IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Tampa Bay downs Houston as Arians Readies Roster

Ken Cross

August 30, 2021 at 10:32 pm.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are near raising the curtain on the 2021 NFL season and although the starting 22 players from last season’s Super Bowl team return, head coach Bruce Arians has found players who can make a difference right away.

Wide receiver Jaelon Darden and defensive back Dee Delaney look like headliners on that list.

“Return game-wise, he’s fine,” said Arians of Darden. “We’ve got to block for him better, give him a chance, but he showed his speed getting around the corner and doing some of those things.”

In the win over the Texans, Darden posted 16 yards on a kickoff return and 17 yards on a punt return as he is the odds on favorite to start on special teams next week against Dallas.

The receiving game is trickier as Arians talked about how he was learning route-running and how he can dissect different coverages with his speed.

“The dependability isn’t quite where it can be,” commented Arians. “When he knows what he is doing, it’s impressive. We’ve just got to do a better job of getting him to know what he’s doing.”

Miami Hurricanes product Dee Delaney picked off two passes in Saturday night’s 23-16 win in Houston. Tampa Bay is Delaney’s fifth NFL team in three years as he broke in with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018.

“He really helped himself,” noted Arians. “We’re still in the process of evaluating those last five spots, but he helped his cause.”

On the Offensive: The Bucs’ first-team offense led by venerable Tom Brady looked like the proverbial “well-oiled machine” on Saturday night as they marched 91 yards on the second drive of the game for a touchdown.

Brady found Chris Godwin on a 24-yard touchdown passes as he targeted and hit Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Godwin on that drive.

The caveat was that the Buccaneers once again showed a no-huddle offense which Arians favors in speeding the game up to put even more pressure on opposing defenses with the talent on the offensive side of the football.

“We did a little bit of it in Detroit last year and it’s something we always want to have,” Arians explained. “(Offensive coordinator) Byron Leftwich calls most of them, but Tom really operates it fast now. All of the words now mean something to him, which they didn’t.”

Competitive Balance: The game was competitive about which Arians was pleased because he could see players vying for the last five spots on the roster.

It gave him and his staff a chance to look at players in positions where playmaking was important in a close game.

“There was a lot at stake in that ball game, especially going into the third and fourth quarters,” explained Arians. “It really couldn’t have worked out any better in that ballgame for us, as far as the evaluation process.”

Line Change: You usually hear those terms in Tampa Bay when talking about the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champion Lightning. However, it is appropriate for the evolving Bucs’ offensive line.

Arians said that Alex Cappa looked like he had “solidified” the right guard spot while Aaron Stinnie played on the left side of the line for several plays.

Ryan Jensen continues to be one of the tops centers in the NFL. Arians said in the event Jensen was injured, he would move Ali Marpet over to center from left guard and move Stinnie into his spot.

Robert Hainsey, the Buccaneers third-round pick would not figure in right away as a rookie.

“We just want to bring Hainsey along as slow and easy as we possibly can,” noted Arians.

 

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