After a tumultuous off-season involving a slew of personnel changes and retirements, the Buccaneers silenced doubters (temporarily, at least). Tampa Bay took down the Cowboys 19-3 Sunday night in Texas in its season opener.
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2022
First, seven-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback Tom Brady shocked many by unexpectedly retiring on Feb. 1, then returning 40 days later. Pro-bowl offensive linemen Ali Marpet followed suit later in the month by announcing his own retirement. To top it off, head coach Bruce Arians stepped down from coaching to accept a position in the teams front office. The team also lost key starters Rob Gronkowski and Ndamukong Suh.
Despite the tension and uncertainty surrounding the team, the franchise continued to rebuild and fill holes where needed. To make up for the sudden-exit of Antonio Brown, the Buccaneers added another future Hall of Fame receiver, Julio Jones. They designated Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph as Gronkowski’s replacement, while signing Akeim Hicks to fill the void left up front by Suh. Although there were many moving parts this off-season, one can argue the Buccaneers actually improved.
Stopped In Their Tracks
After marching down the field and booting a field goal in their first drive, the Cowboys were just scratching the surface in terms of offensive production. This was not the case, as that first quarter field goal was the only points the team scored throughout the contest.
The deadly linebacker trio of Lavonte David, Shaquille Barrett and Devin White denied Dallas from making much progress. White clogged all running lanes left open by his defensive line, assisting in holding running back Ezekiel Elliot to just 52 yards, while Barrett was formidable off the edge and as a pass rusher. Lavonte David continues to excel in coverage, his understanding of a variety of zone defenses and techniques provides him with an advantage that most linebackers don’t have.
Defensive backs Carlton Davis and Antoine Whitfield Jr. make up one of the league’s best defensive backfields, living up to that label on Sunday. Whitfield hauled in an interception, while Davis held Cowboys star Ceedee Lamb to just two receptions and 29 yards. Veteran addition, Logan Ryan was all over the field, finishing with five tackles.
Getting The Ball Rolling
The Buccaneers surprised many by signing Jones, who some consider to be the best receiver of his generation. After an injury-plagued season in Tennessee last year, Jones reportedly adopted a new diet and training regimen. Jones hauled in three passes for 69 yards, including a 48-yard snag. The former All-Pro also received two handoffs, one turned into a key red-zone first down.
The decision to resign running back Leonard Fournette is proving to pay off. The LSU product rushed for 127 yards on 21 carries, averaging six yards per rush. Off-season addition Russell Gage only caught two passes but is expected to have a larger role after hauling in 66 passes last season.
Despite suiting up on Sunday, star receiver for the Bucs Chris Godwin is still nursing a hamstring injury. The Buccaneers will take on division rival, the New Orleans Saints Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. The Saints are coming off an encouraging win over the Atlanta Falcons 27-26.