Friday’s game versus the Cleveland Browns was not what the team or its supporters wanted to see. At least, not on offense.
Aspects that Bucs Nation felt better about after the first two games, Jameis Winston, the offensive line and the kicking game, came crashing down Friday at Raymond James.
Was limiting the starting skill players to just two drives in the first two preseason games poor decision-making? Coaches tread a fine line between not risking injury and getting enough live game action in. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t — in hindsight, damned if you don’t.
Arians said earlier this week that the Browns’ matchup was going to be a good measuring stick. Unfortunately, it didn’t measure up for the offense. Instead, it showed that the offensive line needs to get work overtime in practice if they’re going to keep Winston upright this season.
Winston entered the game 7 of 10 passing for 64 yards and one score. Friday, he was sacked five times on 19 attempts. He completed nine passes for 88 yards. “Offensively we didn’t block well up front,” said Arians in his post-game press conference.
The Browns defensive line, with beasts like Myles Garrett, Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon, and Larry Ogunjobi, isn’t one to be taken lightly.
One Bright Spot
The Buccaneers defense was the bright spot. “I thought our defense played outstanding all night in the field position we put them in,” Arians said. They held Cleveland to just 12 first downs and 141 yards passing in addition to three sacks and a fumble recovery. The Bucs won the time of possession 23:52 to 36:08.
Matt Gay’s first field goal attempt Friday was no good. Hitting the upright, the 37-yarder went out instead of in. He was a clutch 3-for-3 until that point and rebounded with a 21-yarder in the closing moments to win the game.
Ryan Griffin has shown that he rightfully deserves the #2 spot behind Winston. Sure, he’s a veteran, but a veteran benchwarmer. He hasn’t played one snap in six seasons. But he may win it by default if Blaine Gabbert misses extended time due to the injury to his non-throwing shoulder.
Arians said he’s more than comfortable should Griffin win the backup job. “He’s proven with some of the guys he’s playing with directing them, poise. He’s moved our team up and down the field, just like he did again tonight.”
Injuries Continue to Pile Up
Other notable injuries include inside linebacker Deone Bucannon who had a nice showing in the first two games filling in for starter Lavonte David. There has already been a lot of shifting around on the line to make up for lack of depth. Safety Kentrell Brice (shoulder) and tight end Antony Auclair (calf) were also knocked out of the game.
Don’t let the final score fool you. Marginal preseason victories don’t account for anything. What does, however, is the play of the starters. This was, after all, the last time they’d see the field until Sept 8.
What the starters showed is they are not ready. Hopefully, the Bucs can use their subpar performance as motivation to improve upon their play and not let it get to their heads.