Week 1 featured an extremely underwhelming performance by the Atlanta Falcons, the Bucs’ Week 2 opponent. Tampa Bay’s division rivals were blown out at home by the Philadelphia Eagles, 32-6. The Falcons now head to Raymond James Stadium, trying to avoid beginning their second consecutive season 0-2.

Despite the lopsided Week 1 scoreboard against a middling opponent in Philadelphia, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians isn’t letting his guard down.

“You have [Calvin] Ridley, [Kyle] Pitts, [Russell] Gage [and] Cordarrelle Patterson playing running back,” Arians said. “They have weapons. A lot of teams didn’t look good in the first week for whatever reason. Don’t put any stock in that. We know how good the Falcons are.”

Falcons WR Calvin Ridley

Falcons WR Calvin Ridley – Photo by: USA Today

Atlanta will still present a myriad of challenges due to their offensive talent, most notably wide receiver Calvin Ridley. In three games against Todd Bowles’ defense, Ridley has 24 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns. The Bucs did a better job of limiting Ridley in Week 17 last year (8-52-0), but two drops by the fourth-year receiver helped as well.

“I think he already [became a top receiver] last year,” Arians said. “Over there in our last game with them, he had a hell of a ballgame (Week 15). He’s a premier receiver in this league.”

Ridley will be the Falcons top weapon, despite being limited to five catches for 51 yards in the season opener. He’s joined by Russell Gage and Kyle Pitts to form a formidable trio for Atlanta QB Matt Ryan. Gage ripped off 14 catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns in a pair of matchups against the Bucs last season.

Pitts is still growing entering his second NFL game, but he grabbed four catches for 31 yards against the Eagles, playing 49 of 71 snaps. Billed as perhaps the best tight end prospect ever, the best tight end of all-time has taken notice.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him, and I’ve been hearing a lot about him since he was coming out for the draft,” Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “He’s just an athletic freak – he for sure is. I’ve seen some highlights of him and he can play. It’s just unbelievable – his build, his speed, his size and his route running. The capabilities that he has are just second-to-none. It’s going to be a fun ride to watch him play ball throughout the years.”

Draft Kyle Pitts NFC South

TE Kyle Pitts – Photo by: USA Today

Hopefully Sunday isn’t too fun for Pitts, who will play in the slot, out wide and in-line for the Falcons. He’ll present matchup challenges for the Bucs, especially without typical slot cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting in the lineup. But the Falcons will likely still look to establish the run first, given the scheme new head coach Arthur Smith brought with him from Tennessee.

“We have to be ready for everything offensively,” Arians said. “Arthur is going to run the ball and it’s going to be the wide zone, wide zone, wide zone, boot leg, boot leg. When they drop back to pass ‘Matty’ (Matt Ryan) can put it out there and he still throws deep-seven routes as good as anybody.”

The Falcons don’t have a feature running back, but Mike Davis out-snapped Cordarrelle Patterson in Week 1, 53 to 24. Patterson was more effective however, rushing seven times for 54 yards compared to Davis’ 15 for 49 yards. Patterson gave the Bucs issues last season as a hybrid offensive weapon for Chicago.

Defensively, the Falcons are still finding their way. DT Grady Jarrett and LB Deion Jones lead the unit, but the team’s pass rush is heavily reliant upon blitzing. That suits new defensive coordinator Dean Pees well, as one of the most aggressive defensive coaches in the NFL. Pees has operated defenses with multiple fronts and coverage schemes in the past, but relied heavily on zone coverage in Week 1.

“Totally different defensively [than in 2020],” Arians said. “Dean Pees is very multiple – every front known to man, every blitz known to man. I think they’re all still feeling each other out on what they can do and what they can’t do. We have to be ready for everything offensively.”

Pees served as New England’s defensive coordinator from 2006-2009, so Bucs QB Tom Brady is familiar with his scheme. Pees was also the opposing defensive coordinator in Tennessee during Brady’s last game as a Patriot in the 2019 playoffs. Expect plenty of blitzing on Sunday, as the Falcons try to create a splash play on defense. The Bucs will need to be prepared with schematic answers to pressure, something they’ve improved at since the 2020 bye week.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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eaustinyoung
1 month ago

As long as they can get to Matt Ryan, I’m not worried about covering receivers. The Eagles were having their way with ATL’s O line.

bucballer
1 month ago

Cordell Patterson worries me a bit. He played well in their first game. Rookie TE Pitts and WR Ridley r formidable pair as well. A solid pass rush is needed to keep Matty Ice on his toes. Ryan can still pick u apart if giving time. Pass rush is a must this week!

drdneast
1 month ago

The major thing the Bucs need to worry about is complacency if they watched the whole Falcons/Eagles game. The Eagles gave them quite the beatdown.
The Bears burnt the Bucs several times last year by letting Patterson drift off to the side and then tossing the ball to him when the Bucs blitzed. Whoever was responsible for him blew his coverage a number of times and Patterson burnt the Bucs good.

scubog
Reply to  drdneast
1 month ago

My concern as well DrD. We all know any team can beat you if you aren’t mentally focused and the opponent has a little good fortune. Just last week the previously 6 dash 10 Cowboys gave our Champions a scare, while the Falcons allowed a mediocre Eagles team to dominate them. I hope the Bucs don’t think the Falcons aren’t capable of “Rising Up” a mere 7 days later. Seems to me the Falcons had us on the ropes much of the two games in 2020. I’m sure the coaching staff is reminding the team. At least Julio is no… Read more »

drdneast
Reply to  scubog
1 month ago

Well said about the Falcons games buti have to disagree with you a bit on your assessment of the Cowboys and PR calling the Eagles, “middling.” I believe both of those assumptions were based on last years teams which mean absolutely nothing this year. With Prescott healthy the “Girls are vastly improved although thier defense seems to still be spurless. As for the Eagles, for the time being the QB play has improved and if it stays that way I would hardly call them “middling.” Also did you see the WFT-Giants game last night. Taylor Heineke is beginning to look… Read more »

jongruden
Reply to  scubog
1 month ago

Scu- I’ll be at Giants Game lower level seats near Bucs Tunnel if you tell me your sec and row I’ll stop by and say hello before the game

scubog
Reply to  jongruden
1 month ago

I know I’m taking a chance announcing my location since there might be some Pewter Report commenters who want to buy me a big Coke or choke me. The seats I’ll be using are West Side, Section 110, Row Z, Seats 4 & 5. Looking forward to seeing you. I’m always early.