Each week after every Bucs game, we’ll take a closer look at the snap count distribution for the Tampa Bay offense and defense. We’ll assess what we can learn from who played the most and least from the game.
Here is a closer look at which players received the highest and lowest number of snaps in the Bucs’ 19-16 win on Christmas night on the road against the Cardinals in Week 16.
For the first time in weeks, Mike Evans out-snapped Chris Godwin for the lead in snaps by a wide receiver and yet his chemistry with Tom Brady looks worse than ever. Julio Jones only played in 22 of 81 snaps, and even though he made just one catch for 5 yards, it felt like he had more impact than what the stat says.
Jones drew a pass interference penalty on the first play of the game, was wide open in the end zone on the same drive where Brady overthrew him, and scored a touchdown in the second half that was denied by an illegal shift penalty. Russell Gage played in 43 of 81 snaps had his imprint on the game as both a receiver (five receptions for 65 yards) and a blocker in the run game.
In the never-ending saga of wildly off-base distribution of snaps and touches, Leonard Fournette accounted for 20 more snaps than Rachaad White. Fournette had 29 touches for 162 yards, but if you break it down it wasn’t as great as you think. Fournette had 20 rushing attempts for 72 yards, which is a low average of 3.6 yards. Meanwhile, in just seven attempts White gained 36 yards for a 5.1 average. Fournette did have the play of the game taking a swing pass for 44 yards that helped set up the White touchdown.
Not to take anything away by a great play from Fournette, but it was a huge chunk play that counted for a majority of his receiving production. Fournette’s nine receptions for 90 yards gave him an average of 10 yards per reception, but if you take out the one big play, his numbers drop to 5.75 yards per catch. White’s average was 4.3, so he only would’ve beat him by just over one yard in the game.
It was tough to see Josh Wells leave the game early for what is being reported as a season ending knee injury. He played 16 snaps before Brandon Walton filled in for the other 68. Walton struggled to hold his own of him, allowing Tom Brady to get hit multiple times. The Bucs didn’t help him either by not giving him another tight end or running back to help double team. When everybody is healthy, Wells is usually the swing tackle in jumbo packages but with him starting the game, they used Luke Goedeke in that role for three plays. We’ll see what the plan is for that role when and if Donovan Smith can get back to the lineup.
After Antoine Winfield Jr. only played a small number of snaps last week and Mike Edwards was on a pitch count, both saw their snaps rocket it up on Christmas. Neither played all 76 snaps, but Edwards played 97% of the plays and Winfield was involved for 93%. You could see right away how much better the defense is when Winfield can play.
It’s remarkable the Bucs can get by with only two healthy outside linebackers that were also to play 100% of the snaps. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Anthony Nelson both went the whole way, which is even more valiant when you consider that Tampa Bay typically rotate their edges and each player would average around 30-55 plays. Nelson came up big early it in the game with a strip sack on Trace McSorely that was recovered by Devin White in the first quarter.
Rakeem Nunez-Roches has been stepping up his game, leading the Bucs’ interior defensive line with 44 snaps. Will Gholston also had an important moment recovering a fumble in the second half. Pat O’Connor got some extended playing and had a great pressure late in the game that forced an incompletion to get the Bucs the ball again.
We don’t know how long Vita Vea will be out for, so it’ll be a collective effort by everyone else in that role.