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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs will likely start season without S Justin Evans

Abbey Radeka

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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After some good news for the Bucs defense in Vita Vea’s return to practice, some bad news follows as Bucs will likely be heading into their season opener without their starting safety, Justin Evans. The foot injury that ended his season has year has yet to fully recover and has had him sitting out during the majority of training camp.

And in the final days leading up to the regular season, the former second round pick has either been seen either watching from the sidelines or completely absent.

Evans career in the NFL has been plagued with foot injuries, as this is his third in the just two seasons. At the end of his rookie season, the Bucs put him Injured reserve after injuring his ankle against the Atlanta Falcons after making six combined tackles.

In Week 10 of the 2018 season Evans injured his toe, and missed the next two games. In his first game back in Week 13, he was carted off the field in the second quarter after aggravating the toe injury. He missed two more games before being placed on injured reserve.

Even with all of the weeks on the sidelines, he finished the 2018 NFL season with 43 solo tackles, two pass deflections, one interception, a fumble recovery, and one touchdown.

Though he’s penciled to be the starting safety in new coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense this Sunday, that likely isn’t going to happen. But fortunately for the Bucs they have got some solid depth at the position. Evan’s absence from the field has allowed the other guys like rookie Mike Edwards to prove himself to a new defensive coordinator.

Jordan Whitehead has been starting in the preseason, but the Bucs also picked up the veteran Darian Stewart from Denver, who were likely going to be playing instead of him in any way at the beginning of the year. Evans has had such restricted practice time during the offseason and didn’t play in any of the preseason action.

Abbey is a native Floridan who grew up a fan of all Tampa Bay sports teams. She’s recently graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Media Communication Studies. In her time at FSU, she was an In-Game Host for the Basketball and Baseball teams, and reported for Seminole Sports Magazine, producing feature stories that appeared on Fox Sports Sun. She’s excited to share her perspective on all of Florida’s Football teams, especially the Seminoles.

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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

Florida Football Insiders

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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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