Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
The Bucs are coming off their bye week and the last time we saw them on the field they had a less-than-memorable performance in London. Jameis Winston had his worst performance of the season and committed 6 turnovers which killed any shot that they had to win the game. The defense had a subpar day as they let Kyle Allen pick them apart through the air throughout the game. It doesn’t help that Shaquil Barrett has come back down to earth since his hot start to the year. We will see if the team used their time off to shake off that game and is ready to roll into the next part of their schedule. We will see how they come out against the Titans, these are the 5 things I want to see from Tampa against Tennessee:
1. Can Jamies Winston take advantage of his situation that Marcus Mariota wishes he had?
Ever since Winston and Mariota were in the 2015 NFL draft, the two were heavily debated heading into the draft and for much of their careers, who the better quarterback was. They met on the opening day of their rookie seasons, Titans won 42-14. Winston had 210 yards, 2 TD, and 2 INT. Mariota had the better day, 209 yards and 4 TD. Since that meeting, Mariota has been benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill and it appears his time with Tennessee is over. The Bucs don’t have a potential answer behind Winston, so barring a trade, he has a chance to turn around his season and put on some good tape as he heads towards free agency. Will Winston give himself another chance at a starting opportunity in 2020? If he will, it has to start on Sunday.
2. When Jason Pierre-Paul plays, can he provide an immediate boost to the pass rush?
Tampa still needs to activate JPP to their 53-man roster, but based on his practice reports, it does appear he is set to make his return after breaking his neck in the offseason. Outside Shaquil Barrett, the pass rush for the Bucs has been non-existent. JPP had 12.5 sacks in 2018, which was one of the few bright spots on that defensive unit. If he can shake off the rust quick and Barrett can find his way back to the quarterback, then the duo can form one of the better pass rush tandems in the NFL. If Todd Bowles wants to help his young secondary and start creating more turnovers, then it starts with getting his veteran pass rusher back into the lineup and helping immediately.
3. Will Bruce Arians unleash Ronald Jones after the bye week?
The Bucs continued to split touches between Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones while going with the hot-hand in some matchups. Just based on the eye test, Jones has been the more explosive back and has done more with his touches compared to Barber. Anytime it appeared that Jones would take over as the lead back, Barber would find his way to getting the majority of the touches in the next game. I believe RoJo is on the verge of having a breakout game and could add another element to BA’s offense. Is he ready for a bigger role? Only time will tell. But if Tampa wants a shot to turn the season around and attempt to go on a run to sneak in as a Wildcard team then they need to start getting their playmakers the ball. If they can get Jones going, then it could open up passing lanes for Winston to get his receivers the ball. We will see if this finally happens against the Titans.
4. Is this Devin White’s breakout performance?
White’s beginning to his season didn’t get off to an ideal start as he had an MCL injury knock him out for three games. After taking time off to recover he was able to return against the Panthers prior to the bye week. He was able to get 9 total tackles and a tackle for loss while playing on 98% of the snaps. While he will have growing pains as a rookie, the #5 pick of the 2019 NFL Draft is expected to have a much larger impact. It will be a matter of time before White goes into the double-digits for tackles and starts to force some turnovers. The Bucs defense needs it and it would benefit the team if he puts on a show this Sunday.
5. Will the offense start to utilize O.J. Howard in the passing attack?
Entering the season, most analysts though O.J. Howard was set to have his breakout year and assumed that Bruce Arians would use his skill set in his offense, despite the history of BA not using the tight end position that much in his system. Howard has only managed to get 13 receptions for 176 yards while not finding the endzone in 2019. This has led to a lot of trade speculation because of the lack of targets that Howard is receiving. It does sound like the Bucs are adamant that they won’t trade him. So if that is true, then they need to start taking advantage of Howard’s abilities and start using him as a mismatch weapon. Let’s see if they schemed up anything for him during their time off.
***O.J. Howard has been ruled out vs Titans