The Tampa Bay Buccaneers obtained a much-needed blowout victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, able to create some serious momentum entering their Week 6, Thursday night matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Several players, in particular, stood out throughout the matchup, playing a pivotal role in the victory. Others, however, impacted the game in a negative way and will have things to clean up in their performances moving forward.
This brings us to the weekly Buccaneers stock report, which you can find below!
Antonio Brown and Mike Evans: Not to say either wide receiver has played poorly as of late, just, Brown and Evans haven't played up to their standard in recent weeks. Despite the offense being without top red zone target Rob Gronkowski, Evans had been unable to capitalize on similar opportunities by posting zero touchdowns in Weeks 3 and 4. Meanwhile, Brown followed a one-catch showing in Week 2 by going on the COVID-19 list in Week 3 and missing two scoring opportunities in Week 4.
On Sunday, Brown and Evans - respectively - paced the Buccaneers in receptions, yards and touchdowns, combining for 237 yards and four scores across 13 catches on 16 targets. The two played a major part in Tom Brady passing for over 400 yards and five touchdowns on the day. Brown and Evans' stocks are skyrocketing as leading members of the Buccaneers' explosive passing offense, as such.
Jamel Dean: Dean has been hit or miss in coverage this year when he's been on the field, although that has been in a limited capacity as he was dinged up twice against Atlanta, left the game against Los Angeles, and missed the game against New England due to injury.
In his return to the field, Dean was productive and held his own in coverage as the Buccaneers' de-facto No. 1 cornerback, given the inexperience within the scheme on his opposite side (more on that later). Dean tallied a tied-for-team-lead five solo tackles, a fourth-quarter interception that bobbled off the hands of Miami receiver Jaylen Waddle, and two pass breakups.
Considering the injuries throughout the Buccaneers' secondary, Dean's experience and play-making ability are crucial for the unit to find success until it gets back to full health. In his first game back from an injury of his own, Dean answered the call.
Situational football: As we highlighted in our takeaways story, the Buccaneers had a much-improved showing when it came to situational football against Miami than they had in recent weeks. From that story:
The Buccaneers scored touchdowns on 4-of-6 red-zone drives - the first non-touchdown red zone trip ended in a field goal when Brady was sacked at the 24-yard line on third down, and the second ended with three kneels by Gabbert to run out the clock and end the game.
Offensively, the Buccaneers converted on 8-of-11 third downs, compared to allowing the Dolphins to convert just twice on seven attempts defensively.
Entering the game, the Buccaneers were being penalized 8.5 times per game for an average of 76 yards per contest. This week, the Bucs were flagged just six times for 47 yards, the worst flag being thrown on cornerback Richard Sherman for defensive pass interference in the endzone, pushing the Dolphins' offense 16 yards forward to the one-yard line. Brissett would connect with running back Myles Gaskin for a touchdown two plays later, narrowing the Buccaneers' lead to one possession.
The Buccaneers' performance in these categories was a key factor in their struggles over the previous two weeks. Continual improvement on conversion downs, in the red zone and with penalties will only increase the team's chances to fend off better squads.
Richard Sherman: It would have been foolish to expect Sherman to play perfectly in his first two weeks with the Buccaneers after he was out of football for about ten months. However, through two games - starting both - Sherman has looked far from his old, dominant self at cornerback.
Sherman has been productive in terms of tackling with ten in the past two games but has been inconsistent in coverage, to put it lightly. Pro Football Focus dinged Sherman for allowing eight receptions for 98 yards on as many targets against the Patriots, and although coverage stats were not available at the time this story was published, much seemed to remain the same against Miami from live viewing.
Sherman allowed numerous receptions on passes in front of him, similar to last week, but allowed a receiver to get past him for yards after the catch after taking a poor angle at one point, resulting in a big play. As mentioned earlier, Sherman was also flagged for pass interference on a throw to the end zone which moved Miami to the one-yard line, his second DPI in as many weeks. The Dolphins scored two plays later.
Although Dean's return solidifies the Bucs' cornerback position slightly, Sherman will need to step up in coming matchups where Tampa Bay will face more threatening passing offenses. Particularly, the Eagles' air attack.
O.J. Howard: Since his return from a 2020 torn Achilles, Howard has yet to make much of an impact within the Buccaneers' offense and has come short of filling the pass-catching void left by Gronkowski at tight end, posting three receptions for 30 yards in the past three games. Gronkowski played throughout the Rams game in Week 3, but was hampered by his rib injury roughly halfway through the matchup.
Given Howard's size and speed combination, he was expected to do just that with Gronkowski on the sidelines. However, it is clear that Brady prefers to look to Evans in the red zone and other receivers across the remainder of the field, seen by Howard's six targets on the year.
To make matters worse, Howard has not progressed as a blocker the team has wanted him to, and that much was seen on Sunday when Howard allowed rookie edge rusher Jaelan Phillips to breeze by him to sack Brady, marking Phillips' first career sack.
Once Gronkowski is back at full health, it would be a surprise to see Howard on the field offensively very often. Cameron Brate has proven himself as a serviceable No. 2 TE at this point and is being paid as such. In fairness to Howard, Brate didn't do much against Miami either but has been dependable in the past with Brady at the helm.
Defensive injuries: The injuries keep on piling up for the Buccaneers to begin the 2021 season, primarily on defense. Five starters have missed at least one game so far - Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Carlton Davis III, Antoine Winfield Jr., and Jordan Whitehead - and a sixth could be in jeopardy of missing the Week 6 contest due to it being a short week.
That being linebacker Lavonte David, a critical member of the Bucs' defense and a vocal leader for the entire team.
David exited the game near the end of the first half with an ankle injury and did not return - head coach Bruce Arians said after the game that he believes David is suffering from a high ankle sprain. That is not the worst injury in the world, however, considering the Buccaneers will face the Eagles on Thursday night, all eyes will be on David's recovery in hopes that he can heal quickly and take the field in Philadelphia. As of now, that is no guarantee.
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