It was a little bit of good, a lot of bad, and some ugly as the Buccaneers dropped a 19-14 decision to the Cincinnati Bengals in their pre-season opener.
After the game, Bruce Arians summed it up perfectly. “There was good and bad, a lot of bad, a lot of ugly. The good was we came out healthy. It’s a start.”
Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughan however proved that he was one of the better players offensively for the Bucs, scoring the only offensive touchdown and getting a couple of chances in the return game.
“Ke’Shawn, I thought played lights-out. He made a hell of a play as a gunner. He ran the ball well, blocked well. I thought he made a really nice step, especially his special teams’ snaps. We know he can run, we know he can catch, but those plays on special teams were big for him.” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians.
Tight end Tanner Hudson was undoubtedly the best offensive player for the Bucs. Hudson caught four passes for 48 yards and surely would have caught a few more if the passes had been on target.
Newly acquired running back Giovanni Bernard made his presence felt early, catching a third-down pass from Tom Brady and picking up the necessary yardage for the first down.
Bernard will nevertheless have a significant impact in the passing game this season, especially on third downs.
Rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden got a chance at one kick return, and most of his offensive opportunities came in the downfield passing game. Most of those attempts were incomplete.
“He looked like a rookie. He’s hand-fighting too much instead of just using his speed. It’s just things he’s got to learn. But he’s doing alright. He looked real fast when we got that little quick screen out to him. He’s dangerous with his hands on the ball.” Coach Bruce Arians on the performance of Darden.
In the two catches that Darden made, there were glimpses of his speed, shiftiness, and ability to shake defenders. I can’t wait to see more of Darden next week.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert led the Bucs to their lone offensive touchdown. Gabbert finished 6/11 for 64 yards.
Ryan Griffin was certainly disappointing in his play last night. For as many years as he has been in this offensive system, he could not get anything going on offense and finished the night with two interceptions.
The night’s biggest cheer came when the rookie from Florida, Kyle Trask, entered the game.
Trask, however, played with a lot of confidence and poise and showed the ability to stand in the pocket and make a play.
Although Trask’s numbers weren’t great, there was a lot to build on for next week when he should see more playing time against Tennessee.
Trask’s best play of the night was a two-point conversion to tight end, Codey McElroy, in the corner of the end zone to bring the Bucs to within two.
Trask finished the night 4/15 for 35 yards and was sacked twice. Trask was plagued by a lot of drops from his receivers.
Most of the guys Trask played with won’t even be on the practice squad come September 9th.
Despite the low completion percentage, Arians summed up the performance of Kyle Trask. “I thought Kyle played well. He went in there and made some throws. Guys need to make plays for. I like his poise and where he’s at.”
Defensively there was a lot to like and a lot of things that still need some work. The tackling was abysmal. Arians addressed that in his post-game comments. “Probably the worst tackling experience I’ve seen in a long time. It was like we had no arms. Everything was shoulder and blocking. Some young guys put some embarrassing stuff on tape.”
There were a few defensive highlights. Linebacker Joe Jones intercepted a Kyle Shurmur pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown to make the score 16-12 at the time.
Rookie linebacker Joe Tryon flashed his speed and athleticism off the edge, sacking Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen, but was called for roughing the passer. It looked as if he led with his shoulder, but these officials seem to have no idea what constitutes a roughing penalty and what doesn’t.
Arians talked about how disruptive Tryon was in his first game action in 18 months. “He was disruptive. He showed some stuff. Didn’t get there all the time, but he was disruptive.”
If Tryon continues to develop and improve, I can absolutely see him getting a lot of playing time this season.
Javon Hagan and rookie Grant Stuard also made some nice plays on defense, but the missed tackles stood out more than the nice plays.
The Tennessee Titans will be at Raymond James next Saturday. The Bucs and the Titans will have two days of joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday.