While there is no SR’s Fab 5 column this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday shopping, which so many Bucs fans partake in each year, here is this week’s 4 Match-ups to Watch segment – profiling four key match-ups as 7-4 Tampa Bay takes on 9-1 Kansas City on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium.
4 Match-ups To Watch is presented by Edmonson Electric • AC • Security
Bucs MLB Devin White vs. Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
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Edwards-Helaire is having a tremendous rookie season, earning a 74.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, and he’s the sixth-highest graded Chiefs player on offense. Kansas City’s first-round pick has rushed for 655 yards and four touchdowns on 140 carries (4.7 avg.) in Andy Reid’s pass-first attack. While Edwards-Helaire has only had two 100-yard rushing games this season, he did run for 69 yards and a career-high two touchdowns in a win at Las Vegas last week. The reason why Reid drafted Edwards-Helaire is also due to his receiving ability, as he has 29 catches for 232 yards (8.0 avg.) and one touchdown, which makes him a multi-purpose weapon in the Chiefs offense and a significant threat out of the backfield.
Bucs ILB Devin White – Photo by: USA Today
The PFF graders don’t like White, as he is the second-lowest grade on defense in Tampa Bay behind the likes of reserve defenders Cam Gill and Patrick O’Connor with a 35.9 grade. White has a 41.6 run defense grade and a woeful 30.4 grade in coverage. Yet White is Tampa Bay’s leading tackler with 97 stops, which is 15 more than the next defender, Lavonte David, who has 82. White is also tied for second on the Bucs with five sacks, in addition to forcing a fumble and recovering a fumble. He’ll have his hands full trying to tackle his former LSU teammate, who stands at just 5-foot-8, 209 pounds. Edwards-Helaire’s low center of gravity allows him to elude would-be tacklers, and his powerful lower body allows him to break through arm tackles. Look for Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to try to match Edwards-Helaire up on White on angle routes out of the backfield, wheel routes down the sidelines and screen passes in the flat. White needs to cover well and be a sure tackler in the running game, getting Edwards-Helaire down at first contact. ADVANTAGE: Edwards-Helaire
Bucs FS Antoine Winfield, Jr. vs. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill
With Tampa Bay strong safety Jordan Whitehead likely matched up with Chiefs Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce, the Bucs will likely have Winfield playing centerfield in either Cover 1, Cover 3 or staying deep in Cover 2 looks when defensive coordinator Todd Bowles a three-safety dime package to help stay over the top of the Chiefs’ arsenal of speed receivers like Hill, Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins. Hill, who has a 77.3 overall grade from PFF this year, is having another Pro Bowl season with 55 catches for 752 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s been on quite a tear over the last three games, averaging 104 yards per game and scoring five of his TDs during that stretch. Hill has blazing 4.29 speed to go deep on designed plays or to break off routes and get vertical on broken, scramble plays when Patrick Mahomes gets out of the pocket. Preventing Hill from getting behind the Bucs defense is a top priority this week for Bowles and the Tampa Bay coaching staff.
Winfield, who has a 63.8 overall PFF grade, is among the fastest Bucs defensive backs with a 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash, but even he is no match for Hill’s speed. Winfield struggled a bit while coming up to make tackles against Los Angeles receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods on Monday night, missing key tackle attempts. He can’t do that against Hill or it’s an automatic touchdown. Without Jamel Dean, Tampa Bay’s fastest player on defense, to match up with Hill, look for the Bucs to use bracket coverage on Hill with either Sean Murphy-Bunting or Carlton Davis underneath, jamming and re-routing him off the line of scrimmage before passing Hill off to Winfield. The key for the Bucs rookie safety is keeping Hill in front of him and making sure tackles if and when he catches the ball. Winfield has an 80.7 PFF grade against the run and a 70.5 grade as a tackler, but only a 53.8 grade in coverage thus far. ADVANTAGE: Hill
Bucs G Ali Marpet vs. Chiefs DT Chris Jones
Jones is Kansas City’s top defender with an 85.7 PFF overall grade and an impressive 92 grade as a pass rusher. Jones has 42 tackles, six sacks, 13 QB hits and 23 pressures in 2020, and at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, he’s a load for any guard to block one-on-one. While he’ll see some time against right guard Alex Cappa, Jones will also see a fair amount of snaps against Marpet, who is expected to play this week after missing the last three games due to a concussion. Jones teams up with edge rusher Frank Clark (four sacks) to give Kansas City a nice, inside-outside pass rush game that could give Tampa Bay’s offensive line some trouble on third-and-long situations and obvious passing downs.
Marpet, who has been Tampa Bay’s best and most consistent offensive lineman this year, has missed nearly a month’s worth of action due to a concussion. He’s been a full participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, which is a strong indication that he’ll play on Sunday when Kansas City comes to town. Marpet will have to shake off any rust quickly as Jones is a force to be reckoned with inside. Jones has great strength, a decent get-off, long arms and some nice pass rushing moves that allow him to push the pocket or penetrate gaps. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady is a pocket passer with little escapability, and he likes to step up in the pocket to throw the football when pressured from the edge. Marpet, who has an 84.9 overall grade from PFF, will have to be stout at the line of scrimmage against Jones and allow Brady room to operate and get his passes off accurately and on time. ADVANTAGE: Push
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu
Kansas City’s secondary is interesting in how they deploy their defensive backs, often using a three-safety look with a mix of Daniel Sorensen, Juan Thornhill, L’Jarius Sneed and Mathieu. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians knows Mathieu well, having selected him in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft back in Arizona in 2013, and likely knows how to attack the Honey Badger. The undersized Mathieu, who has a 55.9 overall grade from PFF, is a scrappy, physical play-maker with 46 tackles, four passes defensed and two interceptions, including a pick-six this year. Mathieu typically plays inside near the line of scrimmage, taking on slot receivers and tight ends in pass coverage, where he has a 52.1 grade this year, allowing 28 catches for 369 yards and two scores.
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: USA Today
Gronkowski has a 68.1 overall grade from PFF this year, including a 73.6 grade in the passing game. He has 31 catches for 399 yards and four touchdowns, with all of those scores having come in the last six weeks of action. Where the 6-foot-6, 268-pound Gronkowski can win this match-up is vertically down the field on 50-50 jump balls against the 5-foot-9 Mathieu. Brady needs to work the seam routes with Gronkowski and allow his big target to out-muscle and out-leap the smallish Mathieu. Where Mathieu wins, and where Brady must be careful, is jumping out routes and drag routes across the middle where Mathieu can beat Gronkowski to the ball with his speed and quickness. ADVANTAGE: Gronkowski
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: email@example.com
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