Preseason matters for many things; the final score is not one of them. What does matter is individual player performance. The preseason is like a pre-test hence the prefix “pre.” It does not count, but it is nice to perform well. The Bucs were able to rebound Thursday night from their preseason opener loss with a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars by a whopping score of 12-8 (have to love preseason final scores). Here is what stood out to me during the game on Thursday night.
Doug may be back
Running back Doug Martin’s NFL career has been up and down. In five NFL seasons, he has had two pro-bowl seasons. Last season, however, was his worst ever as he had only 421 yards rushing, a career low. The season before he rushed for 1,402 yards which was good enough for second in the league behind Adrian Peterson. That year he looked hungry. His cutbacks were crisp, he fought for the extra yards and made nothing into something many times during that season. That is exactly what Martin did Thursday night, he has looked solid in the preseason and if he keeps this up in preseason game 3 it will be very hard for Jason Licht to cut Martin.
More Weapons = More Completions
Last season it was the Jameis Winston and Mike Evans show, which was excellent at times. However, at times Winston would completely force the ball to Evans and it would result in an incompletion or even worse an interception. The Buccaneers hope that will change this season with the weapons they brought in. If Thursday night was any signal I would say that Winston will not force the ball to Evans as much as he simply does not need to. Winston was 21/29 with 196 yards passing and looked very sharp (minus one play) on Thursday night in Duval. The five longest plays for the Bucs offense were from five different players: Desean Jackson, Mike Evans, Adam Humphries, O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin. That should be music to Bucs fans ears because all five of those guys will be big-time contributors this season. Winston is going to have a whole lot of fun this upcoming season.
The Run Defense was much improved
Last week in Cincinnati the Bucs defense struggled mightily against the run. Whether it was Joe Mixon, Jeremy Hill or even Jeff Driskel, the Bucs seemed to have no answer for what the Bengals were giving them. That changed in this game as the Bucs said they put an emphasis on stopping the run and they were extremely successful. Rookie Leonard Fournette did not play in this game and his backups did not fare very well against the Bucs. Chris Ivory had seven carries and only gained four yards and other backups T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant did not do any better. They combined for 15 yards on 6 carries. Grant played a bit in the second half and helped his stat sheet against the Bucs 2nd stringers. Let’s hope the run defense can continue to improve because facing 3 teams with strong running back situations in the first 3 weeks of the season is huge and the run defense will be tested early in the season. This was certainly a good start to fixing the run defense and they should get better week by week.
This game showed that the Buccaneers are improving. The offensive line looked very strong with Ali Marpet’s debut at center. The only thing that is still concerning is that Nick Folk still looked a tad shaky in his debut as the starting kicker. I do not blame the blocked extra point entirely on Folk. Yes, the kick could have been higher but Evan Smith got dominated by Calais Campbell and Campbell was able to use every inch of his 6’8 frame to block the kick. Folk made 2 field goals that were from 29 and 35 yards. Then, he hooked a 47-yard field goal and Head Coach Dirk Koetter did not look pleased as he put his head down and shook his head in disappointment. “That’s not what we’re looking for,” he said about the kicking performance at his press conference after the game. I still have faith and confidence in Folk. He is a veteran. Forget about it and move on to the next kick. The Bucs should have had more than 12 points at halftime, however. It has to get better, this game was a nice start. I cannot wait to see how much this team continues to progress, thanks for reading and GO BUCS!