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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Arians knows rookie class must contribute

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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The Buccaneers concluded their rookie minicamp this weekend and while most of the attention will be around first round pick, LSU linebacker Devin White, Tampa Bay is definitely got needs at the positions of several other players in this group to contribute.

New head coach Bruce Arians assessed how things went on Friday and Saturday and emphasized these young players could start making a difference this August / September:

White was the fifth overall pick and had a much-needed inside or linebacker position it’s obvious that he’s expected to jump in and be a key contributor in the new 3 – 4 defense that coordinator Todd Bowles is looking to run.

As we wrote at the time, GM Jason Licht along with the input of Bowles and Arians obviously felt the need to reload the Buccaneers secondary, again. That meant drafting corners Sean Bunting and Jamel Dean with the second and third selections for Tampa Bay and then, safety Mike Edwards rounded out picking four defensive picks in the first three rounds for the Bucs.

Bunting and Dean will be competing along with last year’s rookie second round defensive backs M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis. Plus, Tampa Bay hopes that former first round pick in 2016, Vernon Hargreaves, will be back from a shoulder surgery and ready to make a big contribution.

Another player to keep an eye on for training camp and beyond, especially with the neck injury that is currently going to sideline Jason Pierre-Paul throughout the remainder of the offseason, is former Iowa defensive end, Anthony Nelson. Nelson, who is listed at  6’7, is a pass-rusher that had 7.5 sacks last year with Hawkeyes and whom the Bucs got in the fourth round on day three. They hope he could blossom similarly into a “hidden gem” like they got last September.

That’s what Tampa Bay found from former Cleveland Brown and former Penn State Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Carl Nassib, off the waiver wire. The Browns released the 6’6 Nassib and he was suddenly available to help the Bucs pass rush.

Will the “new Nassib” potentially be Nelson? He told the media Saturday that he knows his pass rush and his coverage skills will both be tested,

“They’ve said I’ll probably be doing both of those things. But how much of each or what I end up doing primarily is going to be determined in the next couple months. Nothing’s set. I’ve got to come out here and prove myself and then I’ll find a fit. Whatever way I can help the defense is where I’m going to end up.”

Even though Nelson played significantly at Iowa as a pass rushing end, he knows that in a 3-4 his role may have to adapt to how and where to line up and play in Tampa Bay,

“A lot of the same techniques, a lot of the same position, just different ways of getting into it. So, there will be adjustments with that, and then just terminology is going to be different. There may be some complex schemes, but other than that,  football’s football. I’m just going to learn and do my best to be a part of the defense.”

And then there’s the Bucs latest rookie kicker, Matt Gay, whom they drafted in the fifth round from Utah last month. Whether he realizes it or not, Gay is about to have the most scrutinized off-season and training camp that you could ever imagine for a guy who was a fifth-round pick.

The Bucs have a new special teams coach in Keith Armstrong, and have to try to find some long-term stability at the position. If and when Gay kicks in a regular-season game in September, he will be the sixth different Buccaneer kicker to have done so since the start of the 2016 season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs pass rusher Barrett named NFC Defensive Player of Week

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Off their impressive Road win last Thursday night against division rival Carolina, the Buccaneers also got an individual accolades on Wednesday morning.

That’s when the NFL announced that edge pass-rusher Shaq Barrett had been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week:

Barrett had a tremendous game, or should we say third quarter specificall,  in the win over the Panthers. This as, he registered not one, but three quarterback sacks, in the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 20 – 14 victory.

Barrett became the first Buccaneer since Simeon Rice in their Super Bowl season of 2002 to have that many sacks in a single 15 minute period. He’s also the first Bucs pass rusher to get three sacks in a single game since the 2015 season.

Barrett also had a sack in Tampa Bay’s week one loss against San Francisco and obviously, leads them now with four of them through the first two games. The four sacks in two games has matched the best start in sacking the QB in Buccaneers franchise history.

The last time the Bucs had a defensive player win player of the week honors, was also 2015. That’s when linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander each took home the honor in separate weeks.

The six year veteran came to Tampa Bay after having spent his first five years with the Denver Broncos. This included his being part of the Broncos Super Bowl 50 winning season of 2014.

Barrett had 14 career sacks coming into this season and is already thriving early in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense. The Bucs are pairing him on the outside with Carl Nassib in Bowles’ 3-4 scheme.

He is also the former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year at Colorado State, where he had 12 sacks and three forced fumbles in his senior season and was eventually signed with Denver, as an undrafted free agent.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Arians rightfully fearing Giants RB Saquon Barkley

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of the Giants starting rookie Daniel Jones at quarterback on Sunday, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians knows the real key for New York resides deeper in their backfield.

That’s where second-year running back Saquon Barkley is expected to be busy, especially early in the game. And, he may very well be the reason or not that New York has a chance to get their first win of the season Sunday in Tampa.

Arians made it clear right away at his Tuesday press conference that Barkley will be a challenge for a Buccaneer defense that has been stingy so far this year against the run:

“He’s got more 50-yard runs than anybody I’ve seen in a long time,” Arians said.  “He’s hard to bring down. He doesn’t run over many people – he runs around them and runs past them. The size and the speed combination are extremely rare.”

The Bucs held the 49ers in check for just 77 yards on the ground in their opening loss two weekends ago, but then, played even better against Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers running attack last Thursday night. They held McCaffrey to only 37 yards on 16 carries, including the biggest moment of the game. That’s when DB Vernon Hargreaves stopped McCaffrey one-on-one from getting the one needed yard to keep Carolina’s final drive alive and hopes of winning the game.

As for Barkley, he comes off a tremendous debut season with a 1,300 yards rushing and another 700 receiving. He’s arguably the best dual threat back in football.

And, with a 120 yd rush game on just 11 carries in the opening week game at Dallas, Barkley followed up with another 100 yard game last week against Buffalo registering 107 yards on 18 carries. Still, the Giants dropped both games and at 0- 2 and have decided to shake it up at QB.

Giants second-year coach Pat Shurmur will try to establish the run early on in the game to take the pressure off his rookie quarterback making his debut.

The Bucs know that as well and looked at stuff to run with Pro Bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh and former first-round pick Vita Vea. Both guys have been big keys in clogging up the middle and helping the Buccaneers stop the 49er and Panther backs.

And if they do so Sunday at home, it will be a big key for a second straight win.

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