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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rookie Review | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Buccaneers fans have questions about the Bucs' 2023 rookie class, the team's history against the Texans, Swedish Fish and more


The very first regular season game in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history took place in Houston, Texas. It was played in the Astrodome, once nicknamed "The Eighth Wonder of the World," and Tampa Bay's starting quarterback was Steve Spurrier. The Buccaneers lost to the Houston Oilers, 20-0.

Since then, the Bucs have only played in the city of Houston five more times in the regular season. They lost three more times to the Oilers in Texas between 1980 and 1995, before that franchise moved to Tennessee. The NFL returned to Houston in 2002 with the expansion Texans, and the Bucs have since dropped two decisions in Houston, in 2007 and 2015.

This Sunday, the Buccaneers will try again to get their first win in Houston and check off one of the three remaining current NFL cities in which they have never earned a victory. They had a similar opportunity in Week Eight but lost to the Bills to fall to 0-3 all-time in Buffalo. The other white whale for the Bucs is Nashville, where they are 0-4 against the Tennessee Titans.

Which got me to thinking.

Hopefully we will look back at 2023 as the year in which the Bucs got their first victory in Houston. What years did Tampa Bay record its first win in all the other cities (save Buffalo and Nashville)? Let's take a look!

For the purposes of this exercise, I'm going to look at all 32 current NFL cities, including Tampa, although it's really only 30 because the Giants and Jets share a stadium and the Chargers and Rams both play in Los Angeles. I'm also going to include former NFL cities during the Bucs time in the league, those being Oakland, St. Louis and San Diego. I'm going to ignore minor geographical inconsistencies, like the fact that the Giants and Jets actually play in New Jersey, and just go by the city names that those teams use. Same thing for the Washington football team.

If a team played a random game in another city for some reason, like the Panthers playing at Clemson in 1995 or the Saints playing in Baton Rouge in 2006, I'm ignoring that too and just lumping it in with their primary city. For teams named after states or regions, like Arizona and New England, I'm going to list the actual cities in which they play. I'm going to list these chronologically by year, so it's clear where the Bucs have most recently gotten their first wins in a city. So here we go.

1977: New Orleans and Tampa. Those were the last two games of that season and the first two wins in franchise history.

1978: Kansas City and Minneapolis.

1979: Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay. The Bucs finished off their four NFC Central foes in '79 and also beat the Colts in their original city.

1980: Cincinnati and San Francisco. The Bucs' first win in California would prove to be their only one in that state during their first two decades of games.

1989: Phoenix. A nine-season gap between first wins in new cities for the Bucs is pretty crazy, and the Cardinals had to move from St. Louis to the desert to make it possible.

1993: Atlanta and Denver.

1994: Washington, D.C.

1995: Charlotte and Philadelphia. Trent Dilfer outplayed Randall Cunningham and Errict Rhett outpaced Ricky Watters in the Philly game. The win over Carolina was actually in Death Valley, but again I'm going by the team name.

1996: San Diego. This was the famous franchise-turning win after Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp got mad in their hotel room about ESPN calling them the 'Yucks.'

1997: Indianapolis and New York. The win in the Meadowlands was over the Giants. The Bucs just got their first road win against the Jets two years ago.

1999: Seattle.

2000: Foxboro and Miami.

2001: Dallas and St. Louis. The Bucs never beat the Cardinals in Missouri but did topple the Rams.

2012: Oakland. The famous Doug Martin game.

2014: Pittsburgh.

2019: Jacksonville and Los Angeles. The latter was the 55-40 final, the highest scoring game in Bucs history.

2020: Las Vegas. The Bucs remain undefeated all time in Sin City.

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me any time you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to

What's the Bucs record vs the Texans since we don't face them that often?

- @dan_the_man_loves_sports (via Instagram)

That's true. This Sunday's game, in fact, will be just the sixth meeting between the Buccaneers and the Texans. Right now, those five games played are the Bucs' fewest against any NFL franchise, though they've also only played Baltimore six times, so it will be a tie in the last spot after this weekend.

That makes sense, of course. Houston is the newest team in the NFL and they play in the other conference, so there just haven't been many opportunities for the Bucs to play them. There could be more in the future now that the NFL has added a 17th game, which for Tampa Bay will always be against a team in the AFC.

It was the Texans' entry into the league in 2002 that actually led to the shuffling of the teams into eight four-team divisions, since it gave the league a nice even 32 clubs. The league used that opportunity to change its scheduling format, going with rotating divisional matchups that guaranteed each team at least one game against every other team in any four-year span. The NFC South was matched up with the AFC South in 2003, so that was the Bucs' first opportunity to play the Texans. Tampa Bay won that game, at Raymond James Stadium, 16-3, but Houston then won the next four, in 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. So, the answer to your question, Dan, is that the Bucs are currently 1-4 all-time against the Texans. They will be trying to get their first regular-season win ever in the city of Houston this weekend.

