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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs week 4 auditions for a few good men

Roy Cummings

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Aug 30, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones (27) is tackled after running the ball by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (56) and linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka (45) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

There are few things more tedious in the game of football than the fourth and final game of the preseason. It’s a game often ignored even by the most fervent of fans, and the Bucs preseason finale was one worth ignoring.

At the end, it was the Jaguars besting the Bucs 25-10 in a game that will sadly decide the fate of a good number of the players who were on the field giving it their all on Thursday.

With that in mind, here are a few observations regarding the immediate future of a few of the players who, right or wrong, may have played their last NFL game in this one.

Tampa Bay Bucs week 4 pre-season

Aug 30, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Opposing fans shake hands prior to the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

It was another rough night for rookie running back Ronald Jones. After running 18 times for just 18 yards in the first three preseason games combined, Jones ran 10 times for just 4 yards against Jacksonville.

Truth be told, however, Jones had nowhere to run. The line in front of him did a horrible job of creating running room and so Jones finished up a disappointing preseason never really showing what he’s capable of.

If he wasn’t a second-round draft pick, Jones might be in danger of losing a roster spot, but the Bucs aren’t all that deep at running back and remain confident Jones will eventually prove worthy of his draft position.

The Bucs will more than likely chalk up Jones’ struggles to the play of the offensive line, but Shaun Wilson and Dare Ogunbowale ran behind the same line as Jones on Thursday and did a much better job of gaining ground.

Wilson ran eight times for 45 yards while Ogunbowale ran five times for 29 yards. Throw in the fact that Wilson continued to show well as a return man and there’s a chance he will at least earn a practice squad spot.

I found it interesting that DE Noah Spence was still playing in the fourth quarter. I found it equally interesting that even against third- and fourth stringers he was unable to make much of an impact.

It’s hard to believe Spence is on the bubble. The Bucs were probably just trying to get him some playing time. After all, he’s missed a lot of time because of injury the past two years. Still, this was a bit curious.

Justin Watson has done what Ronald Jones hasn’t this preseason. He’s earned a roster spot. The fourth-round out of Penn went into Thursday’s game leading the Bucs in receiving with 10 catches for 119 yards and tacked on two more catches for 11 yards and a TD against Jacksonville.

Largely because of where he played, Watson was a bit of a sleeper coming out of college. At 6-foot-3 215 pounds, however, he’s got NFL size to go along with good hands and good route-running skills. The Bucs are deep at the wide receiver position and Watson only makes them deeper.

One of the biggest decisions the Bucs have to make based on Thursday’s game is who to keep as their long snapper. Drew Ferris appeared to have that job wrapped up, but the Bucs re-signed Garrison Sanborn after Ferris botched a snap last week and gave him all the work on Thursday.

This is just a guess, but I think Sanborn gets the job. If the Bucs had that much faith in Ferris they never would have brought Sanborn in.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

Florida Football Insiders

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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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Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders

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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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