After a disappointing Thursday Night Football loss to Chicago on Oct. 8, Tampa Bay badly needed to rebound on Sunday against Green Bay. It definitely didn’t look good early, with the visitors moving up and down the field in the first quarter en route to a double-digit lead after 15 minutes. But one big play by the Buccaneer defense flipped a switch and led to a 38-0 run to end the game. It was a massive result for Tampa Bay ahead of a trip to Las Vegas.
A reminder of how this works, for anyone who hasn’t been around in 2018 or 2019: Each week, I’ll rank the top five Bucs of the Week and assign them point values, which will determine their place in the “Buccaneers of the Week Standings.” No. 5 gets one point, No. 4 gets two and so on. The 2018 Buccaneer of the Year was Mike Evans, while Shaquil Barrett was the 2019 Buccaneer of the Year. OK, let’s get it going.
Tom Brady was efficient enough to get the job done on Sunday afternoon, completing 17 of his 27 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over... Rob Gronkowski came very close to earning his first Bucs of the Week points with his performance on Sunday, as he led the Bucs with five catches for 78 yards for his first touchdown of the year... Once the game was out of hand, rookie running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn did a great job of burning clock, totaling 42 yards on five carries (8.4 yards per carry)... Rookie Tyler Johnson caught his first career touchdown in the win... The Tampa Bay offensive line was phenomenal in the game, opening gaps for the run game and protecting Brady well. The unit allowed no sacks and just four quarterback hits... Ryan Succop was perfect on his extra point attempts and nailed a 50-yard field goal, his longest of the season...
William Gholston totaled three quarterback hits in the game, continuing his strong 2020 season... Ndamukong Suh was a tone setter for the Buccaneer defense on Sunday, providing an intimidating presence up front. It was sorely needed for the team’s run defense, especially with Vita Vea. The veteran picked up a sack at the end of the first half, sending the Bucs into the locker room with a 28-10 lead... Carlton Davis is another player who could’ve cracked the top five, considering he finished with four passes defended, one of which resulted in a Tampa Bay interception... Speaking of that interception, Mike Edwards found himself in the right spot as soon as he came in for an injured Antoine Winfield Jr., intercepting the tipped ball and returning it near the goal line to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
5. Jason Pierre-Paul (One point)
Plenty of attention was paid this offseason to the fact that the Bucs brought Shaquil Barrett back on the franchise tag. And that was deserved, as Barrett was the league’s sack leader in 2019. But perhaps not enough was said about the team retaining Jason Pierre-Paul, who is huge for the defense both in terms of production and leadership. The veteran pass rusher has been consistently impressive this season, and he made a big difference on Sunday. He finished the game with 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits on top of six total tackles (two solo). Pierre-Paul is now up to 5.5 sacks through six games this season, proving that, at 31 years old, he can still make a big impact week in and week out.
Things weren’t looking good early for Tampa Bay, especially on defense. The Packers drove down the field on their first two drives, getting a field goal on the game’s opening drive and scoring a touchdown on the second with relative ease. But then Todd Bowles decided to flip Pierre-Paul and Barrett, which turned out to be a massively successful decision. The defense dominated from that point on, with JPP helping lead the way. While Barrett hasn’t been the same guy so far in 2020, Pierre-Paul is more than doing his part for the pass rush. He earns a point in this week’s standings after his big game against a tough offensive line.
4. Ronald Jones II (Two points)
The Buccaneer offense was more opportunistic than anything for most of Sunday’s game, but when it was putting together drives and keeping the ball out of the hands of the Green Bay offense, it was largely thanks to Ronald Jones II. The third-year running back once again carried the load for the backfield with Leonard Fournette still sidelined and LeSean McCoy serving more as a third-down complement. On 23 carries, Jones went for 113 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and breaking free for a long of 25 yards. He was the star of the offense for Tampa Bay, and in a game that involved another running back named Jones on the other side of the field, RoJo had the far bigger impact. That’s impressive, too, considering how prolific the other Jones has been over the last couple of years.
It’s been quite some time since the Bucs have had a formidable rushing attack, but it’s starting to feel like they finally have one again. Jones has been the offense’s breakout star so far this season, consistently running hard and providing Tampa Bay with spark after spark. On Sunday, he became the fourth Buc ever to rush for 100-plus yards in three straight games, joining Doug Martin (2015), Cadillac Williams (2005) and James Wilder (1984-85). That’s elite company when it comes to Tampa Bay running backs, and it’s looking more and more like Jones is going to be a key piece in this offense the rest of this year and into the future. It was a tough week to crack the top five this week, so he only gets the two points this time around. Any other week, he probably earns four or five. But with two, he keeps himself near the top of the season standings.
