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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs RB Ronald Jones seeks fresh start

Florida Football Insiders

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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
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The Buccaneers get ready for their first preseason game on Friday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. And while the starters are not expected to play a bunch, one name that has created a lot of buzz, who should see significant action, is second-year running back Ronald Jones.

And for Bruce Arians and his new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, they want to see the Improvement on the practice field at a training camp translate into live action against an opponent.

Arians has repeatedly complemented Jones and the progress he’s made after he basically went unused during his 2018 rookie year.

The design has been to have Jones be the complementary back, who is much more explosive for long runs and big plays than starter Peyton Barber is.

However, Jones had issues, as a lot of rookies do, not only picking up the Buccaneers playbook, but improving with things like pass blocking and receiving to enable him to be on the field all the time.

As Jones struggled to get anything done in the preseason, he obviously got in former coach Dirk Koetter and offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s dog house. To the point, they left the second round pick as a healthy inactive at the beginning of the year for the first three games, apparently trying to send a message to him about work ethic and level of play.

Later in the first half of the season Jones eventually worked his way back to the active roster, but ended up injuring his hamstring in late Octover, which sidelined him for five more games. By the time he returned to health, the Buccaneers season was basically in the tank.

Still, even then, Koetter and Monken didn’t utilize Jones with a single carry despite him being active for final three weeks of the season. And that, despite the Buccaneers being out of any playoff hopes.

Back to this off season, Jones has put on over 10 lbs. of muscle and by his own admission, has gotten better as a pass-catcher and pass-blocker which will enable him to be on the field in more versatile situations.

It is believed Barber will see a little action on the opening drive and maybe a little longer Friday night, but from there Jones will get a good look for several series and maybe even into the second half to see what he can do.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs have no reason to doubt this Thomas Sunday

Florida Football Insiders

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs prepare for the New Orleans Saints to come to town Sunday and they know that the top defensive priority will be trying to contain the league’s most productive receiver, Michael Thomas.

Thomas is currently leading every important reception and yardage category and is even on pace to break a couple of NFL records. And with Drew Brees back from his thumb injury, Todd Bowles’ Tampa Bay defense had better be up to the challenge.

Thomas currently sits atop NFL receivers in receptions (86), yards with 1,027 and yards-per-game 114.1. He also leads with 52 receptions for first downs and has been targeted 10 or more times in seven of New Orleans’ nine games. That also leads the league.

Needless to say, the Saints will try to establish him at Raymond James Stadium early and Brees will look to go to him ,especially on third down and in the Red Zone, often.

As for the Buccaneers secondary, they’ve already had a shake up earlier this week by releasing former #1 pick Vernon Hargreaves. It should be pointed out that Hargreaves was the guy that was primarily trying to cover Thomas, unsuccessfully, in the first matchup in New Orleans last month.

Thomas had 11 catches (photo above) for a season-high 182 yards and season-high 16.5 average per catch with two scores all mostly against Hargreaves in New Orleans 31 – 24 victory. Plus, it should be pointed out that those throws were also from backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who finished with four touchdowns on the day in the divisional win.

Now, because of Hargreaves’ release, it looks as though the Buccaneers may be putting one of their two rookie defensive backs, Jamel Dean or Sean Murphy-Bunting on Thomas for at least some of this game.

Dean was exposed in the lost to Seattle, where Russell Wilson and the Seahawks pass attack picked on him for big play after big play in Seattle’s 40 – 34 overtime win.  However, the rookie out of Auburn redeemed himself last week with a couple of pass breakups and a crucial fourth-quarter interception of Kyler Murray in the Bucs 30 – 27 come-from-behind win over the Cardinals.

Back to the Saints. They are smarting off of a 26 – 9 loss to Atlanta, where they were kept out of the end zone by the Falcons defensive scheme. Part of their success was with six sacks of Drew Brees and mixing up their coverage of Thomas and the rest of the receivers. Now, Thomas still got 13 catches for 152 yards, but New Orleans could not figure out Atlanta, especially after getting into plus territory.

You would have to think that Sean Payton and Drew Brees have studied what the Falcons did and are ready for whatever the Bucs may be trying to throw at the Saints.

Critically, the pass rush and harassing of Brees is something to Tampa Bay will look to utilize with the likes of Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul getting after him. Pierre-Paul did not play in the first matchup, while still recovering from a fractured neck. But, he has already been a force in his first three games back this season.

Barrett leads the NFL currently with the 11.5 sacks through 9 games.

Back to the Pro Bowler Thomas. The Buccaneers may choose to try to double-team him with some safety help to neutralize his downfield effectiveness.

Still, it may be the best strategy to let Thomas get an occasional catch or two, but try to contain the other receivers and harass Breezy enough, just like the Falcons did last Sunday in the Superdome, to get yourself a victory.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DT Vita Vea got props from NFL Network Wednesday

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers got a much-needed win on Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals and Wednesday, the NFL Network wanted to specifically point out the play of defensive tackle Vita Vea.

On the very popular “Good Morning Football” show, co-host Peter Schrager, devoted an entire two minute segments to Vea’s athletic exploits:

The massive defensive tackle definitely showcased his offensive athleticism, as a blocker on that key goaline situation, where the Bucs eventually got the game-winning touchdown from running back Peyton Barber.

As Schrager showed, Vea actually got not just one, but three Cardinals blocked or slowed up, to help Barber get around the left end for the clinching score. Schrager also made reference to and had highlight clips of Vea’s Northern California High School exploits, as a 255-pound running back before heading to the University of Washington.

Vea’s athleticism to compliment his size is a big reason why Bucs GM Jason Licht went ahead and drafted him with the 12th overall pick in the 2018 draft.

And while the defensive tackle doesn’t have massive stats this season, he and his linemates or a huge reason why the Buccaneers have been near the top of the NFL in yards allowed rushing this season. This would include holding Cardinals Pro bowl-caliber running back David Johnson to just 2 yards on five carries Sunday.

Vea only officially registered two tackles in the Cardinal game, but that stopped a streak where he had made at least three stops in the previous four games. He has primarily been a compliment next to Pro Bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh and helping jam the middle of the line of scrimmage week in and week out.

As for Vea on offense, coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Jameis Winston both made mention to the media off of Sunday’s game, that Vea is not only a capable blocker, but could also be handed the ball or potentially, even be thrown the ball if needed, in that goal line package that they displayed for the first time on Sunday.

One thing is for sure, starting with this week and the Saints, he now has to be accounted for, if and when, he’s in on offense.

New Orleans’ bigger concern is trying to get Alvin Kamara back going against the tough Bucs run D, which will be led by Vea and his fellow linemen.

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