After the Falcons and Panthers started up the NFC South preseason on Thursday, the Saints and Buccaneers made their bow on Friday. There were several key points, while no one really stood out for New Orleans, some players in Tampa saw gave Bruce Arians decisions to make.
Bucs Still Lack Running Game
Yes it is only the preseason but Tampa Bay struggled to get anything going in the running game in their preseason opener, rushing for 89 yards on 22 carries. Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones looked fine, rushing for 18 yards each from their seven combined carries but, despite two rushing TDs for Dare Ogunbowale, there is a distinct lack of explosiveness and it looks like an area that the Bucs will continue to struggle in in 2019.
Impressive Receiving Options For Bucs
While the Bucs running game looks anaemic, the passing game is thriving already under Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich. Jameis Winston looked good in a limited performance and the ball was spread around to 13 receivers. The standouts were Spencer Schnell, who hauled in seven catches for 119 yards and Tanner Hudson (7 for 84 yards). Schnell faces a battle to make the roster but this performance has really put him on the map. Meanwhile for Hudson, he looks set to be the backup Tight End and if there was any doubt that Bruce Arians would feature his star Tight Ends in his new role, seven catches for 84 yards (12 yards per catch) shows he plans on using TEs plenty.
Corey Nelson & Kevin Minter Looking Strong
The best defensive performances for the Bucs came from players arguably vying for position. Veteran backup ILB Kevin Minter had three tackles with two assists while his partner in crime Corey Nelson had four of his own. For Nelson to make the roster, he will need to keep up performances like that but with Lavonte David out injured and the Bucs defensive record last year, there are opportunities for unfancied names to stand out.
Hill Still a Rushing Threat
While Teddy Bridgewater was solid if a tad inefficient (14-19 for 134 yards, 1 TD), Taysom Hill struggled under centre in the Saints’ preseason opener. Hill was 8-14 for 80 yards with a TD and a pick, not that he is expected to see extended time under centre during the season as their third full-time option. The BYU alum was a factor in the running game though, with 45 yards from six rushes, the Saints best option as Latavius Murray and Dwayne Washington struggled.
Strong Team Effort From Saints on Defence
Several players made a name for themselves on the Saints defence. Safety J.T. Gray had five tackles while Darnell Sankey, Demario Davis and Taylor Stallworth had four each. Despite the impressive performance, it looks like a tough road for Gray to make the roster at Safety, especially with two big name draftees ahead of him on the depth chart, and Stallworth has a wealth of talent ahead of him on the roster. Darnell Sankey helped his hopes of earning a roster spot but will need to perform as a special teamer and Davis solidified his spot as a starter at WILL ahead of Craig Robertson, who had two tackles. While the Saints don’t have superstars on the backend, they do have solid performers deep on their roster.
Receptions Shared Among Saints’ Receivers
No receivers stood out for the Saints with no one topping 50 yards. 12 players caught a pass and 15 were targeted, with no one seeing more than four targets. Rookie Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Cyril Grayson had the most yards, both catching both of their targets, though they likely didn’t do enough to move up the depth chart.
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