The Buccaneers are 1-8 and have lost five straight games. Washington has also had a disappointing season with a 3-6 record and is looking to get back on track. What are the six things PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game? Find out right here in SR’s Pick 6.
Who: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Redskins
Where: FedEx Field – Landover, Md.
When: 1:00 p.m. ET – FOX
Last meeting: Redskins won, 24-22, in 2012
Series notes: Bucs and Redskins are 9-9 all-time
1. CONTINUE THE ALLEY-OOPS
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown got his first start in five weeks and passed for 301 yards and two touchdowns, including a 22-yard touchdown on a jump ball to rookie wide receiver Mike Evans, who is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. Evans had 125 yards and went over 100 receiving yards for the second week in a row and had a key 34-yard reception in the fourth quarter on third-and-20. Fellow 6-foot-5 receiver Vincent Jackson added 75 yards on eight catches, including a 19-yard jump ball reception. McCown also found 6-foot-5, 260-pound tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins with a lob pass in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown.
McCown needs to continue to throw alley-oop passes to the “Dunkaneers” in Washington, but must be accurate as the Redskins have two big cornerbacks in rookie Bashaud Breeland, who is 5-foot-11, 197 pounds, and second-year player David Amerson, who is 6-foot-1, 201 pounds that match up well against Jackson and Evans. Washington only has three interceptions this season, and McCown, who has thrown six interceptions in three and half games, needs to place the ball correctly and keep it that way.
2. CASH IN ON OFFENSE
Tampa Bay’s offense has generated over 360 yards of total offense over the past two weeks and has been the most productive it has been all season. The Bucs even converted 12 third downs against Atlanta last week for a 71 percent rate. Tampa Bay’s passing game – led by rookie wide receiver Mike Evans, who has 249 yards in the past two games and has averaged over 17 yards per catch – has been the driving force.
Yet the Bucs have only scored 17 points on offense in each of the last two games. Tampa Bay has not been as productive as it has needed to be in the red zone as there have been three interceptions inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, including two in the end zone. Not only must quarterback Josh McCown needs to break the disturbing trend of throwing picks in the red zone, the Bucs need touchdowns rather than field goals from rookie kicker Patrick Murray.
3. BUCS’ DEFENSE NEEDS TO GET THE BALL BACK FOR THE OFFENSE
Once again, Tampa Bay lost the turnover battle and lost the game. The Bucs failed to record a takeaway against the Falcons and saw Atlanta produce two interceptions and force and recover a fumble. That marked the fourth time this season that the Bucs have failed to record a takeaway on defense and it’s no surprise that the team has lost all four contests.
The Bucs are desperate for anyone to step up on defense and force some takeaways, but really need the team’s top two players – defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David – to lead the way. David has two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, but no interceptions. McCoy has yet to take part in forcing any takeaways. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III has only played in two full games but has thrown one interception and fumbled twice as a ball carrier. Running back Alfred Morris also has two fumbles on the year. The Buccaneers must get the ball back for Tampa Bay’s offense to have a chance at victory and they have a good shot at Washington.
4. PUT A SPY ON RGIII
The Buccaneers have had trouble getting to the quarterback this year, evidenced by just 14 sacks. Washington’s Robert Griffin III isn’t easy to sack due to his ability to scramble, and will be the first mobile quarterback that Tampa Bay will face all year. Maintaining proper rush lanes and gap integrity is key when facing scrambling quarterbacks. Failure to do so could open a big run of 10 yards or more for quarterbacks like RGIII.
The Buccaneers have not shown great discipline when rushing the quarterback, and the team’s defensive ends have been susceptible to giving up the edge on bootlegs way too much. To combat that, in addition to any quarterback scrambles up the middle, the Bucs will need to spy Griffin with a linebacker – likely weakside linebacker Lavonte David or middle linebacker Mason Foster. That spy needs to be able to make a one-on-one open-field tackle to prevent Griffin from hurting the Bucs with his legs and getting past the second level on a scramble.
5. BUCS MUST FIND BALANCE ON OFFENSE
Tampa Bay had 92 yards rushing against Atlanta last week with a respectable 4.0 average. But those numbers are misleading to a degree as quarterback Josh McCown was the team’s leading rusher with 39 yards on five scrambles (7.8 avg.), and that accounted for nearly half of the Bucs’ yardage on the ground. Tampa Bay must get better production from its conventional ground game to provide balance on offense in order to keep Washington’s top pass rusher, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who has 7.5 sacks, off McCown.
The offensive line didn’t do a great job of opening up running lanes against Atlanta’s 3-4 defense, and will be facing another 3-4 team in Washington this Sunday. Bobby Rainey rushed for 87 yards against Cleveland, but had just 14 yards on six carries (2.3 avg.). Rookie Charles Sims had 23 yards and a fumble on his eight carries (2.9 avg.) in his NFL debut. Seldom used Mike James helped the Bucs convert short yardage situations and produced 16 yards on four carries (4.0 avg.). Sims, Rainey and James need to combine for 100 yards against the league’s 14th-best rushing defense in order for the Bucs to win – with any scrambling yards from McCown as an added bonus on Sunday.
6. STOP JACKSON GOING DEEP AT ALL COSTS
The most dangerous player on the field on Sunday will be Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who is having a great first season in Washington. Jackson has 36 catches for 784 yards and four touchdowns on the season, and has been a deep threat with a 21.8-yard average. Jackson has four catches over 55 yards this year and the Buccaneers need to make sure he doesn’t beat them deep for big plays.
Tampa Bay’s Alterraun Verner may be the only cornerback that has the speed to come close to covering the 5-foot-10, 178-pound Jackson. But Verner can’t cover Jackson by himself. The Bucs need to roll the free safety his way too, to prevent big plays over the top of the defense. Deploying such a strategy will create one-on-one opportunities for Pierre Garcon, so the Bucs’ pass rush needs to get pressure on Robert Griffin III so he doesn’t have time to look deep to either receiver.
SR’s Prediction: Redskins 26, Buccaneers 20
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t see another win. Bucs 16; Washington 27.
another one of them one-sided routes of our Bucs – it’ll be ugly again and the Lovie-firing watch will start Sunday night……
Redskins- 30 Bucs- 17, McCown with a dubious pick 6! At this point Sanchez is a better QB!
24-17 Redskins win.
That’s the spirit Bucs fans!
spirit? We ALL want the Bucs to win but REALISM sets in and well, perhaps, a shirt!!lol
Scott – agree with your view on the Dunkaneers…not sure how we got away from the lob pass approach but that was supposed to be the whole point this year. However, on RGIII, as someone who lives in DC, I can tell you he is quickly approaching (maybe not bust but probably big miss) status…they are honestly getting close to being 50/50 split on Colt Mcoy vs RGIII…not the feared weapon in DC, that title belongs to their running game and Alfred Morris…he’ll put up 200 on us today if we’re not careful….
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