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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs top pick Devin White shows off baseball arm

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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There will be a lot of eyes on Buccaneers number one pick middle linebacker Devin White, when training camp and the preseason roll around upcoming this July. An example of that was White showing off his baseball arm (or not) at the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday night match up with the L.A. Angels of Anaheim.

The rookie out of LSU, who the Bucs took with the 5th overall pick in April, was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before game one of the four-game series at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg Thursday night.

Take a look at how White did under the glare of the baseball spotlight:

Yes, it was a one-hopper to the plate, but still credit White for the attempt.

And, there will be a much brighter lights on White come, when the Buccaneers, under the new coaching staff led by Bruce Arians and new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, get ready to put the team through training camp preparation.

Bowles wasted no time shortly after White was taken in explaining why White became a favorite in their “War Room” and an obvious choice, when the Buccaneers were on the clock in round one. Bowles said to the media then, that White made the decision easy when they evaluated and interviewed him:

“It was impressive. Obviously, he’s a bright kid, lights up a room when he walks in. The film speaks for itself and to have a player like that, we’re just happy to get him in and to get to work.”

And, on White assuming a leadership role by essentially “quarterbacking the defense,” the former Jets head coach of the last four years, Bowles added,

“It’s important, because you really want a quarterback at every level of the defense: up front, in the middle and in the back. And have one in the middle. Not that Lavonte (David) wasn’t, because he is and he’s a heck of a player. So, we got to him in the middle right now, and that makes me comfortable.”

White was the leading tackler in the SEC in 2018 and will be heavily counted on to see significant playing time and learn from and work in tandem with perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Lavonte David.

One other remaining variable is that White is one of five first-round picks, who, as of Thursday, has yet to sign his deal. Still,  in the present day with the rookie salary cap and wage scale, it’s something that should get done before the Bucs begin to practice in late July.

And, at least the Bucs organization apparently doesn’t have to worry about White trying to pull a Russell Wilson and play baseball for a living.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs defense dramatic stand saved night in Charlotte

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

So much has been made of first-year Bucs coach Bruce Arians’ offensive mindset, starting quarterback Jameis Winston’s arm talent and the weapons around them carrying the team, but Thursday night it was the Buccaneers defense that showed up big, as in the end, with the game on the line in the final two minutes, they save the day with a fourth-down heroic play.

Former first-round pick , DB Vernon Hargreaves, came up with a key one-on-one tackle on Carolina star RB Christian McCaffrey (above) on fourth down at the Tampa Bay one-yard line to keep the Panthers from getting a first down.  And, it gave the Bucs the ball back to run out the clock and secure a much needed 20 – 14 win.

Hargreaves’ individual effort epitomized the Buccaneers solid defensive play all night in Charlotte, as they did not allow Carolina to score a touchdown and held them to only three points on offense the entire second half. .

As for the aforementioned Winston and his support on the other side of the ball, they supplied enough, including Peyton Barber running tough for 82 yards on 23 carries and a crucial third-quarter 16 yard touchdown run the gave Tampa Bay the lead for good at 17 – 12.

Winston finished 16-25 for 208 yards, including a first-half touchdown pass to third year receiver Chris Godwin. Godwin is quickly becoming Winston’s new favorite target, as he hauled in eight catches for 121 yards and the score.

Meanwhile, Panthers Pro Bowl quarterback Cam Newton had an off game, as well. Even though he threw for 300 yards, he still had 26 incompletions on 50 attempts and Carolina repeatedly had one drive after another fizzle out in Bucs territory.

Newton was also battered by Tampa Bay’s rush, as new DE Shaq Barrett had three sacks, and the Bucs front seven repeatedly hit and knocked him down. Another key moment came near midfield in the third, when Newton was stripped of the ball for a lost fumble. And, another new Buc, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, fell on it.

And, to top it all off, McCaffery could mount very little offense Thursday night, either. A week after amassing over 200 yards from scrimmage against the Rams, he was held to 16 carries for only 37 yards and just two catches for just more 16 yards.

As for the key stop of McCaffery to preserve victory, Hargreaves said after the game late Thursday,

“It looked like it was going to be the Philly special from the Super Bowl. A reverse pass. When Cam walked up to the line of scrimmage, that’s what I thought it was going to be. As the play developed, McCaffrey faked it and he came right to me. I just stayed at home and he came right to me. I just had to make the play.”

A play that has Tampa Bay sitting 1-1 after a tough divisional win.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Three things to watch as Bucs take on Panthers Thursday night

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s an NFC South showdown, where the loser knows they’re already off to an 0 – 2 start after Thursday night. And, the Bucs know that one of their former teammates is ready to help put them there.

With that in mind, here are three things to watch his Tampa Bay travels to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers:

McCoy goes against his old team

For the first time in his 10-year career Gerald McCoy has a new place to call home, and will play his second game with the Panthers tonight against the team that drafted him third overall in 2010, and he went to six Pro bowls for over the course of the last nine seasons. McCoy (above) was unceremoniously shown the door for salary cap reasons earlier this offseason and signed a one-year deal with the division rival Carolina.

McCoy did little of consequence in the opening loss to the Rams last week, but the Bucs have had a history previously, of players leaving them and succeeding elsewhere. We’ll find out if he starts making an impact tonight against Jameis Winston & Company.

Cut down the mistakes.

If the Bucs weren’t busy turning the ball over, which they did four times, including three Winston interceptions last week, they were committing penalties and having blown assignments on their offensive line.

Throw in: Tampa Bay cost themselves three different times with penalties on third down on defense that kept 49er drives alive, and you can see why head coach Bruce Arians has been stressing for the last few days that those kind of mistakes cannot be overcome.

The Buccaneers will have their hands full with a road environment against a division rival as it is, but as Arians said, if it’s “the Bucs beating the Bucs,” they won’t stand much chance anyway.

Contain McCaffrey

Clearly Cam Newton is still trying to get back to full health with a surgically-repaired throwing shoulder and an injured foot and everyone now realizes the biggest key to get the Panthers going is running back, Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey had over a hundred yards from scrimmage in the opening loss to L.A. last week and had likewise over a hundred yards combined catching and running a football in both games last year against the Buccaneers.

Look for Tampa Bay to try to shadow him with Pro Bowl linebacker Lavonte David and rookie linebacker and former number 1 pick out of LSU, Devin White. Those two will be heavily counted on to neutralize the guy that has become the Panthers best offensive weapon.

If they do, it will go a long way towards helping the Buccs win their first game of the season.

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