Playing time in a preseason opener is a difficult thing to read -- starters are generally gone after a quarter, so if you're barely playing as a result of that, it's a good thing; if you're barely playing as a backup, it's probably not a good thing.
The "playtime percentage" participation charts for the Bucs' preseason opener at Cincinnati are out, and there's some interesting things to be gleaned from it all. The Bucs' starting offense played 21 snaps -- two drives -- and the starting defense played 13, with the starting corners playing longer due to injury-related depth issues.
QUARTERBACK: Jameis Winston played well, going 9-for-13 for 99 yards on his two drives. Both drives stalled with passes in short-yardage situations -- Winston missed on passes to Mike Evans from second and goal at the 2, and missed on third-and-2 with another pass to Evans on the second drive. Of Winston's 13 passes, 12 went to players from last season -- seven to Evans, two to Cameron Brate, two to Adam Humphries and one to Jacquizz Rodgers, with just a single throw to DeSean Jackson among the newcomers.
Ryan Fitzpatrick got the nod with No. 2 offense and drove for a touchdown on his first drive, a field goal on his third. His passing numbers weren't great (6-13, 45 yards) but he also rushed for a 6-yard touchdown. Ryan Griffin went 4-for-9 for 57 yards but left with an injury to his throwing shoulder and could be done for the preseason. Rookie Sefo Liufau played in the final three minutes and wasn't bad in two-minute work, going 4-for-5 for 31 yards and moving the team into field-goal range.
RUNNING BACK: Not much all around -- Bucs rushed for 106 yards on 28 carries, a decent 3.8-yard average. Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers both had four carries for 11 yards, with Martin converting an early third-and-1 and Rodgers getting stopped for 2 yards on first and goal at the 4, leading to passes on the next two plays. Charles Sims had back-to-back runs of 13 and 8 yards, best of the group, and Peyton Barber had only 21 yards on 8 carries, but converted a fourth-and-1 as well. Snap counts for backups: Blake Sims got nine, but Quayvon Hicks and Russell Hansbrough got only three each -- Hansbrough left with a concussion.
RECEIVER: Mike Evans had four catches for 58 yards on two drives with Winston, DeSean Jackson had a 6-yard catch on his only target. The rest was a mixed bag -- after Winston left, receivers had four catches on 13 targets. Freddie Martino got a big opportunity with 41 snaps and six targets, but managed only one catch for 14 yards. Bernard Reedy was sharper, with half the playing time (21 snaps) and catches on all three of his targets, for 24 yards. Chris Godwin only got one pass and caught it for 14 yards. Another receiver on the bubble, Josh Huff, had three targets but only caught one pass for 7 yards. Snap counts can be telling here: Martino 41, Godwin 25, Reedy 21, Huff 21, Bobo Wilson 13, Derel Walker 10, Shaq Hill 2. I was surprised not to see more of Walker, who may have trouble unseating the WRs back from last year.
TIGHT END: As a group, very efficient, with seven catches on eight targets. Alan Cross led the group with two catches for 30, edging Cameron Brate's two for 27 and Austin Johnson's two for 15. Among the other backups battling for jobs, rookie Antony Auclair had 19 snaps but no targets, Tevin Westbrook 15 snaps and one 9-yard catch.
OFFENSIVE LINE: The starting line played 21 snaps, with Joe Hawley filling in for injured center Ali Marpet. With Evan Smith also out with an undisclosed injury. the interior depth was thin -- Josh Allen stepped in as the second center, playing 26 snaps, as did Leonard Wester at left tackle and Caleb Benenoch at right tackle. Limited guard depth meant Jarvis Harrison was in for 50 snaps with the second and third lines, and Cory Liedtke in for 48. The rookie tackles, Cole Gardner and Korren Kirven, subbed in for the last 24 snaps. The only offensive penalty of the night was a hold on Benenoch.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The starting defensive line's one series was 12 plays with only two tackles by defensive linemen, one a tackle for loss by Noah Spence. The defensive line had three of the Bucs' six penalties, includiing a roughing-the-passer on Spence when he hit the quarterback's helmet after a throw and an offsides on Robert Ayers.
