Fresh off their bye, Tampa Bay returns to the gridiron with an opportunity to even out their record through six games of the 2015 season. To do so, they’ll need to beat the 2-4 Washington Redskins, one of the two teams they defeated last year when they traveled to D.C. and won 27-7 in dominant fashion.
One major difference between the 2014 and 2015 Redskins is a new presence under center. Perhaps a more telling similarity though, is the fact that, like Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins enters the game as an embattled quarterback who appears to be regressing.
Last week in New York, Cousins completed just 58 percent of his passes – 25 of 43 for 196 yards – while throwing two interceptions. This coming after his overtime pick-6 in Atlanta ruined a great defensive effort by the Redskins in Week 5. The bottom line is Cousins, who has eight interceptions and two fumbles in six starts, is a liability in the passing game and one the Buccaneers can take advantage of on Sunday.
Defensively, Tampa Bay should be at full-health in the backend as Johnthan Banks, who’s been sidelined the past two games with a knee injury, and Chris Conte, who injured his ankle in Week 5, are both set to return. While the secondary had its issues in the most recent outing against Jacksonville, the unit enters the game ranked fourth in the league and is surrendering 322 yards per game, which is fifth overall. But make no mistake, they are far from a finished product. The red zone has been a nightmare for the defense this season, as opponents have found the end zone on 73.7 percent of their trips to the 20-yard line. Tim Jennings will especially need to have a rebound game as he and Banks will try to contain Washington’s speedy duo of Pierre Garcon and rookie Jamison Crowder. The secondary will also be tested by another athletic tight end, as Jordan Reed is poised to play Sunday after coming back from a concussion. The Redskins have the 23rd ranked passing offense, averaging 230 yards a game.
In regards to the running game, this is another area the Redskins have had their ups and downs. Matt Jones, a rookie from Florida who burst on the scene with a 123 yard performance in Week 2, is likely to return from a toe injury this Sunday and join Alfred Morris in the backfield. While they haven’t had a 100-yard rusher (or game) since Week 2, Washington has two formidable running backs that Tampa Bay’s front seven will have to account for. Jacquise Smith and Danny Lansanah, who each recorded a turnover is last year’s game in Washington, spoke on Wednesday about the threat Washington’s duo poses in the backfield, while Gerald McCoy talked about the importance of stopping the run to set up favorable third downs. Tampa Bay will look to repeat their performance from two weeks ago where they held Jacksonville to 23 yards rushing. In this category, Washington ranks 17th and averages 107 yards on the ground.
Offensively for the Buccaneers, it’s been determined that the formula for success is simply to run the ball and limit turnovers. In both their victories this season, Jameis Winston has thrown zero interceptions on 21 or less attempts. He has seven interceptions in three losses, attempting at least 30 passes in each game. Therefore, look for Tampa Bay to try to establish the run early, especially considering the Redskins last two outings where they allowed Falcons’ RB Devonta Freeman and Jets’ RB Chris Ivory to rush for over 140 yards. In fact, two of the Redskins three leading tacklers last Sunday were safeties – Dashon Goldson, a former Buccaneer who leads the team overall, and Trenton Robinson – showing that numerous runs broke through to the second level. The Bucs one-two punch of Doug Martin and Charles Sims could both be poised for a big day in the nation’s capital, so long as the offensive line continues to shine and open lanes against the 3-4 front. Ranked as the 23rd rush defense, Washington has given up an average of 118 yards a game on the ground.
Many fans are hoping this is the game where Mike Evans breaks out in 2015. His 209-yard, two TD performance in Washington last season has been well documented, and the team has talked all week about getting the former rookie sensation more involved. On Wednesday head coach Lovie Smith was quoted saying, “We need Mike to come along,” while offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said they just need to “Get Mike started”. Based on the Jets success last Sunday – Brandon Marshall with seven catches for 111 yards and Eric Decker with four for 59 – it seems Evans and Vincent Jackson have an opportunity this weekend. However it should be noted that the Redskins have not given up over 280 yards passing in a game this season and held two opponents (Dolphins and Rams) to under 200. Still, Tampa Bay could be at an advantage against a banged up secondary, as cornerbacks Chris Culliver (knee) and DeAngelo Hall (toe) will be out this Sunday. That leaves Bashaud Breeland, who was on the wrong end of a few of Evans catches last year in Week 11, as the top defensive back. With Austin Seferian-Jenkins officially out another week with a shoulder injury, Evans, Jackson and Louis Murphy should be the top three vertical threats.
A 3-3 record – or 2-0 in the second half, as Lovie Smith would say – would be a respectable mark and an even more impressive comeback after a 1-3 start to the season. Tampa Bay cleared a major hurdle last time out by getting their first home win since 2013. Crossing another milestone with back-to-back wins would certainly lift the organization and show that signs are pointing in the right direction.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) at Washington Redskins (2-4)
Sunday, October 25, 2015, 1:00 p.m. ET
Fedex Field (82,000)
Network Television: FOX (WTVT Local)
Play-By-Play: Kenny Albert Analyst: Daryl Johnston Sideline: Laura Okmin
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, Flagship Station (103.5 FM, 620 AM & 95.3 FM)
Play-By-Play: Gene Deckerhoff Analyst: Dave Moore Sideline: T.J. Rives
Last Game: Tampa Bay Won vs. Jacksonville, 38-31; Washington Lost at New York Jets, 34-20
Pewter Report’s Predictions
Scott Reynolds: Bucs 23-19
Mark Cook: Bucs 30-17
Eric Horchy: Bucs 23-16
Zach Shapiro: Bucs 24-17
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
BUCS 23-21, We win with a late FG!
Well let’s face it, like the Jags,Skins, Bucs are bottom feeders. We beat the Jags, gotta keep climbing out of the mud. Both Skins, and Bucs are in quick sand, and there’s only one vine to get out. Time for the Bucs to get some mud off their face and survive this pit today. Hoping Bucs clean up today.
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Evans has to step up. He is on the verge of becoming Michael Clayton.
Skins are a better team. Cousins is inconsistent though like our rookie. I doubt seriously we have an OT game when we play the Falcons like Skins did. Their defense is better, but has some injuries. We are coming off a bye so we should be better rested. I guess I can see Bucs winning if they can run the ball and stop the run. That is a big if. Martin has been running great, but we have sucked against the run for the most part. After watching Jags game the Skins will do whatever it takes to stop Martin and make Winston throw. We also will need another turn over free game to win on the road. That means Winston will have to be limited again to around 20 throws. I’ll go 21-17 Bucs but hardly feel real secure it won’t be other way around.
Surfer….I love it!! Great way to describe this lower tier NFL world!!
Lovie should be fired after this game. Up by 24 and still can’t win. You and your defense suck. The offense looked great today. Stop taking Doug Martin out when he is getting 7 to 8 yards a carry
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