by on March 13, 2019

The Buccaneers ended their 2018 season in losing fashion on Sunday Peyton Barber Jersey , falling 34-32 to the Falcons to finish the season at 5-11. Tampa Bay at the bottom of the NFC South for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. There’s yet another coaching change coming for the franchise, and it’s hard not to feel like the front office absolutely needs to get this right. There’s too much talent that the team is in danger of wasting if the losing continues.Speaking of talent, especially as it pertains to the future, the Bucs saw plenty of mixed results from their 2018 rookie class. There seem to be just as many questions as there are answers for the group after year one. Will Vita Vea continue to develop into a consistent enough force to justify him being a 12th overall pick? Will Ronald Jones II put his frustrating rookie season behind him and turn into the guy that he was drafted to be? Is a move to safety in order for M.J. Stewart? Can Jordan Whitehead continue to be a pleasant surprise in year two? We could go on and on...Instead, we’ll go one by one through the class and recap the year that was for the guys that will no longer be “the rookies” in just a few months.DT Vita Vea (Round 1, 12th overall)Vita Vea’s rookie year started off rough, but ended on a pretty high note. The big defensive tackle suffered an injury very early in training camp that cost him some significant time. He missed all of camp, all of the preseason and the first three games of the regular season. Missing camp and the preseason is definitely bad for any rookie, but it’s especially bad for one who has some serious developing to do. When Vea returned to the field, he didn’t get a ton of snaps. He eased his way into action, but by the end of the season, he was showing signs of his potential. With all things considered, Vea turned out to be one of the more promising rookies for Tampa Bay in 2018.Stats: 28 tackles (21 solo), 3.0 sacksRB Ronald Jones II (Round 2, 38th overall)2018 was entirely forgettable for USC product Ronald Jones II. Tampa Bay took the standout running back in the second round, ahead of the likes of Derrius Guice, to presumably be part of a two-man backfield with Peyton Barber. Then, the preseason came around. Jones never got off the ground during the preseason games, which led to speculation that coaches weren’t satisfied with where he was in terms of developing into an NFL running back. Then, as the regular season got going, he was left off the active roster for the first few weeks. When he finally did crack the gameday roster, there wasn’t much going for him. He then dealt with an injury before coming back and getting minimal snaps. Overall, Jones was definitely the most disappointing of Tampa Bay’s 2018 rookies. Stats: 23 carries, 44 yards (1.9 yards per carry), 1 TD, 7 catches Authentic Ryan Smith Jersey , 33 yardsCB M.J. Stewart (Round 2, 53rd overall)When the Bucs took M.J. Stewart in the second round of the draft, it was a bit of a surprise. There were other cornerbacks on the board that had gotten much more attention than the North Carolina product, but Tampa Bay liked what he had to offer, so he became the team’s third pick of the draft. In the preseason and early in the regular season, Stewart played very well. He had his moments where he struggled, as all rookies do, but early impressions were good ones. From there, he faded away a bit due to a foot injury. By the time he worked his way back from that injury, he solely played special teams. His stock progressively went down as the season went on, which has left his future in question. The Bucs could still try him at corner when the new staff comes in, but he had also been getting some practice work at safety later in the season. It’s too early to make any sort of determination for any rookie, but that feels especially true for Stewart.Stats: 33 tackles (31 solo), 3 passes defendedCB Carlton Davis (Round 2, 63rd overall)For most of 2018, Carlton Davis was Tampa Bay’s most consistent rookie. With a week one injury to Vernon Hargreaves III, Davis quickly had to adjust to a huge role in his first weeks as an NFL cornerback. With Hargreaves out and Brent Grimes playing poorly, Davis had to be the Bucs’ No. 1 corner less than a year removed from playing college ball. Being a No. 1 corner in the NFL is hard enough, of course. But in the NFC South? Yikes. Davis had to deal with Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan two times each, and that’s without getting into the receivers he had to cover. What Davis was able to do as a rookie was pretty impressive. With his length and overall skill, he should develop into an even better player, especially if the new coaching staff can use its talent the right way. Stats: 40 tackles (36 solo), 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 4 passes defendedOL Alex Cappa (Round 3 Youth Justin Evans Jersey , 94th overall)Alex Cappa was drafted out of Humboldt State in a move that was compared to Tampa Bay drafting Ali Marpet out of Hobart College back in 2015. The Marpet move has very clearly worked out extremely well. As for Cappa, it’s entirely too early to tell. He didn’t make the gameday roster until late in the season. Once he did, he played sparingly, but the experience will certainly help him as he heads into a full offseason with the team. We’ll see what 2019 brings, but the front office surely still has high hopes for him.S Jordan Whitehead (Round 4, 117th overall)Considering the countless storylines that are involved with this rookie class, this year’s team and the upcoming offseason, the performance of Jordan