All football fans know, whether it’s at school, in the workplace, or on your favorite sports talk show— during football season, the morning after gameday is reserved for bragging rights, armchair quarterbacks, and “Did you see when?!”
Tomorrow morning, Bucs fans—
Will be excited to bring up— Antoine Winfield Jr.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the best safeties in the National Football League. Antoine Winfield Jr. is as good as it gets. His impact on Tampa Bay Buccaneer football is remarkably palpable. Winfield Jr. is and has been a top one percenter at the safety position. Against the Buffalo Bills, the 5’9” Winfield Jr. tipped a pass from the 6’5” Josh Allen, which led to Tampa Bay’s only spark in the entire performance. William Gholston wound up catching his first career interception off of the Winfield Jr. tip. Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay offense took that opportunity and cashed it in, scoring their only touchdown of the first half.
Are going to be worried about— One safety does not make a tandem.
Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, while they do have one elite-level player at the safety position, they do not have two. The Tampa Bay defense has been able to mix and match at the safety spot opposite Antoine Winfield Jr. for the last few seasons. Jordan Whitehead became Mike Edwards, Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal recited lines in the role and for the most part, old names made way for new faces and the Buccaneers defense was able to maintain. This year is the first year since Todd Bowles’ arrival in 2019, where the safety play in Tampa has been a weakness. Opposite Antoine Winfield Jr. is not only a concern, but Winfield Jr. himself may not be a Buccaneer for much longer. The 2020 second-rounder is a free agent at the end of this season and is worthy of a colossal extension. With a few substantial free agents to consider, bringing back Antoine Winfield Jr. at a high price tag is not as black and white as “He’s a good player so pay him.”
Regardless of what happens this offseason, Tampa Bay has one safety who is playing like a teaching tape, week after week.
Where is Mike Evans?
Mike Evans plays for the Bucs, but he doesn’t seem to get to play too often. The Buccaneers’ all-time leading receiver is forced to play against double teams and his own play caller. Evans’ inability to see targets isn’t even a new fad. This has been an issue for the Buccaneers, dating back to the Jameis Winston era of Tampa Bay football. Most teams with a receiver of Evans’ caliber go out of their way to make sure the ball finds them. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem quite content to do the opposite. The Bucs allow Mike Evans’ greatest contributions on gameday to be drawing double teams and serving as mere a distraction for defenses. Evans takes two and the offense takes punts. In a game where the Buccaneers knew they would need points to win and trailed from the start, Mike Evans had one reception at the start of the fourth quarter. By the game’s conclusion, he had three catches for 39 yards.
Won’t be able to let it go— The offensive line penalty issues continue.
The Buccaneers’ offensive line isn’t performing well. This is not news to most. Not only is the unit struggling, but far too often the Buccaneers mount positive momentum with a productive drive and a self inflicted wound stalls the team out. There is a certain excusability when it comes to holding penalties— They are often circumstantial, where a defender is either making a good play or an offensive player is expecting a ballcarrier to be in particular spot but they wind up elsewhere— False starts and illegal formations are elementary. Those are self inflicted, critical wounds. Penalties inhibit any offense’s production, but the Buccaneers offense is no where near good enough to overcome negative plays. The Bucs finished with 11 penalties for 74 yards.
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