With every week and every game, there’s a new opportunity for the newest Tampa Bay Buccaneers to make their mark and earn not only the praise of fans, but more opportunities in the future.
This week against the Carolina Panthers was no different as the 2019 rookie class in Tampa Bay got their first taste of NFC South divisional football on top of playing their first career game in primetime.
The Bucs came away with the victory, but we’re here to look at a specific batch of players, so let’s get to it.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS ROOKIES
(G, Zack Bailey) / CB, Jamel Dean / S, Mike Edwards / K, Matt Gay / (WR, Scotty Miller) / CB, Sean Murphy-Bunting / OLB, Anthony Nelson / ILB, Devin White
ROOKIE OF THE GAME: OLB, ANTHONY NELSON
With 4:25 remaining in the third quarter of their Week 2 Thursday Night Football match-up against the Carolina Panthers, the Buccaneers offense scored a touchdown when running back Peyton Barber rumbled and stumbled his way 16-yards into the end zone. The score gave the visiting Bucs a 17-12 lead after Matt Gay added the extra point, but the job wasn’t done.
The defense had already been building what was going to be considered a strong outing for the Todd Bowles led unit. The only question at this point was whether or not the defense could continue to carry the team, and get them across the finish line with the victory in hand.
On the following Panthers drive, it seemed the defense had come up with a huge play when back-up linebacker Kevin Minter came down with a Cam Newton pass intended for wide receiver D.J. Moore. However, a holding penalty against Carlton Davis who had been covering Moore, negated the takeaway and gave Carolina another chance on top of the five-yards they got for the penalty.
But it was rookie outside linebacker, Anthony Nelson who came through with a ‘ball don’t lie’ kind of moment just two plays later.
On 2nd and 7, Newton attempted to run the ball up the middle of the field where he was met by Nelson and veteran inside linebacker Lavonte David. It was Nelson’s hit that dislodged the ball however, getting the rookie his first credited forced fumble in his career.
The forced fumble was recovered by Ndamukong Suh, and really snuffed out Carolina’s attempts at building consistent momentum against the Buccaneers defense.
It was the only tackle Nelson was credited with, but he also chipped in with a pass deflection while playing 27 defensive snaps in his first primetime game as an NFL linebacker.
In contrast, Mike Edwards played the most snaps of any rookie for the visiting Buccaneers as he appeared on 72 of a possible 79. This is a big increase in playing time after Edwards, who missed a lot of time in the preseason, played just four defensive snaps in Week 1.
While he didn’t force any turnovers like his linebacker classmate, Edwards did contribute three tackles in the winning effort and looks like he’ll be a big contributor to the back end of the Tampa Bay defense now that he’s healthy again and getting more experience in Bowles’ system.
The only other defensive rookies to record statistical data were Sean Murphy-Bunting who had one special teams tackle while playing on zero defensive snaps, and linebacker Devin White who had two tackles before leaving the game with a sprained left knee.
Kicker, Matt Gay continues to solidify fans hopes the team has finally solved their kicking problems making two of his three field goal tries and both of his extra points. In a six point victory, Gay’s eight point night certainly helped the team even their record at 1-1.
CAROLINA PANTHERS ROOKIES
LB/DE, Brian Burns / OT, Dennis Daley / (QB, Will Grier) / LB, Jordan Kunaszyk / (OT, Greg Little) / LB/DE, Christian Miller / RB, Jordan Scarlett / K, Joey Slye
ROOKIE OF THE GAME: K, JOEY SLYE
Carolina Panthers rookie Joey Slye represents all twelve of the points stemming off of offensive possessions. And his team couldn’t be more upset about it. In fact, quarterback Cam Newton called it, “embarrassing”.
Now, obviously the team is happy Slye made all four of his field goal tries ranging from 32-yards all the way out to 54. Having a kicker who can make his kicks consistently and under the bright lights of Thursday Night, then they have a weapon they can lean on.
The problem is, Carolina was forced to lean on him way too many times. If an offense gets into scoring range five times, they expect to come away with touchdowns on at least three of those trips realistically.
It’s too bad, because the rookie missed a field goal in his first career game which contributed to the team’s three-point loss to the Los Angeles Rams. So coming back and going four for four just four days later, really would have been sweet redemption for Slye had the team come away with a win.
Still, six for seven to start his career in field goals is a pretty good start and something the Virginia Tech product should be proud about.
Offensive lineman, Dennis Daley played just one snap on offense and added four on special teams while running back Jordan Scarlett did not play for the Carolina Panthers.
The rookie who appeared on the field the most Week 2 for this team was rookie DE/LB Brian Burns who came out of Florida State and was drafted by Carolina with the 16th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Burns, who was the focus of our Panthers player profile leading into Week 2, played on 66% of the defense’s snaps (43) while contributing eleven snaps to special teams as well. In just his second game as a professional football player, Burns gave his team three tackles and got his first career NFL sack.
He also got two additional hits on Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. Burns has looked good in his first two NFL appearances, and certainly has a high ceiling he’ll be looking to get closer and closer to reaching each week he can stay healthy and get on the field.
Christian Miller also got six reps on defense for the Panthers, but didn’t record any statistical data on those snaps. Fellow linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk got fifteen special teams snaps and offensive lineman Dennis Daley played just one snap on offense and added four on special teams while running back Jordan Scarlett did not play for the Carolina Panthers.
The disappointment of the week is going to come in the form of Devin White’s injury which cost him the majority of the game. Good news is, it’s not expected to cost him much - if any - of the remaining regular season games, while the team has a day-to-day designation on him for now.
With the extended break due to the short week the Buccaneers and Panthers had ahead of this game, all of their players - but especially the rookies - will get a big opportunity to study some extra film and build off of their struggles and successes up to this point.
For the Panthers, they now travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals in Week 3. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they get to go home for the last time until November 10th, as they get set to host the New York Giants.