Whitehead in 2018 will likely be overlooked. There were injuries all around the Tampa Bay secondary, which meant younger guys had to step up. Chris Conte and Justin Evans both missed significant time in the back end of the defense. Even with the emergence of a guy like Andrew Adams, Whitehead had to play a larger role than what was likely anticipated. He did a solid job in the snaps he played, looking less like a fourth-rounder and more like a potential starter for years to come. Despite his snap count fluctuating at times, Whitehead was the team’s second-leading tackler for the season. He was one of the more promising rookies for the Bucs this year, which should bode well for the future of the secondary.Stats: 76 tackles (61 solo), 4 passes defendedWR Justin Watson (Round 5, 144th overall)There wasn’t much room for Justin Watson this year, but his play in the preseason was definitely a positive sign for Tampa Bay. The receiver out of Penn was an exciting pick back in April, then he received a lot of buzz throughout training camp. His preseason performance was great to see, but he didn’t get many offensive snaps during the regular season. With Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries occupying the first four receiver spots, Watson was never going to see a ton of playing time. On the positive side, he was active most weeks to play special teams. He has the build and skillset to be an NFL receiver, but whether or not he’ll see more offensive snaps in 2019 seems unclear, at least with the Bucs. Stats: 3 targets, 1 catch, 5 yards http://www.buccaneersauthorizedshops.com/authentic... , 6 special-teams tackles (all solo)LB Jack Cichy (Round 6, 202nd overall)As a sixth-rounder with a history of injuries, Jack Cichy making the roster out of training camp was a pretty big deal. He initially played special teams, but injuries called for him to get some snaps on defense. The 22-year-old was serviceable in the time that he did play on defense, but his season came to an unfortunate end in October when he tore his ACL. Whether or not he’ll be back with Tampa Bay for the 2019 season is unclear at this point, with a busy offseason ahead for general manager Jason Licht.Stats: 4 tackles (3 solo)RB Shaun Wilson (Undrafted Free Agent)The entirety of Tampa Bay’s 2018 draft class made the opening day roster, as did undrafted rookie Shaun Wilson. The Duke product was the star of training camp and after a good preseason, he got his chance in the regular season. With Ronald Jones inactive early in the season, Wilson’s special-teams abilities got him on the active roster. Once Jones and others came back, Wilson went back and forth between active and inactive. After a November loss to Washington, he went on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. His work on special teams was fine, but Bobo Wilson’s late-season emergence as a kick returner could spell trouble for Shaun Wilson’s future with the Bucs.Stats: 6 carries, 29 yards (4.8 yards per carry)... 5 targets, 3 catches, 5 yards... 7 kickoff returns, 122 return yards (17.4 yards per return) Well, there ya have it folks. The NFL strikes again. It’s fair to say that if you would’ve even mentioned Tampa Bay in the playoff race a month ago, laughs would have emitted from the sky, ground, trees - hell, even your dog would’ve cracked a smile. But here they are, playing to keep the season alive. A win on Sunday would not only be monumental, it would put them in excellent playoff position with just three games remaining on the schedule.Bucs Nation’s own Alex Salvarezza, Bailey Adams, and Evan Winter sat down to discuss what this week’s game means and if Tampa Bay can save their season. How exactly can a win save this season?Bailey Adams: At 5-7, the Bucs’ playoff hopes are pretty slim right now. However O. J. Howard Jersey , a win on Sunday against the Saints picks those hopes up just a little bit more. It seems obvious that the Bucs have to win their remaining four games to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs, and even at 9-7, they would need some help to get in. Obviously, none of that help matters if Tampa Bay doesn’t pick up wins over the Saints, Ravens, Cowboys and Falcons in the next four weeks. That difficult stretch starts Sunday with a New Orleans team that the Bucs beat in week one. Another upset victory for Dirk Koetter and his team would keep playoff dreams alive for at least one more week. Evan Winter: If they can pull off the victory on Sunday, then there is no reason to think the Bucs couldn’t run the table and possibly get into the postseason. The Saints are arguably the best offense in the league and their defense has been playing great football in recent weeks. They are a complete team. Everyone knows how talented the Bucs are on paper. We know how naturally confident NFL players are. All winning does is boost that confidence. A season sweep against the Saints would give them the exact boost they need. If that happens then anything is possible. Alex Salvarezza: This is definitely a big game. If the Buccaneers can somehow find a way to win on Sunday, they will only be one game out of the playoffs with three weeks left. Do I think they win on Sunday? Absolutely not, but if they pull off another upset win over arguably the best team in the NFL, Dirk Koetter will start to have a pretty good case as to why he should come back for a fourth season.Win or lose, where do the Bucs go from here?BA: As of now, every remaining game is classified as a “must-win” for Tampa Bay. That stays the same with a win over the Saints on Sunday. Win and you give yourself a chance. A victory would have the