Pictures from the Buccaneers' Preseason Week 4 matchup with the Redskins.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their 2017 preseason finale on Thursday night against the visiting Washington Redskins. It's safe to say that the game's most important takeaways will come from Friday's review of the videotape by Buccaneer coaches.
Washington won an offensively-challenged contest, 13-10, scoring their only touchdown on a pick-six by rookie safety Josh Harvey Clemons in the fourth quarter. The Buccaneers rallied with their only sustained drive of the night, a 63-yard possession ending in Sefo Liufau's 10-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Reedy, but a scrambling Hail Mary attempt by Liufau as time expired was batted away.
The Buccaneers finished the preseason 1-3, which is spectacularly unimportant. Of far more significance was the opportunity to look at some new roster hopefuls, and Head Coach Dirk Koetter left the field with a good feel for what the 53-man roster will look like.
"I think I have a clear picture in my mind," said Koetter. "I spoke with [General Manager] Jason [Licht] just briefly and we talked a little bit. Of course we want to take a look at the tape in the morning and then we'll start rolling on it."
Offensive precision was in short supply for both teams, as Washington scored the only points of the first half on a 53-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins, capping a 24-yard drive. That wasn't a particularly surprising result considering that both teams rested their starters and other key players. The Buccaneers chose not to suit up 36 of their 91 rostered players, only a few of those due to injury.
That said, Tampa Bay's offense, in particular, was stuck in neutral all night until late in the fourth quarter. The Buccaneers managed just 242 yards of offense, including 40 in the first half. The passing attack was especially dormant, with a net of six yards at halftime. Liufau later hooked up on completions of 40 yards to WR Bobo Wilson and 21 yards to WR Donteea Dye. The Bucs did get some nice runs from young tailbacks Peyton Barber (23 yards on six carries) and Jeremy McNichols (36 yards on 10 carries), but were able to convert just three of 13 third downs.
The Buccaneers' reserve defenders fared better, and the linebacking trio of Kendell Beckwith, Adarius Glanton and Cam Lynch made a string of big plays. Beckwith added a sack and two quarterback hits to his five solo tackles, Glanton led the team with nine stops and two tackles for loss and Lynch recorded seven tackles and a forced fumble that led to the Bucs' only takeaway on defense.
"I thought those three guys were outstanding tonight," said Koetter. "I think we're the deepest we've been at linebacker, for sure."
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As is usually the case in the last week of the preseason, the individual standouts were players at the back end of the depth chart, which could prove important with the roster cut-down to 53 looming on Saturday. In addition to those reserve linebackers, the Buccaneers also got some nice production from Wilson, running back Russell Hansbrough and defensive ends Channing Ward and Mehdi Abdesmad.
Wilson caught three passes for 58 yards and also had kickoff returns of 34 and 32 yards. This came on the heels of a Hard Knocks episode in which the undrafted rookie appeared to be frustrated with his opportunities in training camp.
"There are new players every year that show up and surprise you," said Koetter. "A guy like Bobo Wilson finally got a chance to show what he can do tonight. He's been through 20-something practices and just didn't get much of an opportunity. [He] finally got his hands on the ball tonight and made some plays."
Abdesmad was only added to the Buccaneers' roster on Monday, along with fellow young defensive end Hendrick Ekpe. It was fairly obviously a move designed to give the team enough depth on the defensive line to get through Thursday's game, but it was also a great opportunity for a player who had just recently been released by the Tennessee Titans. Abdesmad's shot at making the Bucs' 53-man roster is obviously a long one, but he certainly didn't hurt his career arc with a strong showing that included two tackles, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
"You've just got to take the chance that they give you and play your best, and that's what I did," he said. "I did my best, and now it's in their hands to make a choice. Now it's on game tape. This is for all the teams, even Tennessee that waived me last week. Now they're going to see what I did here."
