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Buccaneers @ Cowboys: Preseason Game 4 Instant Reactions

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Defense continues to punish opponents early in games.

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The starters were hanging out on the sidelines in this one but that doesn’t mean this game isn’t important. Quite contrarily, many of these players are fighting for their NFL livelihoods with big roster cuts looming in the near future. Let’s dive in and take a look at the two units and how things played out.

First Half Offense

Oof... things were not pretty overall. Ryan Griffin had a rough time standing upright and delivering the football without getting hit. Shocking... I know. The offensive line looked over—matched quite often in this game early on. The supporting cast put in position to help pick up blitzers and chip edge rushers didn’t offer much help either. Dare Ogunbawale had some early game struggles in pass protection, one of which left Griffin out to dry. Tanner Hudson got blown up as well in this one as he continues to struggle when asked to block.

Hudson did have the lone offensive highlight in the first half as he was on the receiving end of the lone Buccaneer touchdown from Ryan Griffin. Dare Ogunbawale did flash some more good footwork and feel for finding running lanes. Backup back Andre Ellington did some nice things catching the ball out of the backfield against the Cowboys second unit in this game.

Receiver wise there just wasn’t much to bloat about. Scotty Miller has been as hyped up as anyone and just hasn’t shown any reason to believe in said hype game play wise. Ryan Griffin did a good job spreading the ball around but the fact was, most of the damage was done by tight ends and running backs who in total, accounted for 6 of Griffins 9 completions. Griffin finished his night 9 of 11 from the field with both incomplete passes coming on interceptions, one of which was a tipped pass.

With Griffin out and Vincent Testaverde in, the offensive air attack came to a screeching halt in the 2nd quarter. Testaverde was 0-2 prior to the half with one of his two attempts being an interception.

First Half Defense

The Buccaneer defense came out on fire. This has been a theme this preseason and boy is it ever nice to say out loud. Defense is back in Tampa Bay. Shaq Barrett led the charge in this one and the dominance was noticeable.

Barrett got things started when he and Noah Spence both beat their respective men off the edge with Barrett pushing the quarterback into Spece. With the pocket collapsed, Mike White fumbled the football and Jack Cichy picked it right up to give the Buccaneers offense the ball inside their opponents 10 yard line.

Fast forward to the next series and the defense cranked things up again. This time, it was Barrett and Spence blowing up the edge with Patrick O’Conner powering his way up the middle for a combination sack of Mike White.

Jack Cichy, already with a fumble recovery, got into the sack mix as the defense sent two edge defenders crossing, throwing off the offensive line and opening up a gaping hole for Cichy to wreck Mike White as he raced up the gut untouched to the quarterback.

The defensive backs were again playing mostly solid coverage allowing the front 7 to work their magic. Sean Murphy-Bunting did have some struggles though and he hasn’t had the easiest transition to this point. The biggest takeaway on the defensive side is that the players appear to be really enjoying themselves this preseason. The energy is sky high and it’s resonating all over the place.

Second Half Football

Defensively, Emmanuel Smith and De’Vante Harris had strong starts with Smith batting away a pass over the middle and Harris nearly jumping a route for an interception. Harris couldn’t keep his hands on the football but did ensure the incomplete pass. Harris had another dropped interception earlier in the ballgame. Smith would eventually make a bone-headed play as he hit an opponent as he was out of bounds for a 15 yard penalty.

Offensively the roster is thin at this point in the ball game but fans who stayed watching were given a mini highlight by Spencer Schnell. Schnell pulled out all the moves in route to a first down catch and run while receiving a 15 yard face mask penalty tacked on to the end.

Following up the Schnell play, later in the drive Bruce Anderson put in some serious work running the football. Anderson had a big 20 yard run on 2nd and 21, then got the first on the following play pounding thru the middle. Anderson finished off the drive with a short touchdown run. Impressive drive on the ground for Anderson.

The Buccaneer defense started to give a little at the end of the 3rd/start of the 4th quarter but a Cowboy fumble and some unusual happenings turned the ball back over to the Buccaneers. Things just feel to be falling in favor of the Buccaneers more and more often when this defense is on the field.

After the fumble recovery, Testaverde and the offense got back at it and Tanner Hudson continued to find a way to get open. Hudson sure seems like a guy that despite his inefficiencies as a blocker, should make this roster as a 3rd or 4th tight end.

Back on defense as the game wound down, Mazzi Wilkins who is from the Tampa area after graduating from Plant High School and attending the University of South Florida, made some nice plays including a great open field tackle near the line of scrimmage. Corey Nelson would end the Cowboys drive in this series with a big quarterback sack as the Dallas offense went for it on 4th and 5. Intensity level hasn’t dropped a bit on the Buccaneer defense.