3. Jamel Dean (Three points)
Just when things were looking dire for Tampa Bay early in Sunday’s game, it was the defense that turned things around. More specifically, it was second-year cornerback Jamel Dean flipping momentum. With the Packers leading 10-0 and taking over after another punt by the Bucs’ offense, Dean stepped in front of an Aaron Rodgers pass, picked it off and took it 32 yards the other way for a touchdown. The score brought the Bucs within three points, providing them with the spark they needed after a rough start to the afternoon. Dean was also solid in coverage, holding his own against a strong Green Bay passing attack. Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade of 92.7 for his performance, making him the highest-graded Buc of the game. Plus, it was his second straight week with a grade of 92-plus.
The Bucs’ young corners have been pretty solid all year long, but Sunday was especially impressive from the group. Dean, Davis and Edwards combined for six passes defended against one of the game’s very best in Rodgers. A typical Buccaneer secondary from any other year likely would’ve been torn apart by the future Hall of Famer, but this secondary is different. These young guys have taken that preseason No. 32 ranking from NFL.com to heart so far in the first six games, and they’ve made that ranking look absolutely silly. Dean may very well be the Bucs’ best corner at this point, as he is certainly delivering at a high level week after week. For his game-changing pick six on Sunday—which was just the third pick six of Rodgers’ entire career—Dean gets three points in the Bucs of the Week Standings.
2. Devin White (Four points)
There was plenty of talk about Devin White heading into Sunday’s game at Ray Jay, thanks to his request to be unleashed on Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense. He was a topic on last Wednesday’s episode of The Pack-A-Day Podcast over at CheesheadTV (on which yours truly was a guest), as well as last week’s edition of The North & South Podcast. White proved on Sunday that he had reason to be confident, leading the team in tackles with 10 (nine solo), and picking up a sack, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. Simply put, White’s fingerprints were all over the dominant day from the Tampa Bay defense, as well as the 38-10 win as a whole.
Any time you make headlines ahead of a big-time matchup, it’s important that you deliver when kickoff rolls around. White certainly did that, making life miserable for anyone on the Green Bay offense. He was flying all over the field, consistently working his way into the backfield and moving to wherever the ball was. If there was a big play to be made on a key down, the Bucs were able to rely on the second-year linebacker a majority of the time. It was huge for White to bounce back after a few quiet weeks, especially after he publicly said he wanted to be unleashed against the Packers’ potent offense. Well, Todd Bowles did unleash him and it paid off. Four points for No. 45 this week means a jump to the top of the season standings.
1. Lavonte David (Five points)
There may not have been a better player anywhere inside Raymond James Stadium on Sunday than Lavonte David. The veteran linebacker was a force for the Tampa Bay defense, playing a significant role in the team’s ability to harass Aaron Rodgers all game long. David finished the day with eight tackles (six solo), 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in total. Like his partner in crime White, No. 54 was making plays all over the place for Tampa Bay. He was a huge part of keeping Aaron Jones to just 15 yards on 10 carries, plus the Packers as a team only totaled 94 rushing yards. Dating back to last year, Sunday was the 12th straight game in which the Buccaneer defense held its opponent under 100 yards on the ground. Without David, the group probably doesn’t extend that streak.
David, who has long been one of the NFL’s most underrated players, is finally getting some love this year. Now, no amount of spotlight in 2020 is going to make up for the eight previous seasons in which he was ignored on a national scale, but it’s good to see him getting his praise this year. On Sunday, he was big not only against the run but also in the pass rush. Without Vita Vea on the interior of their defensive line, the Bucs were going to have to find another way to get pressure up the middle. Enter David (as well as White). Blitzes from the inside linebackers were a major reason for the constant discomfort that Rodgers found himself in, and we should see more of those going forward. Lavonte David takes home the full five points this week, fittingly putting him in a first-place tie with Devin White atop the season standings.
2020 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 6:
- Lavonte David/Devin White — 11 points
- Ronald Jones II — 10 points
- Antoine Winfield Jr. — 8 points
- Tom Brady — 7 points
- Mike Evans — 6 points
- Leonard Fournette/Shaquil Barrett/Scotty Miller — 5 points
- Ryan Succop — 4 points
- Mike Edwards/William Gholston/Jamel Dean — 3 points
- Chris Godwin/Jordan Whitehead/Vita Vea — 2 points
- Sean Murphy-Bunting/Carlton Davis/Jason Pierre-Paul — 1 point