-The 2020 season is officially underway with the Buccaneers opening their season in New Orleans against the division-rival Saints. The game didn't end up exactly how Tampa Bay would have liked, but as the old saying goes – when you watch the tape, it's never as good or as bad as you thought. For a breakdown of the major things we say in Sunday's season opener, check out Takeaways.
View the top photos of Tampa Bay's Week 1 matchup against New Orleans.
-One of the major positives that came out of Week One was the Bucs' defense. Throughout camp, various players and coaches preached the importance of a fast start for their unit. Plus, continuity was in their favor, returning the entire starting front seven and fielding almost the exact group of 11 starters as the last few games last year. With a year of experience under their belt and a strong finish, the defense wanted to pick right back up where they left off.
And they did.
The Bucs' defense allowed the second-lowest yards per play in the NFL's opening week with a 4.11 yard per play average. They held the league's all-time leading passer to 160 passing yards, running back Alvin Kamara to his lowest yard-per-carry average of his career and Michael Thomas to the lowest catch total of his along with his second-lowest yardage total.
One player that was instrumental in that latter stat was cornerback Carlton Davis, who seemed to have been charged with shadowing 2019's leading receiver all game, allowing him to catch the ball just three times for only 17 yards. And though Davis is only in his third-year in the league, he's playing with the confidence of a bonified vet.
"It just comes from putting in work," Davis said of that confidence. "Only hard work can breed confidence. My coaches put me in a position to show my skillset and be able to provide what our team needs in a corner. Just having those guys trust me and having our coaches give me this job is everything I need to go out there and do a job. At the end of the day, I want to do whatever I can to help our team win. I've always been this type of corner where I'm following the best receiver since college. So, coming to the NFL is definitely different, but it's the same job and I'm used to the pressure."
Another player who had a great game, albeit a little under the radar, was defensive lineman William Gholston. He's now solidified as an interior defender along the defensive line and has been since Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles took the reins and changed the Bucs defense to a 3-4 hybrid scheme. Now that he's had a year to get used to his role and maintain his body to mirror that role, Gholston feels a ton more comfortable.
"I feel like coming into the second year and knowing what's expected of me and knowing, really, what's asked of me in the defense – it's easier to be able to produce," he said. "But, I wouldn't have been able to do any of that stuff without the guys to the left and right of me."
And behind him, for that matter. Both inside linebackers, and defensive captains, Devin White and Lavonte David brought the pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees and New Orleans running backs. David had two tackles for loss and tied for the team lead in tackles with White. They each had 11. And what's more, is that White is now fully entrenched in his role as a leader of this defense in just his second year.
"I think being able to vote him as a team captain shows the sense of accountability, responsibility and how he's approaching the game now being a second-year player," said Gholston of White. "As far as him getting all the calls out – he does that very well. He gets us lined up and ready to go. Plus, he has another great, veteran leader that's in his room in Lavonte [David]."
And while the defense had a pretty good outing, especially for it being the first game of the season, the offense definitely had some plays it would like back. With so many new pieces, getting on the same page is going to take a little bit of time but the game in New Orleans against a formidable Saints' defense has proved a learning experience for the unit.
"I think we have a better idea," wide receiver Chris Godwin said of knowing where the offense can improve. "I think the more games we play, the better of an idea that we'll get. I don't think we really can change too much in terms of our preparation. I think we do a really good job of preparing [and] I think we work extremely hard. We had a really good camp, but you never really know what the full product is going to look like until you put it on the field. That was our first opportunity – we learned from some of the mistakes. We understand that there's some miscommunication that we have to get fixed, and that's going to come with experience building this chemistry together."
-It wasn't all bad for the offense, though. They put together a well-balanced opening drive that culminated in a Tom Brady rushing touchdown of all things. It was the first of three touchdowns Brady would score on the day, which set the Bucs' record for most total touchdowns by a quarterback in their red-and-pewter debut. To see more, Scott Smith has you covered.
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