What a day for Antoine Winfield. After starting the game at free safety and seeing success as a blitzer off the edge, Winfield was moved to nickel cornerback in place of the injured Sean Murphy-Bunting. He remained in a hybrid role for most of the game, although the majority of his time ended up in the slot, where he was unsurprisingly very good.
Here’s one play of Winfield being awesome in the slot, as a deep safety and in the box as a blitzer.
Winfield is the field safety here, with the Broncos trying to catch him in conflict with the scissors concept. But Winfield knows Jamel Dean will carry No. 1 if he goes vertical, allowing the safety to break on the corner route from No. 2, Jerry Jeudy. The ball is overthrown anyway, but the rookie is all over it.
This play was a jaw-dropper for me on tape. Winfield hasn’t spent a ton of time in the slot, yet has the confidence to not give ground in the red zone to Jerry Jeudy, then flip his hips at the last second to smother the corner route. That’s outstanding patient footwork and eye discipline to break as the receiver breaks.
Winfield had a ton of success as a blitzer in Week 3, both due to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ designs and due to his own prowess at timing up the snap and finishing plays. I love how under control Winfield arrives here, knowing Driskel is a good athlete and will try to elude him. Great run-down and finish on the tackle, timing his attempt perfectly.
Remember that third-and-20 conversion for the Broncos before the end of the first half? As much as I hate to harp on the officials after a game, it sure looks like they blew another call. Watch the outside receiver to the field, Tim Patrick, come across and shove Winfield to the ground right before he catches the ball for a big gain.
That’s how Winfield gave up his first big play in the NFL, on a pretty clear OPI non-call, so we’ll take it. He continues to be one of the best players on the entire Bucs defense, with the Defensive Rookie of the Year talk picking up this week. Right or wrong, however, he’ll need interceptions to get consideration for that award. Could this be the week it happens?
David Remains Ridiculous
If Lavonte David doesn’t get the national recognition and accolades that he deserves this season, we riot. He’s still the best coverage linebacker in football and one of the league’s top second level run defenders, and he’s proving it every week.
David goes from sugaring the A-gap pre-snap to dropping Noah Fant short of the sticks on third down, all the way out at the sideline on the far side of the field. Ridiculous range and finishing ability by David to get the Bucs defense off the field early in the game.
Unless you have a plan to pick David and get Melvin Gordon free in the flat, why even run this? David never blows a coverage, and his range is among the best in the NFL at the linebacker position. But also watch how under control David is when he arrives at the ball, not overrunning the tackle and making sure Gordon doesn’t escape. Textbook stuff.
The Broncos run a spot route concept (3-route combination – flat, spot/hitch, corner) to the boundary, and David is all over it. He jumps the spot route and drops what would have been his second interception of the day. You just don’t see that from linebackers in the NFL very often. Special player.
David’s vision in the run game consistently amazes me. Despite a lot of trash to sift through in the box, he finds the puller on this counter play and then slips the fullback’s block for a tackle for no gain.
Vea Stacking Strong Performances
The Broncos didn’t have an answer for Vita Vea’s power in the run or pass game this past week, and it was a large part of their offensive undoing. When they did run the ball, Vea and Co. ate the offensive line alive, holding the Broncos backs to 28 yards on 11 carries.
Broncos rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry III was simply overwhelmed with the prospect of blocking Vea, getting consistently knocked back in the run game and bull rushed in the pass game. The only thing keeping Vea from a multi-sack game was Driskel’s mobility.
Vea piled up pressures all day, working to Cushenberry’s edge and running through contact all the way to the pocket. When Driskel stayed on his platform, Vea finally got his first sack of the season.
Up next for Vea, a date with one of the worst interior offensive lines in the NFL in Los Angeles, where Chargers starting center Mike Pouncey has already been placed on injured reserve. It’s a huge opportunity for Vea to continue to take his game to the next level.
• Quite a day for Mike Edwards in relief of Winfield at free safety. Lightly criticized by the coaches for his shoddy tackling last season and in camp, Edwards made a couple excellent stops, showing good form and his typical physicality.
His ball skills were also on display, with a one-handed, fourth quarter interception to shut the door on the Broncos’ dreams of second half scoring. The Chargers will throw a lot at Edwards in their passing game, and Sunday was a good indication he’s moving in the right direction.
• There can’t be many better cornerback rooms against the run/quick perimeter passing game in the NFL than this Bucs group. Carlton Davis III and Sean Murphy-Bunting have been phenomenal coming up as tackler in support, and Jamel Dean did a great job stepping in and maintaining the standard on Sunday. The most overlooked reason why the Bucs run defense is so good is their defensive backfield being elite in that capacity.
Davis might be my favorite to watch. He’s an absolute fearless missile against anything on the edge. Great building block of the team.
What a shot on Broncos tight end Jake Butt. You don’t see this from many cornerbacks in today’s NFL, but Davis is a different mold, with the physicality of a safety and the coverage skills of a corner. I don’t know if he’ll ever have the ball skills to be an elite tier corner, but it’s been a great start to the season for Davis.
• He may never be the one-on-one pass rusher I’d love as the team’s third edge defender, but Anthony Nelson showed up big against the run on Sunday. He’s tough and physical, with length that really helps him work off of blocks. In a week where Nelson saw his snap count bump significantly, he proved deserving of that playing time.
• I promise, an in-depth look at the biggest thing holding Devin White back from greatness is coming later this week, Lord willing. But that article needs to stand on its’ own. White’s play, while not entirely bad, was the lone blemish on what I thought was an otherwise spectacular defensive performance. He has all the talent in the world, but right now he’s a liability in coverage for the Bucs through three weeks.
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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