After opening their preseason schedule with a 19-14 loss to the Bengals last week, the Buccaneers second, third and fourth-stringers sleepwalked their way to a 34-3 loss at the hands of the Tennessee Titans at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night.
Saturday’s contest came after two joint practices between the Bucs and Titans this week, so Bruce Arians stuck to the plan of holding Tampa Bay’s starting units out. Tennessee rested their first-teamers as well, leading to a depth against depth matchup. It wasn’t a close battle whatsoever, as the Bucs didn’t put anything together on offense and could only ask for so much from their defense.
Before we move on to next weekend’s preseason finale in Houston, let’s take a look at five players who did manage to stand out in a positive way for the Bucs in Saturday’s defeat.
Another game, another impressive showing from Tampa Bay’s 2021 first-round pick. Getting the chance to start and play the entire first half due to the absence of the starters, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka won rep after rep, looking flat-out dominant at times on his way to racking up three tackles (one solo) and a sack. His speed and power were on display for everyone to see, and that certainly includes right tackle Dillon Radunz, Tennessee’s second-round pick. Tryon completely trounced Radunz in what was a battle between two rookies. As Bruce Arians said at halftime, there were still some plays he would’ve liked his rookie pass-rusher to have made, but it’s clear that the No. 32 overall pick is ready to be a force on passing downs from day one of his career.
The kid is an absolute monster. pic.twitter.com/cS8sI0mw7t— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) August 22, 2021
The Buccaneer defensive front was one of the few bright spots on Saturday night, and Patrick O’Connor was perhaps the only player to match Tryon-Shoyinka’s performance. The third-year veteran was getting a heavy push up front throughout his shift, finding his way into the backfield with relative ease. Early on in the game, he fought through to drop former Buc Jeremy McNichols for a loss of four yards before later coming up with sack of Titans quarterback Logan Woodside, dropping him for a loss of eight. He was impressive for the second straight week, and after the game, Bruce Arians said he knows O’Connor “made it,” confirming that the former Eastern Michigan man will be a key part of the Bucs’ defensive line depth this fall.
Ryan Succop, who was such a major part of the Bucs’ Super Bowl season last year, hasn’t had the cleanest camp. Some have even wondered if undrafted rookie Jose Borregales could get a shot to unseat him after the impressive camp he’s been having for himself. Not only would the guaranteed money in Succop’s contract make that unlikely, but it appears that reports of the veteran kicker’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, he only got lo one field goal attempt in Saturday’s game, but he drilled it from 49 yards out. While it would be nice to see him string some perfect practices together before another successful night in Houston next week, it doesn’t seem like it’s time to hit any panic buttons regarding the Bucs’ kicking game.
Did you think we were done heaping praise on the depth guys on Tampa Bay’s defensive line? Khalil Davis, a sixth-round pick in 2020, had a solid night for himself. He may have only been credited for just the one tackle for loss, but he was also in on a sack that was attributed to rookie Grant Stuard in the fourth quarter. Davis got a healthy dose of snaps on the night and did his best to take advantage of them. He’ll presumably have a very good chance to earn a roster spot when camp breaks, especially considering what the Bucs have invested in his development since drafting him last spring. Another good week of practice and another impressive showing in next week’s preseason finale would go a long way for the former Nebraska Cornhusker.
Tampa Bay’s defense may not have put up a great night as a unit, but there were quite a few individuals who did well for themselves throughout the game. Tryon-Shoyinka and O’Connor were the stars of the first half, Davis was solid throughout and rookie linebacker Grant Stuard showed up with some strong play later on in the game. The 2021 NFL Draft’s “Mr. Irrelevant” finished the night with six solo tackles, a sack and three total tackles for loss. He was essentially the only Tampa Bay linebacker who managed not to have a game to forget, giving him something to carry forward into the last week of camp as well as the team’s preseason finale. His head coach was pleased with his efforts, saying after the game that the rookie may have “made it” on Saturday night.