The lone sack of the night came from a name we haven't mentioned much at all: Sterling Bailey, a 24-year-old out of Georgia who didn't play as a rookie but spent time with the Colts, Seahawks and Vikings. Another name to watch is Tavaris Barnes, who played with the Saints in 2015 and was productive Friday with three tackles in his 23 snaps.
Lots of ends sliding inside -- the eight players I'd consider primarily ends logged 170 snaps, the six guys I'd consider tackles logged 82 snaps by comparison. Some missed opportunities -- Justin Trattou had 33 snaps and no tackles, Ryan Russell had 28 and no tackles. Clinton McDonald was the only true DT to get a tackle and he got three; DaVonte Lambert had two in 24 snaps in that hybrid position at end but inside in nickel. Of the two bigs, Stevie Tu'ikolovatu had 23 snaps to Sealver Siliga's 12 -- neither had a tackle but Siliga had a flag for encroachment.
LINEBACKERS: Kwon Alexander had five tackles in 13 snaps on the opening drive. Kendell Beckwith also had five tackles in his 35 snaps, including a sack; Devante Bond had five tackles in 39 snaps before leaving with an injury that could sideline him the rest of the preseason. Who else was productive? Cameron Lynch had three tackles in 16 snaps, Jeff Knox had two in eight snaps. Rookie Riley Bullough had a tackle for loss in his 15 snaps.
Those backup linebacker jobs often come down to special teams -- the Bucs had four special-teams tackles Friday and three were by offensive players: Austin Johnson, Blake Sims and Jeremy McNichols, with gunner Josh Robinson the only tackle from a defensive player.
CORNERBACK/NICKEL: The Bengals only attempted 22 passes compared to 40 for the Bucs -- of those 22, the Bucs had only two passes defended, one each from Vernon Hargreaves (his goal-line interception) and one from Javien Elliott. With Brent Grimes and Jude Adjei-Barimah injured, the Bucs leaned heavy on Ryan Smith, who had five tackles in 49 snaps.
This was essentially Smith's first work on defense against legit NFL competition -- he had only one tackle in the first three preseason games last year, along with an interception against the Jaguars. That was also at safety, so he got extensive work at corner. He played more snaps Friday than in those first three games last preseason (48 total) and remember that he didn't play a single snap on defense in the regular season last year. Given 39 snaps in the preseason finale last year -- with most starters resting on both sides -- he had six tackles, though sometimes being a productive tackler in the secondary means they like throwing your way.
Of the two competing for the nickel job, Elliott got 29 snaps and Robert McClain 26; McClain had five tackles including one for a loss, Elliott had three tackles. Of the two rookie corners, Jonathan Moxey had 13 (and a special-teams penalty) and Maurice Fleming had 12.
SAFETY: As expected, Keith Tandy and Chris Conte were done after 13 snaps with the starting defense, with Conte getting two tackles and Tandy one. J.J. Wilcox and rookie Justin Evans each played 35 snaps and each had five tackles, showing the big dropoff from the top four to the rest -- Isaiah Johnson had two tackles in 13 snaps, Cody Riggs had two in nine snaps, Josh Robinson played eight and Marqueston Huff only three.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Right now, the Bucs have only one kicker, punter and snapper, so there's no battles there. Dirk Koetter made specific mention of having two "explosives" on returns -- Bernard Reedy had a 22-yard punt return to set the Bucs up at the Bengals' 29, and Josh Huff had a 37-yard kickoff return to set up a shorter field for the Bucs' only touchdown of the night.
You can read something into special-teams snaps though -- LB Cameron Lynch and rookie LB Richie Brown had the most with 10 snaps each; Blake Sims and Alan Cross had the most on offense with nine each, with Bernard Reedy getting eight.