On Memorial Day night, the NFL Network released the latest 10 players on their “Top 100” list. And while players like DeShaun Watson of the Texans, Ryan Shazier of the Steelers and Mark Ingram of the Saints were on the 50 down to 40 list, no players from the state of Florida were there with them.
The Jaguars have had three players already on the list and will get two more coming up. And, the Dolphins have had two former players (Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry) on the 2017 Top 100, it’s looking possible that the Buccaneers won’t have any.
#NFLTop100 Players of 2018 (50-41)
— NFL (@NFL) May 29, 2018
It was already unlikely that the Bucs were going to have an offensive player with QB Jameis Winston having an injury-plagued down season in 2017. And, as part of that, WR Mike Evans saw his productivity drop dramatically, too.
But perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (above), you would have to think, is a candidate to be on the Top 100 list. Yet, now that the last two weeks have gone by without his name popping up, he’s either in the top 40 or obviously, was left completely off.
The Bucs outstanding linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David again were part of a five win season, and even though Alexander was an injury replacement for the Pro Bowl, it’s not likely he’s in the top 40. David’s stats are simply not there for him to be in the Top 40.
Back to the Jaguars the countdown has already had Yannick Ngakoue and Telvin Smith off their defense. And last week RB Leonard Fournette was tabbed inside the top 60. Defensive tackle Calais Campbell and stud defensive back Jalen Ramsey are certainly going to be somewhere in the top 40, if not the top 30 players upcoming.
Bucs defense dramatic stand saved night in Charlotte
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.
Three things to watch as Bucs take on Panthers Thursday night
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.
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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