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Arians offers takeaways after Bucs preseason opener

Tampa Bay’s head coach voices his thoughts on several aspects of the team following Saturday’s game

Cincinnati Bengals v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, well-known for his candor, stayed true to form Sunday during a media session following the team’s 19-14 defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday.

Arians’s answers give some potential insight to the futures of some notable Buccaneers. Here are some of the highlights...

  • In addition to being pleased with RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn on offense, Arians also offered praise to the second-year running back’s performance as a gunner on special teams.

“A couple of guys like Ke’Shawn [Vaughn] on special teams really showed up. Looking at the stuff we record speed with, he hit 21 MPH covering that kick, which he has never hit that kind of speed. He might have more juice in the tank than that. That showed he beat their starting vice. For his first time, that was good.”

If Vaughn wants to stick on the roster as the fourth running back and not be a consistent healthy scratch on game days, he’ll need to continue to display improvement on special teams assignments while maximizing his offensive touches. No matter what happens, he’ll remain firmly behind Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, and Gio Bernard in the backfield.

  • Arians expressed optimism for joint practices with the Tennessee Titans this week, which will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, ahead of their game on Saturday. Those practices might lead to resting more players.

“You get so much situational work that you might not get in the game. It’s great to go up against different people, especially teams that are physical. I really look forward to it. Mike [Vrabel] and I have a great agreement that neither one of us condones fighting. There’s not going to be any of that kind of crap. It’s just get better, make each other better and have two really good, solid days. I think the physicality of those two practices will probably determine whether or not we play anybody in this game because I don’t want them to hitting Wednesdays and Thursdays and then going back and hitting again on Saturday. We’ll wait and see on that part, but we’ll get so much done – two-minute drills, red zone work and all the things you might not get in a preseason game.”

  • Arians emphasized the need for strong tackling and consistent special teams play from backup inside linebackers competing for a roster spot, such as Grant Stuard, K.J. Britt, and Joseph Jones.

“Do a better job of tackling on defense. Again, it’s going to come down to special teams – who are the core special teams guys? When you talk about special teams, you’re talking about 20 to 35 plays a game that those guys are out there. They’re a huge part of it. It’s not just defense, but in those instances, it’s probably tackling and just good assignment football – staying in your gap and making it happen.”

All three candidates had standout moments on Saturday. Britt played quite a bit on the second team unit next to Kevin Minter, making a couple tackles and recovering a fumble. Jones recorded his first career pick six to get the Bucs back in the game late, while Stuard made a strong tackle on a kickoff.

  • After criticizing second-year receiver Tyler Johnson for coming into camp out of shape a few weeks ago, Arians shared a decidedly more positive outlook on Sunday.

“[Johnson] made his weight this week. He did a good job, he just had too much fun this summer, but he’s done a good job of being very, very consistent. The one thing I like about Tyler is he’s really consistent.

“The one thing that Tyler gives us is he gives us another blocking wide receiver. There’s a lot going into that sixth receiver if he dresses or not.”

Given Josh Pearson’s release ahead of cuts Tuesday, Johnson looks to remain a sure bet at making the roster with fellow receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller and rookie Jaelon Darden. Other options include Jaydon Mickens, Cyril Grayson and Travis Jonsen.