situation.
Jordan Whitehead has done nothing to doubt his starting job, in fact he solidified it a bit more with his interception against Baker Mayfield, and depending on the health of Mike Edwards, we could see Stewart’s role continue to grow on this defense.
GUARD, ALEX CAPPA
Have you ever had a bad day at work? I think we all have, right? But, have you ever had that bad day broadcast on national primetime television for the entire world to see? Alex Cappa has.
Truth be told, if Friday is the worst professional day of his career, he’ll count himself among the blessed when it’s all said and done. Guarantee he doesn’t feel blessed this Saturday though.
Victory Saturday just doesn’t feel as good when you know the team won in spite of you.
So, it didn't go well. This might be an understatement. It was a disaster. Cappa was a player to watch because of the defensive front he was facing.
Cleveland’s defensive front is head and shoulders above any front the second-year lineman has seen up to this point in 2019.
The best coaches know how to turn struggle and even failure into growth, Harold Goodwin will have no shortage of teaching opportunities after Friday night.
Coach Arians was asked about the offensive line performance, and he didn’t beat around the bush, saying, “They got their asses kicked. One-on-one. Simple.”
Cappa wasn’t alone in having a rough night up front, but his struggles are the most evident and concerning.
Next week is another chance to get better, but it’s the last they’ll have before the wins and losses are permanent.
CORNERBACKS, VERNON HARGREAVES III AND CARLTON DAVIS III
The broadcast team covering the game between the Buccaneers and the Browns recalled a conversation they had with coach Arians ahead of the game, in which Arians stated Carlton Davis III was his best cover guy on the team. High praise, and well deserved as Davis has taken his opportunities in his second professional season and really elevated his game.
#Bucs CB Carlton Davis has definitely taken his game up a step this year. He's processing and recognizing things much faster. Just needs to get that mentality to grab interceptions instead of just pass break ups. He's in position to, at times, and just doesn't go for it.— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) August 24, 2019
Vernon Hargreaves III has had a solid camp and preseason, even if he didn’t have the highlight pass break-up that Davis did.
It was a little disappointing to not have either Odell Beckham Jr. or Jarvis Landry on the field for Cleveland Friday night, but the performances of these two cornerbacks was impressive nonetheless.
Mayfield struggled to hit his receivers all night, and while some of this was certainly influenced by other factors, like the Tampa Bay pass rush, the secondary made sure the quarterback never had an easy throw to make downfield.
If they can stick to opponents and play with the same aggressive nature in the regular season, then this unit looks echelons higher than the unit we saw in 2018.
Davis and Hargreaves have been big reasons why, thus far.
WIDE RECEIVER, JUSTIN WATSON
When the news broke that Mike Evans would not be playing Friday night, we speculated on the Locked On Bucs Podcast just who might benefit from the added opportunities at the wide receiver position.
Bobo Wilson, Scotty Miller and Justin Watson were all players expected to get chances with the first team offense as Evans sat out with his injury. But in the end Watson was the odd man out.
This doesn’t mean he didn’t get on the field. In fact Watson had more offensive snaps than any other Bucs player against the Browns.
On 44 snaps though, Watson was targeted just twice and made both receptions for a total of 21-yards.
Not a banner weekend for our offensive players to watch, but they were on the list because of the potential to do well and the potential to do poorly.
Watson needed a big game if he hoped to stay relevant in the wide receiver depth battle, but it appears Miller and Wilson have a clear edge over Watson with one week left before the team has to trim the roster.
CORNERBACK, JAMEL DEAN
Selected as a player to watch by Bucs Nation readers, Jamel Dean got nearly half of your votes coming into the game.
Coming off of his first NFL interception, he’s certainly one of the better stories of the year thus far for the Buccaneers.
The same rule applies for Dean that applies to his defensive back mates. Dean isn’t grabbing a lot of headlines following this latest outing, but that’s a good thing as much as it might be disappointing.
Dean had a chance at another interception but just couldn’t bring it in, and had very good coverage on an end zone shot in the second half, arguably causing the receiver to come down out of bounds with the pass instead of inbounds due to Dean’s coverage.
Overall, the Tampa Bay secondary was a big question mark heading into training camp, but has emerged as one of the more competent and confident looking groups as we near the end of August.
Fellow Bucs Nation writer, Evan Winter, sat down with me to discuss Friday night’s win by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Listen in to the conversation on the Locked On Bucs Podcast!