The preseason over for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the reigning Super Bowl champion's regular season is on our doorstep.
The Buccaneers finished their preseason with a 23-16 victory over the Houston Texans on Saturday night, playing their starters more in the final game than they had against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Tennessee Titans in the past two weeks combined.
You can find AllBucs' six takeaways from the victory below.
Brady, Bucs first-team offense shine on second drive
For the first time since a one-drive appearance two weeks ago against Cincinnati, the Buccaneers played their starters on several drives on Saturday night. Tampa Bay's offense stalled on its first drive, going three-and-out, but quickly found its groove the next time it had the ball.
On the next drive, Tampa Bay ran seven plays. Each of those plays were pass calls, and quarterback Tom Brady connected on all seven throws, tallying 91 yards while targeting wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown twice while also completing a pass to running back Leonard Fournette. Godwin hauled in a 24-yard touchdown to cap the drive off.
Compare this to Tampa Bay's first-team offense's three-and-out, lone drive against Cincinnati that ended in Brady being sacked, and it would appear that the Buccaneers' offense is comfortable entering the 2021 season.
The Buccaneers starters, offensively and defensively, only took the field for one more drive against Houston before being pulled from the game early in the second quarter. Head coach Bruce Arians had seen enough from his starters at that point, making the choice to pull the first team and keep starters healthy before the year begins on September 9.
First and second-team run defense struggle
It's the preseason, and it's hard to take stats as a concern right now. That being said, Tampa Bay allowed 209 rushing yards across 38 carries on the night, giving up 5.5 yards per carry.
Running backs David Johnson, Mark Ingram, and Scottie Phillips each averaged over four yards per carry, with Johnson tallying 7.5 per carry and Phillips posting 9.1 yards per attempt. Johnson and Ingram, as well as Phillip Lindsay, saw the majority of their work against Tampa Bay's first-team defense, while Phillips took over in the second half and led the team with 73 yards on the ground.
Against the first-team defense, Houston was able to compile 62 yards rushing on 12 carries on its second drive of the game. However, the 18-play possession would not result in a score as the Texans failed to convert on fourth down within Tampa Bay's ten-yard line.
Tampa Bay has finished No. 1 in the NFL in run defense in back-to-back years, so one poor preseason performance isn't the end of the world. However, it's a performance worth remembering to see if the Buccaneers can improve upon the showing once meaningful football games begin.
Delaney records two interceptions, should lead in the battle for backup cornerback role
One of Tampa Bay's bright spots among defensive depth players this preseason has been cornerback Dee Delaney, who signed with the team in May. Fighting his way into the battle for the Buccaneers No. 5 cornerback role, Delaney has impressed throughout the preseason and went out with a bang on Saturday night.
Delaney intercepted two passes against Houston, including a game-clinching pick on the Texans' final drive while Houston was down by one touchdown. He also posted six tackles and defended three passes, one of which being an impressive play in trail technique as Houston quarterback Davis Mills rolled left and targeted a receiver down the seam on a scramble drill.
In our opinion, Delaney has solidified a spot on the Buccaneers 53-man roster and won the competition at backup outside cornerback this preseason, over the likes of seventh-round pick Chris Wilcox, Herb Miller, Antonio Hamilton and others. We'll see if Tampa Bay feels the same way as final roster cutdowns occur this week.
Another week, another big game for Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
The star of Tampa Bay's preseason, rookie edge rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka put on another show on Saturday night. After three impressive performances in the month of August, it is clear that Tryon-Shiyonka will field a meaningful role in Tampa Bay's defense in his first pro season.
On Saturday night, Tryon-Shiyonka put together four total tackles, a strip-sack, and a tackle for loss, making numerous stops against the run and forcing a turnover on his sack that was recovered by defensive lineman Khalil Davis. Two of Tryon's run stops, one of which being the tackle for loss, came as Tryon wrapped around the edge and quickly pursued the ball to the backside of the play from his angle.
Tryon-Shiyonka finishes his first career preseason with seven tackles, two sacks, and two tackles for loss. He had a sack called back due to a penalty in his debut against Cincinnati as well.
Tampa Bay is set to start two of the NFL's best edge rushers at outside linebacker in Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul this season, but given Tryon-Shiyonka's performance and draft pedigree as a first-round pick, the Buccaneers can't afford to leave their productive rookie edge rusher on the sidelines as they pursue a second Super Bowl victory in as many years.
Darden is the frontrunner to handle returns
Once again, rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden opened a preseason game as Tampa Bay's first kick and punt returner this August. Odds are, he'll man that role come the first week of the regular season as well.
Darden posted a 17-yard punt return at one point on Saturday, showing off his speed as he ran from one side of the field to the other to break off on the positive return. Otherwise, it was a quiet night on returns for Darden as he took one kickoff back 16 yards to the Buccaneers' 16-yard-line in the first quarter, and made no other returns.
Although Darden has yet to break off on a big return beyond the 17-yarder on Saturday, he's clearly the frontrunner to return kicks and punts entering the regular season for Tampa Bay. Running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn was Tampa Bay's No. 2 returner against Houston and fumbled a kick return (as well as a handoff) in the second half, likely ending his experiment as a returner.
Hainsey has a less than stellar debut
Tampa Bay's third-round selection, offensive lineman Robert Hainsey struggled in his debut with the Buccaneers. Hainsey entered the game with the Buccaneers' second-team offensive line in the first half, and although we didn't see issues with missing blocks, Hainsey struggled with snapping the ball on two separate occasions, one of which resulted in a fumble by quarterback Blaine Gabbert that led to a safety.
This might be worth taking with a grain of salt, though. It is important to remember that Hainsey exclusively played offensive tackle up until his selection by the Buccaneers and snapping the football is a brand new concept to the Notre Dame product - specifically, snapping the ball in a game situation.
The Buccaneers will offer Hainsey plenty of time to develop as Tampa Bay's starting offensive line is set and stone, and has some veteran members in its depth. That being said, the next time Hainsey takes the field for the Bucs, the hope is that he will feel much more comfortable when snapping the ball to his quarterback.
Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' preseason updates, and other news and analysis. Follow along on social media at @SIBuccaneers on Twitter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.