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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs and Jaguars on road in our Sunday primer

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Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

With the Miami Dolphins mercifully having the week off, which means they won’t lose 45th Street time, that means the other two State NFL teams are in action. And both the Bucs and the Jaguars are on the road against NFC South opponents.

The two franchises are in similar situations for now as they each have 2 – 2 records and are in the thick of things early on in their own division races.

Let’s begin with Tampa Bay, as they travel to the Bayou to play the Saints. Fresh off a franchise-record 55 points in a victory at the LA Coliseum over the Rams last Sunday, the Bucs have to have confidence.

Particularly Jameis Winston, who threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week has to be feeling good about his chances Sunday. Then again, the Saints made Dak Prescott and the Cowboys struggle for much of last Sunday night and won a 12 – 10 defensive battle.

For the Saints offensively, they’ve had to tailor things to backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, while they wait for Drew Brees’ injured thumb to heal. Bridgewater has been more of a game manager and the team is relying more on star running back Alvin Kamara.

However, the Buccaneers defense has been stingy against the run including completely shutting down Todd Gurley last week and Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers three weeks ago in their road wins.

For the Jaguars, they are riding high behind rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew who has played well in relief of the injured Nick Foles. Jacksonville has earned back-to-back wins over Tennessee and last week in the final seconds at Denver.

Minshew was bothered this week buy a slightly injured knee in practice but he is expected to be ready to go for the battle in Charlotte. If Minshew has problems during the game, the Jaguars will turn to newly-acquired former Steelers backup Joshua Dobbs, who also took some first-team reps in practice this week.

The bigger key early in the season for the Jaguars offense is Leonard Fournette appears back to his 2017 rookie season – self. Fournette rushed for a career-high 224 yards last week against Denver, including an 81-yard run which helped flip the momentum of the game. If he gets going against the Panthers D, then Jacksonville has another good chance to win.

For Carolina, they will go for the third straight game with backup quarterback Kyle Allen. He has won his two starts in Arizona and Houston and has shown to be much more mobile than what the injured star QB Cam Newton was in the first two games with his bad foot. Again, Carolina has to have a big game not only running but receiving from McCaffrey out of the backfield to have success.

But, the Jacksonville defense should be up to the task, even if they’re playing without star defensive back Jalen Ramsey, again this week. They still have a formidable defensive line led by Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus, Yannick Ngakoue and rookie Josh Allen that should make life difficult for Carolina

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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