TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrapped up the preseason on Thursday night with a 13-10 loss to the Washington Redskins. Here’s a look at who stood out, who didn’t and what impact those performances could have on the team going forward.
In a weird sort of way, the injury that sidelined projected starting strongside linebacker Devante Bond may have been one of the best things that happened to the Bucs this preseason.
Bond’s absence allowed the Bucs to get a longer better look at rookie Kendell Beckwith and the LSU product may have proved that he was the better option at the position all along.
Beckwith started Thursday’s game and played most of the first half and was absolutely dominant, recording five tackles, a sack, two quarterback hits and a tackle for a loss.
Beckwith’s best play may have come on a fourth-and-1 play from the Bucs 24 when he and Channing Ward chased down quarterback Nate Sudfeld and pressure him into a throw-away that got the ball back for the Bucs.
If rookie running back Jeremy McNichols may have saved his roster spot in this game, though just barely. McNichols handled the bulk of the carries in the second half and started out slow, gaining just 17 yards on his first six carries.
He turned it up a notch late in the third quarter, hitting the hole with more authority and gaining 19 yards on four carries in one series, but then he was asked to protect the passer again.
On a third-and-1 play, McNichols dove too low, allowing linebacker Pete Robertson to simply jump over him on his way to quarterback Sefo Liufau, who was pressured into throwing the ball away.
McNichols has done a horrible job in pass protection this preseason and he hasn’t really run the ball in a way that would make him worthy of a roster spot but he has a lot of talent. It just needs to be refined.
Beckwith wasn’t the only Bucs linebacker who stood out in this game. Adarius Glanton, who has had a very good preseason, made play after play as well for the defense.
Glanton had nine tackles in the first half alone, including two for a loss. One of his best came as he ran Sudfeld out of bounds after a 3-yard gain on a second-and-21 play at from the Bucs 21 late in the first half.
That along with Glanton’s drop running back Mack Brown for a 4-yard loss one play earlier helped force the Redskins to settle for a field goal attempt that Dustin Hopkins missed from 36 yards out.
It was just a big night all the way around for the Bucs linebackers Thursday as Cameron Lynch chipped in with seven tackles while forcing a fumble early in the third quarter.
The Bucs went into training camp a little unsure of just how deep their talent ran at the linebacker spot but they could enter the regular season thinking it might be one of their deepest positions.
The play of the Bucs defensive linemen was as disappointing as the play of the linebackers was encouraging. Mehdi Abdesmad had a fourth quarter sack and Channing Ward had a pressure early but that was about it.
The play of veteran George Johnson was particularly disturbing. Going against second- and third-teams, Johnson looked like he was running in sand and may have a hard time making this team.
Just as the Browns did a week ago, the Redskins spent a lot of time targeting cornerback Ryan Smith in the passing game. The results suggest Smith still has a long ways to go before he’s ready to play regularly.
Just as he did a week ago, Smith appeared to play a little too soft ion coverage, where he allowe several plays to be made in front of him, including a couple for sizeable gains.
Smith is still making the transition to corner after playing safety most of last year, and he still seems to be lacking the confidence to play with the aggression he needs to make an impact.
There are some inside the walls at One Buc Place who believe running back Peyton Barber has the ability to be a feature back and he did nothing to dispel that belief in this game.
Barber handled the feature back duties in the first half and ran six times for 23 yards, displaying good power and gaining 10 yards on one carry and 8 on another.
Jacquizz Rodgers will almost certainly start the season as the Bucs lead back but if coach Dirk Koetter decides to go with a committee approach Barber could eventually emerge as the committee chairman.