Know Your Enemy: Tampa Bay Buccanneers

For this week’s game, I figured I should save the long previews which can be a chore to read and break it down into different parts instead. We’re going to start by taking a closer look at our opponents for this week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We played them once on Week 2 and were embarrassed 20-7 and now we travel to Raymond James Stadium to play them again. With the way our season’s going, I’m even less confident about Carolina winning than I was on week 2 but I’ll save it for another post. This is all about the Bucs.

Tampa Bay is sitting at 5-3 and are another surprise this year. It’s looking like they’ll be in competition for a playoff spot but their 5-3 record has a lot to do with their schedule. The records of the teams they’ve beaten this year are a combined 13-27, the strongest one of those being the St. Louis Rams (4-4).  However, their strong outing against the Falcons last week showed a lot of promise and I’m not writing them off as frauds this season.

The weak schedule has played a role in the Bucs getting to 5-3 but they’ve also been seeing a lot of good play from QB Josh Freeman. His strong arm and ability to scramble out of pressure has really come to life for the Bucs this season. They’ve won a few games thanks to him making clutch plays and most of his wins are in 4th quarter comebacks. It’s also helped that they have a great receiver in 4th round pick Mike Williams. He’s given the Bucs a big, deep play target which they needed. One guy they do want to see more out of is 1st rounder Arrelious Benn. He only has 9 catches on the season and has lost the #2 receiver spot to Sammie Stroughter and Michael Spurlock.

The Bucs seemed to have found a new running back in LeGarrette Blount. He was looked over in the draft due to being suspended for his senior year in Oregon and the Bucs picked him up off waivers before the season started. Ever since then, he’s been great for Tampa. Averaging over 4 yards a carry and being a lot more productive than Cadillac Williams. Cadillac can still be good as a change of pace running back but he’s lost a lot of speed and is close to the end of the line and the Bucs found that out the hard way. Their running game seems to have a good future with Blount, at least for now.

There’s a lot of people saying “The Bucs defense is back.” Well, yes and no. The Bucs are still giving up a ton of yards on the ground (close to last in the league in rushing defense) and they’ve only produced six sacks on the season but one thing they are good at is producing turnovers. Cornerback Aquib Talib has five interceptions and is close to becoming a top shutdown corner in the league. The Bucs linebacking corps has also force 5 interceptions showing that passing the ball is going to be tough against them no matter who you are. The only weak links are safeties Cody Grimm and Sean Jones. Grimm hasn’t been bad filling in for Tanard Jackson but there’s been a few times where good passing offenses have taken advantage of him.

Next to Talib, linebacker Barrett Ruud is the strongest player on their defense. He is capable of chasing down running backs and is usually the first guy to bring them down. What about rookie DT’s Gerald McCoy and Brian Price? Well, McCoy hasn’t been that dominant and Price is on IR. I wouldn’t call them busts but Bucs fans were definitely hoping they would stop the run better than they have so far and only having six sacks is pretty awful. However, I still think the two of them are going to pick it up sooner or later.

So, an overall summary about the Bucs would be that they are a good, young team with a bright future ahead of them. They have a balanced offense with slightly above average passing and running games. Defense makes it’s living by creating turnovers and shutting down the other team’s passing game. They are also a team that can rally from almost any deficit. 4 out of their 5 wins are from 4th quarter comebacks and it was close to being 5 against the Falcons last Sunday. With this and how bad the Panthers are right now, the outlook on Sunday’s game isn’t too bright for Carolina.

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