The Buccaneers will trim their roster t0 53 players before Saturday's 4:00 p.m. ET deadline. At this point, the young men who handled most of the playing time on Thursday night have done all they can. Players like Reedy, who had a strong preseason in terms of both receiving and returning kicks, will now spend a day-and-a-half sitting by the phone.
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"Just wait and pray," said Reedy. "I always put my faith in God and not in man. That's what I look at. It means a lot to continue to ball the way I have. I put the team first."
Washington had the ball first after a Zach Hocker touchback and managed to get the ball across midfield on a succession of short outlet passes. However, a tackle for loss by LB Adarius Glanton and a third-down sack by LB Kendell Beckwith forced a punt. The kick was downed at the Bucs' four-yard line. Tampa Bay's first drive also came up empty despite two nice runs by Barber, the culprit being a pair of penalties that put the offense well behind the sticks.
Washington scored the game's first points on the next possession, despite needing 10 plays to move the ball 24 yards. Dustin Hopkins drilled a 53-yard field goal with three minutes left in the first quarter. After forcing another Tampa Bay punt, the Redskins followed up with a 10-play, 64-yard drive, keyed by a toe-tapping 23-yard sideline catch by WR Matt Hazel. Abdesmad stopped RB Mack Brown short on a third-and-one run from Tampa Bay's 24. After using a timeout, Washington went for it on fourth down but Beckwith and Ward sniffed out a play-action rollout and forced Washington QB Nate Sudfeld into a desperate incompletion.
Washington threatened again at the end of the half, holding the ball for seven minutes and earning a first-and-goal at the Bucs' seven. However, a Matt Jones touchdown run was nullified by a holding penalty and Glanton made a great pursuit tackle of a scrambling Sudfeld to force a field goal attempt. The score remained 3-0 going into halftime when Hopkins missed a 36-yard field goal try off to the right.
Tampa Bay's offense didn't come out much hotter in the second half, but defensive holding and facemask penalties on the opening drive got the home team into Washington territory. The Bucs ended up trying a 56-yard field goal after a holding call erased a good Jeremy McNichols run, but Zach Hocker pushed it to the right.
The home team got the ball back a few minutes later when Lynch forced a fumble by RB Mack Brown and Abdesmad recovered. However, the ensuing drive went nowhere and the Bucs punted the ball down to the Redskins' 16. Sudfeld drove Washington across midfield, hitting WR Maurice Harris for 18 yards on a third-and-six to get into Buccaneers territory. However, on third-and-one from the Bucs' 27, Abdesmad flew off the right edge and dropped Brown for a loss of five yards. The Redskins settled for Hopkins' 50-yard field goal.
Tampa Bay's offense finally got on track on the ensuing drive, kick-started by a 13-yard run around the end by Russell Hansbrough. On the next play, Liufau faked a handoff and threw down the middle to Wilson, who had beaten the defense on a post. Wilson fell while making the catch but got up and appeared to score on a 62-yard catch. The play was reviewed and it was determined that a Washington defender had touched Wilson down, making it first down at the Washington 22. Liufau converted a third-and-seven with a sharp pass to Wilson, but a sack by blitzing LB Nico Marley helped force the Bucs into Zach Hocker's 47-yard field goal try. It was good, making the score 6-3 with 8:33 to play.
The Bucs' third-string defenders forced a punt from midfield on the next possession, with a touchback and a penalty putting the ball at Tampa Bay's 25 for the next drive. That drive lasted all of one play, as LB Josh Harvey-Clemons intercepted a Liufau pass down the right seam and returned it 41 yards for the game's first touchdown.
Liufau's 21-yard pass to Dye got the ball over midfield on the Bucs' next drive, and WR Derel Walker avoided several tackles to get 15 more yards to the Washington 18 two plays later. On third-and-two from the Redskins' 10-yard line, Liufau stood tall in the pocket and waited for Reedy to break free in the back of the end zone, hitting him in the left corner for the Bucs' only touchdown.