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Bucs Winston/Smith praise Panthers LB Luke Kuechly

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

In advance of the NFL releasing its “Top 100” players for 2019 later this month, the Bucs rivalry with the Panthers came to the forefront in a promo released by the league on Friday.

In that online promo, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and left tackle Donovan Smith are both seen praising the skill, instincts and overall disruption that Panthers All-Pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly causes for them twice a year, year after year.

Kuechly a former 9th overall pick by Carolina in the 2012 draft is a five-time All-Pro, including each of the last two seasons, and he’s therefore widely regarded as one of the best inside linebackers in all of the NFL

And as Winston and Smith detailed, his film study and instincts serve him well, especially on being able to predict what plays are coming next. In fact Winston said in promo, “about 60% of the time,” you can count on Kuechly knowing the play that you’re about to run and being somewhere in the vicinity of trying to break up the pass over the middle or clobber the back out of the backfield.

The Panthers overall have enjoyed some recent success against the Bucs, including winning 7 of the last 10 games in the series. Now, Kuechly hasn’t played in all of those, primarily due to concussion issues that he’s had throughout the last few seasons.

And, it should be pointed out that Winston and the Bucs swept the Panthers in 2016. And, they also pulled off a December win a year ago, where the Bucs QB helped lead them to a 24 – 17 win at Raymond James Stadium that kept their faint playoff hopes alive, at that time. (Kuechly had 5 tackles and a fumble recovery in the loss).

Further adding to the intrigue of this rivalry is: Kuechly is now being joined by former Buccaneers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was released by Tampa Bay in May and signed by the Panthers the following week.

And, it’s further interesting on the NFL schedule, the two Rivals of the NFC South will meet on Thursday night of week 2 in Charlotte. They will also play later of the year in October in a stand-alone Sunday morning National Television game from London.

It’s almost assured that Panthers QB Cam Newton will also be part of the NFL’s 2019 “Top 100” list voted on by the players.

However, the real question is: will Winston, Mike Evans or any of the Buccaneers make a list this season? Coming off back to back losing seasons, the Bucs have been shutout in the “Top 100” in each of the last two years.

The full list reveal will begin, in descending order, on NFL Network on July 22nd.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

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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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Several Bucs and Jaguars make PFWA All Rookie Team

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Pro Football Writers Association unveiled their 2019 All-Rookie team Tuesday, and there were four state NFL players on the list.

The PFWA selected 22 total players for offense and defense, plus skill position players for special teams.

For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two of their defenders made the 11-person defensive list. First round pick outside linebacker, Devin White, who was named the Rookie of the month by the NFL for both November and December is there. White came on strong in the second half of the season, including scoring two defensive touchdowns on fumble returns down the stretch.

Also on the list was Buccaneers rookie defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting, who’s play improved as the season went on. Murphy-Bunting also recorded a game-clinching interception return for a touchdown against Detroit in December.

For the Jaguars, their first-round pick Josh Allen is also part of the all-defensive unit. Allen recorded 10.5 sacks and had another 11 tackles for loss in his inaugural season in Jacksonville. The PFWAA also placed Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor on their all rookie offensive team. Taylor was solid as a starter on the right side of the Jags line.

Although it’s not surprising is that the writers selected former number one overall pick Kyler Murray of Arizona, as their top rookie quarterback, there was an argument to be made for Jaguars rookie Gardner Minshew at that position.

Minshew won six games as a starter, including leading the Jaguars to three different last-minute victories, which was one more than what Murray had this season despite him having better stats and more starts.

PFWA did not place a Dolphin on any of their all-rookie teams. Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, whom they took in the first round, could have received some consideration as he played solidly this season.

The writers selected defensive end  Nick Bosa of the 49ers, not only at their Defensive player of the year, but their overall Rookie of the Year for 2019. They did choose Oakland running back Josh Jacobs, as their offensive Rookie of the Year.

The NFL will announce its own all-rookie teams and Rookies of the year prior to the playing of Super Bowl 54 in Miami next month.

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