Initially, I was going to reveal all three players at once. There's been a very specific situation that has changed my plans a little bit. Even the best laid plan requires some flexibility, right? So here we go, rolling with the punches.
The Bucs played their first preseason game this past Friday and Players A and C were very much in the mix. Player B, unfortunately, has landed on Injured Reserve and has been sidelined for the foreseeable future, shutting down his rookie season. That player is…
Safety D'Cota Dixon. See below for more on Dixon as well as further clues as to the identities of Players A and C.
Player A had three tackles in Friday's preseason opener. If you hadn't figured out he was on defense yet, here you go. Player A was on the field for 63% of the defensive snaps in the game overall and 36% of special teams snaps, as well.
I mentioned before how this wasn't the first rodeo for Player A. With training camp winding down and a new season looming, there are a few differences Player A has noticed – especially in his position room (get ready for another big clue).
"Just the guys in the locker room, we've got a lot of good leaders in all of the rooms," Player A said of this year's team. "I know in our room, Lavonte [David] been doing a good job in keeping on everybody. We are all feeding off it."
This defensive system is also very, shall we say friendly, to his position group. It allows the middle level to be very involved in getting after the quarterback and stresses an attack-style mode.
"The physicality, I love that part" Player A says as his eyes light up. "I just have to play aggressive. Coach Bowles ain't scared to blitz. He'll blitz everybody if he can. That's one thing, he likes to attack first."
Not that a defensive player who likes to be physical narrows it down any but do you have any other guesses now?
Player B a.k.a D'Cota Dixon
We have our first reveal! So, because Dixon has now landed on Injured Reserve, my hand was a little forced. It's a shame because Dixon was having a wonderful camp and was a great come-from-behind kind of story. Originally a tryout player, Dixon impressed with his physicality and his understanding of the game. He seemed to improve and grasp more and more concepts by the day.
That won't necessarily change now that he's sidelined either. Though on IR, Dixon continues to learn the defense and is out at practice each day with his teammates. On Tuesday, he was even in newly signed safety Micah Abernathy's ear. When Abernathy would come off the field, Dixon would meet him, clipboard in hand, and Dixon looked to be talking him through things.
"I believe that God has purposed me to be here and I believe that it's much bigger than football – for the Bucs' sake and my sake, that drives me," Dixon told me prior to his injury. "It makes me want to be a coach on the field."
He's become that last part despite being a rookie. It will also allow him to get an even firmer grasp on this system – a redshirt year, if you will. Rest assured, when he's healthy, he will be able to fit right back in. Dixon has always had great study habits as well as a spherical view of his position – he used to be a running back, in fact.
"In pop warner, I was a running back in mighty mites. The pee wee squad. I used to have a little Barry Sanders jersey and so I used to think I was Barry Sanders," Dixon recalled. "I had a little 21 too and I thought I was Sean Taylor. I used to try to mimic these NFL pro-style guys and watch and 'study.' As a toddler, I'm studying – no, I'm watching YouTube highlights. I thought I was studying something. That was something that I really loved. Coming out there in practice, I really thought I was Barry Sanders, you know? Sweetness. I had a Walter Payton one."
Now, he'll get to watch the Bucs running backs and the team as a whole as he continues with his rehab – and his studies – these next few months.
Player C played 42% of the offensive snaps as well as 14% of special teams snaps during last Friday's game. Though he didn't get as much of the special teams snaps as might be expected, he knows he can make a big impact in that phase of the game and has placed a huge emphasis on it.
"That's really going to be important for me, to make sure I'm a leader on special teams and a playmaker on special teams," Player C said. "I was able to do that in my one kickoff, I had a tackle. I was making sure I was being productive in the special teams phase. That's definitely going to be very important for me and something I find very important."
Player C was also very productive on the offensive side of the ball for the Bucs in the game. You could argue he was the most productive of any skill player on the field. Overall, he was pleased with his performance but is looking to continue to grow as the preseason goes on. This is his chance to get the most work in game action and he plans on making the most of it.
"Felt good," Player C said. "Felt like I played well, was able to make plays in catching the ball, running the ball and in pass protection. It felt good."
I saw a few correct guesses on this player floating around on Twitter so you guys are getting closer. Tune in next week when we get another reveal!
View some of the best photos from the Buccaneers' Preseason Week 1 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.