Besides the game, one of the best parts of the football season are Monday mornings.
Any football fan knows, whether it’s meeting up with buddies at school, the casual conversation among workplace friends and rivals beside the proverbial ‘water cooler,’ or turning on your favorite sports talk show to see the cast set ablaze by the unimaginable moments they just witnessed less than 24 hours prior— Monday mornings are for bragging rights, armchair quarterbacks, and “Did you see when?!” This Monday morning, Bucs fans—
Will be excited to bring up— The pass rush.
Tampa’s front was able to dominate Minnesota’s offensive line in passing situations. Kirk Cousins is a good NFL veteran, but he is a pocket passer. No pocket quarterback wants to have to deal with constant defenders in his face, at his feet, disrupting his process. Kirk cousins had a two-fumble first quarter (One forced by his own teammate), and a three-turnover first half. The Bucs came out of the first half with a 3-0 turnover differential. The NFL has morphed into a very different game than the one the 20th century knew, but one of the most consistent determinant of wins and loses is NFL is turnovers. The Bucs won the turnover battle 3-0 and finished with menacing pressure— resulting in two sacks— against Kirk Cousins.
Dave Canales’ halftime adjustments.
16 plays, 75 yards. The Bucs managed 10 total first half points. They netted 70% of that output on the opening drive of the second half. In a drive aided by penalty, the Bucs spread the ball around and marched 75 yards for a touchdown. The drive ended with a seven yard touchdown reception. Tampa’s second half offense would go on to score the same 10 points as their first half offense, however, the 10 would feel dramatically different as the Bucs found a groove offensively. They spread the ball to their playmakers and allowed Baker Mayfield to settle in to a rhythm. One game in and Dave Canales has looked the part.
White was an exhaustive topic of conversation during Tampa Bay’s offseason. The linebacker made it very clear that he was not in favor of playing the 2023 season on his fifth-year option. Devin White’s play made the discussion, amongst Bucs fans, very split. Arguments can be made that since Tampa drafted White, fifth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, he has been a leader and a staple for their defense. White played an instrumental role for the Bucs during the team’s 2020 Super Bowl run, however, alongside ups like that have come lows. White’s coverage skills have been called into question for a better part of his career and last season the former LSU Tiger was even taken to task by former Tampa Bay Bucs’ Hall of Famer, Warren Sapp for something far more concerning— effort.
Devin White’s contract situation remains unresolved and Jason Licht will be between the rock and hard place of choosing which Bucs to offer contracts to and which Bucs are better off testing free agency. If Devin White continues to play with the vigor he put on display against the Minnesota Vikings he may prove himself worthy of the money he is likely seeking.
Are going to be worried about— The offensive line.
Tom Brady is gone and with his departure the Bucs have lost many things. An under-appreciated element of Tom Brady’s game that the Bucs have lost is his quick release. The lack of Brady’s quick release shows up the most when Tampa’s offense line finds itself against an opponent where the matchup is uneven. Both offensive lines struggled early in this game. For the Bucs, their offensive line’s struggles are the worst-case scenario. An offseason question mark, turned preseason concern, realized as a regular season problem. Baker Mayfield may have the mobility that Tom Brady lacked, however, the best way to beat a good pass rush is not giving anything to sack. Mayfield’s mobility is a nice addition to the Bucs’ offense but he may want to take some notes from Tom Brady’s 2022 tape.
Won’t be able to let it go— Mike Evans went nearly the whole first half without a catch.
A big issue for Tampa Bay last (among the many) was the inability of the Bucs’ coaching staff or offense as a whole to find ways to get the ball to Mike Evans. Evans is the team’s number one receiver and one of the very best the league has to offer. Across the field, the Vikings have another number one receiver who is one of the very best in the league. While Evans may not be in the same category as Jefferson, seeing another team find creative ways within their offense to make sure their best pass catcher gets opportunities to catch passes in comparison to Tampa Bay’s approach of allowing the two-minute warning of the first half come before Mike Evans’ first reception is all too familiar. Mike Evans wound up finishing the first half with two catches for 37 yards and Tampa’s lone touchdown, belaboring even further that more reps for Mike Evans means more good things for the Bucs’ offense.
To Tampa Bay’s credit, as the game continued, they corrected their mistake. Mike Evans finished the game with six catches for 66 yards and his touchdown at the end of the first half.
Game one is just that, game one. 60 minutes into the season Tampa Bay is 1-0. Their arrival at 1-0 will surprise some people, but you are what your record says you are. The Bucs have a long way to go and a lot of season left. The reality is Tampa Bay is tied for first place in the NFC South and will have a chance to advance to 2-0 next week, against the Chicago Bears.