(The Bucs and Texans used to play each other every preseason for a stretch, which is why they have twice as many preseason meetings as regular-season ones. You probably don't care too much, but the Bucs are 8-2 in those games.)

Best Thursday night memory?

- @tadams904 (via Instagram)

Well, if Chris Godwin had happened to spin around about a second earlier than he did in the end zone last Thursday night, I'd have a very fresh answer for you. Godwin did nothing wrong, of course, but when he did spin back towards the field on a "Hail Mary" pass attempt, Baker Mayfield's pass was already upon him and about a yard away. The best Godwin could do was throw out one arm as the ball fell harmlessly (or from a Bucs perspective, harmfully) to the turf. He had no shot at it…but maybe he would have if his route had been a yard shorter and the Bucs would have walked away with one of the most improbable wins in franchise history. We'll never know.

You really don't have to go that far back for my actual answer, though. After the Bucs won Super Bowl LV at the end of the NFL's 2020 season, they were earmarked for the next year's annual "Kickoff Game." That's a Thursday night showcase in Week One, the first game of the entire season, that always features the defending champions, usually at home. In this case, the NFL paired the Buccaneers up with the Dallas Cowboys and ended up with an absolute thriller to kick the season off.

You probably remember it. The Bucs came back to score on Ryan Succop's field goal with two seconds left to beat the Cowboys, 31-29. Specifically, my fondest memory of that night is when the Bucs got the ball back with about a minute and a half left at their own 25, and you could look down on the field and see Tom Brady huddling the team up and you knew the Bucs had a shot. Sure enough, he did the Tom Brady thing and coolly directed a 11-play, 57-yard drive that got Succop in position for the game winner.

I got the specifics of that drive by calling up that game's play-by-play, and in so doing I was also reminded that Rob Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes, and those visuals quickly come back to mind, too.

Overall, however, the Bucs are only 5-10 all-time in Thursday games and I wasn't around for the first one in 1980. I recall Doug Martin having a really big game on a Thursday night in Minnesota in 2012 (just looked it up: 214 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns), but mainly because I remember that in his very next game, at Oakland, Martin ran even wilder.

Favorite halloween costume that one of the players dressed in? I dressed as Freddy Fazbear - @wow_its_ethan_ (via Instagram)

This year, it would have to be rookie Yaya Diaby dressing up as the Incredible Hulk. Judging from the fact that a handful but not the rookies all of the rookies got onto the team plane in costumes last Wednesday, it appears that some veterans pulled a prank that fooled some of the rookies into thinking that was mandatory.

In any case, Diaby already has a physique that somewhat resembles the Hulk, so his full-body purple and green suit actually looked pretty natural on him. If he was fooled by a prank, Diaby didn't look to upset about it. Unlike the real Hulk, he was pretty much smiling nonstop, as is his usual countenance.

What are your thoughts on the rookies performance so far in the season?

- @oliverrradam (via Instagram)

Pretty positive overall, though things are coming along a bit more quickly for some than others. For those who are playing a lot, some ups and downs are always expected for rookies. For those who are still waiting to earn a role of more significance, the jury is obviously still out but the hopes are high.

There's a dozen of them on the active roster – there were 13 to start the season but cornerback Derrek Pitts has since been bumped down to the practice squad – so we can quickly go through them all. I'll do so in the order they were drafted:

- DL Calijah Kancey, 1st-round pick: Kancey's rookie season has been slowed a bit by a calf injury that he first suffered early in training camp and then reaggravated in Week One, leading to him only playing 11 snaps over the Bucs' first four games. When he's been on the field, Kancey has shown flashes of the exact type of explosive movements the Bucs were sold in during the draft. He had at least one quarterback hit in each of the first three games he played, the first Bucs rookie to do that since 2006. Kancey and the rest of the Bucs' defensive front were slowed down considerably in Buffalo in Week Eight, perhaps largely due to the absence of Vita Vea, but in his previous three games he had a pressure rate above 10% in each one, which is a great start.

- G Cody Mauch, 2nd-round pick: Mauck has stepped right into the starting right guard spot, so that's obviously a promising beginning to his career. He's had good and bad moments, as you would expect from a rookie not only changing positions (he was a tackle at North Dakota State) but also a player making a big jump up in competition level. On Thursday, Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales acknowledged that Mauck has looked like a rookie at times this year but also stressed that he could see the athletic talent that is likely to make him a very good player in the long run.