Bucs at 6-7 with three weeks left, meaning they’d firmly be “in the hunt” during the season’s final stretch. On the flip side, a loss would be too damaging to overcome. A loss drops Tampa Bay to 5-8, which would mean a shift back from playoff talk to conversations about whether or not Dirk Koetter should still be the team’s head coach in January. A loss would mean losing out the rest of the way for a higher draft pick would be better option for the Bucs’ long-term future. These are two extremely different paths we’re looking at, huh?EW: Bailey hit it on the head. Every game is do or die at this juncture in the season. It’s even worth mentioning that Jason Pierre-Paul said the Bucs are in “win or go home” mode earlier in the week. A win keeps the faint playoff hopes alive. A loss all but denies a postseason berth and opens the team back up to speculation as to what will happen after the 2018 season ends. I do think that regardless of whether they win or lose, this team will still fight until the end. They had every reason to give up until this point, but they clearly haven’t. I don’t see why that would change beyond this week. AS: A win makes the game in Baltimore next weekend the biggest of the season and that would continue every week after each win. If the Buccaneers do lose, the last three games will be all about players fighting for spots on the roster next season and more importantly, Dirk Koetter fighting for his job. I believe an 8-8 record would buy him one more season. EW: It still feels like he’s gone unless they make the postseason. Even then, it will still be a toss-up as to whether or not he should stick around. Tampa Bay wins if....BA: They get after Drew Brees and at break even or better in turnover margin. Forcing Brees to make mistakes is extremely difficult. There’s a reason he has 30 touchdown passes to just three interceptions this season. When it comes to getting the ball to receivers quickly, Brees is as good as anyone. But you stand absolutely no chance as a defense if you’re giving him time to sit comfortably in the pocket and go through his progressions at will. The Bucs will need big days from Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib, Gerald McCoy and the rest of the front seven. If those guys don’t show up, it’s hard to see the secondary surviving.On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs need to stay away from turning the ball over. Jameis Winston has played back-to-back clean games Authentic Chandler Catanzaro Jersey , not turning the ball over once. He has been smarter with the ball, tucking it and running when he needs to and also taking sacks when necessary. Winston needs to continue making good decisions this week if the Bucs are going to stay in the game and ultimately win it.EW: On defense, Dallas provided the obvious blueprint, which is pressure, but I’m going to add another layer: win in the short-to-intermediate game. Now this will be easier said than done, but the New Orlean’s offense thrives in that range. Whether it’s a screen/dump to Alvin Kamara or an intermediate post to Michael Thomas, if you can take away that area of the field then you will give the Saints trouble. On offense, it has to be the battle at whoever lines up on the outside at wide receiver. Tampa Bay was able to put Mike Evans on Marshon Lattimore on the outside in Week 1, but that matchup will be hard to come by with Desean Jackson out. The Bucs should be able to find plenty of room over the middle, but those outside throws will be key in beating the Saints. AS: Tampa Bay has to win the turnover margin. They cannot break even and they certainly cannot lose in that aspect. The only reason the team came away with victory in week one was because they were plus two in that department. A repeated performance is needed if they have any chance on Sunday. On offense, Jameis Winston must take care of the ball for the third consecutive game and make good decisions. If the team does fall behind early, will he be able to stay the course and not force anything or try and do to much? Yards will come for this offense like they do every week, but you need to stay patient in a game like this and every time they get in the red zone, they have to come away with seven. Tampa Bay loses if....BA: Old issues return. As mentioned above, Winston has been extremely efficient and smart with the ball in Tampa Bay’s back-to-back wins. If he goes back to his previous form and starts forcing throws when he doesn’t need to, the Bucs will absolutely lose. That’s not the only returning issue that would cause a loss. If Tampa Bay’s kicking woes come back, for whatever reason, count on a loss. Since joining the team three weeks ago, Cairo Santos has been money. There’s no reason to think he’d start slipping up now, but we’ve seen too many times in the past what one missed extra point and/or one missed field goal can do in a game. Just like turnovers, the worries in the kicking game need to stay in the past. Otherwise, the Bucs lose and the rest of this season doesn’t matter.EW: Jameis doesn’t have time. If he can’t set his feet and have time to make his reads, then the Bucs don’t stand a chance. The Bucs will have to have success through the air in this game. As much as you want to pound the rock to keep the Saints off the field, the Bucs don’t have a reliable enough ground game to lean on that plan.The Bucs also have to score touchdowns in the red zone. Points will be a necessity and they won’t be able to keep up with the Saints if they’re settling for kicks.AS: The D-line doesn’t get any pressure and the O-line gives up constant pressure. It’s as simple as that.