- OLB Yaya Diaby, 3rd-round pick: On Thursday, Co-Defensive Coordinator Kacy Rodgers said that the Bucs' coaching staff is looking for ways to get Diaby on the field more often because of how rapidly his game is developing. The issue is that they don't want to cut too much into the playing time for Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and they don't want to give Diaby too many different assignments (dropping into coverage, rushing from the interior line, etc.) because they don't want to overload him early and stunt that rapid growth. So they are going to continue to use him as an edge rusher and over time, perhaps, get him some more snaps. So far he has recorded nine tackles, two tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and a fumble recovery. According to Next Gen Stats, Diaby has displayed an excellent average get-off at the snap of 0.93 seconds. For comparison's sake, that's the exact same average get-off that Barrett has recorded so far this year.

- ILB SirVocea Dennis, 5th-round pick: So far, Dennis has only played on special teams save for four combined defensive snaps in the Minnesota and Atlanta games. Dennis also missed three games after hurting a hamstring in the opener, but since he's returned, he's become a core special-teamer, each week tying for the most snaps played in that part of the game. He has two kick-coverage stops.

- TE Payne Durham, 5th-round pick: Durham's headed in the right direction. He was made a game day inactive each of the first four weeks, with the team keeping David Wells up as a third tight end instead, but since coming back from their bye week the Bucs have swapped those two. Durham has played in the last three games, but he really hasn't played a lot yet; he has logged 29 total snaps on offense and caught one pass for eight yards. Rookie tight ends rarely make a big impact in the NFL, so none of this is surprising.

- DB Josh Hayes, 5th-round pick: Hayes has quickly taken on a big role on special teams, too. He hasn't played defense yet but he's a core player in the kick-and-return game, like Dennis. He is second on the team with four kick-coverage stops.

- WR Trey Palmer, 5th-round pick: As the season has progressed, Palmer has gradually assumed a larger and larger share of the third-receiver role. He now routinely plays double or more the snaps of Deven Thompkins and Rakim Jarrett. Palmer's production hasn't been huge – 12 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns – but he's shown a propensity for the remarkable catch and is absolutely brimming with confidence at all times. It's not surprising that he hasn't drawn a large number of targets with Baker Mayfield understandably wanting to get the ball to star wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin whenever possible.

- S Christian Izien, undrafted free agent: Izien has been the surprise rookie in this year's class, at least from an outsider's perspective. Todd Bowles and company thought Izien had the skills to play in the slot in the NFL, and sure enough he won that job out of training camp. Izien is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and has proved to be a sure tackler in the open field. His goal-line interception in the opener at Minnesota remains one of the most important defensive plays the Bucs have made this season.

- WR Rakim Jarrett, undrafted free agent: Jarrett doesn't see a ton of playing time, at least not yet. He's been targeted seven times and has three catches for 19 yards. He likely won't see his role increase much unless the team suffers injuries at the receiver position.

- S Kaevon Merriweather, undrafted free agent: Merriweather was playing quite a bit on special teams before he hurt an ankle against Atlanta. Even after missing the Buffalo game, he ranks third on the team with three kick-coverage stops.

- RB Sean Tucker, undrafted free agent: Tucker started the season as the number-two running back behind Rachaad White but didn't find a lot of production early and was eventually passed by Ke'Shawn Vaughn. In Buffalo, with Chase Edmonds back from injured reserve, Tucker was named a game day inactive. He has carried 15 times for 23 yards and caught two passes for nine yards. Given the overall struggles of the Bucs' run game no matter who is in the backfield, those early stats are probably too small of a sample to give us an idea of Tucker's talent level.

OLB Markees Watts, undrafted free agent: Watts made the 53-man roster coming out of training camp but he's sixth on the depth chart at his position and hasn't played yet. He's been inactive for six games, and he was a DNP in the seventh.

Overall, there haven't been any breakout stars from the Bucs' 2023 rookie class, but several of them are making solid contributions and there have been some flashes of big-time potential from a couple of them. It looks like a group that will be productive in the long run.

I need your detailed thoughts on Swedish fish

- @kahaian (via Instagram)

Can one really have detailed thoughts about Swedish Fish? It doesn't feel like a topic that anyone would need to think about for more than a few seconds at a time.

Anyway, I'll let you in on a little secret that may blow your mind: Swedish Fish are just red Sour Patch Kids without the sour coating (tartaric acid). Is your mind blown? Mine was when my wife shared this tidbit. Seriously, read the ingredients on the packages of those two candies some time. Nearly identical. And they're made by the same company!

As for me, I like Swedish Fish and always have. I don't partake of them often, however, because they can be a bit hard to eat. They seem stickier when you're eating them than Sour Patch Kids do, and I'm sometimes worried I'm going to lose a filling. I have to eat them slowly for this reason. Give me the little mini-sized Swedish Fish and I'm happy.

I assume this is a Halloween-inspired question. Since we're on the topic I'll give you a bonus nugget that is 100% true and cannot be argued with: a 100 Grand candy bar is the absolute best thing you can find in your trick-or-treat bag. Mic drop. I'm out.

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