The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Pewter Report Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.
Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.
Question: Will we see press man and blitzes from the Bucs this week? Or will it just be one or the other? Something has to change from past games against the Saints.
Answer: We have no idea at this point what to expect in terms of a game plan against the Saints’ offense on Sunday, but your last statement is very true. Regardless of what the Buccaneers attempt to do, it has to change from the previous two games if Tampa Bay has any hopes to win at New Orleans Sunday night and advance. The Bucs can’t just go into the game thinking the same plan will work. It isn’t like either game was close and there were just a couple mistakes here and there that cost Tampa Bay the win. The Bucs were thoroughly out-played and out-coached, especially in the team’s 38-3 loss at home in early November on Sunday Night Football, so if Tampa Bay hopes to pull off the upset it will need to throw some wrinkles in its game plan that Sean Payton and Drew Brees don’t expect.
As far as pressing more and blitzing at the same time, it is clear to me that Todd Bowles feels the best defense is more of a bend-don’t-break type defense. I am not sure if it is because he doesn’t trust his secondary, or just wants to slow the game down, but we haven’t seen a very aggressive secondary in several weeks. Maybe he is still shaken from the first quarter of the Chiefs game where he saw numerous deep balls connect for touchdowns, but this is the playoffs and playing safe against a savvy veteran QB like Brees and a head coach like Payton will more often than not, get the Bucs beat.
Trying to get into the heads of coaches is nearly impossible unless we were on the inside in team meetings. But I do know this, Bowles is trying to win the football game. He isn’t purposely coaching his players to play bad football or put them in bad positions. And even if fans feel he is clueless, there is a huge defensive coaching staff in Tampa and a head coach that would disagree with his game plan if they felt it wasn’t the best plan to try and win the game. Clearly the scheme and the game plan each week is agreed upon by the staff including Bruce Arians. Coaches spend hours upon hours each week watching film, making notes and coming up with what they feel is the best way to win the game. There is a method to Bowles’ sometimes perceived madness – even if we in the media or the fans don’t understand it. I am not saying that the game plan that Bowles and his staff come up with will be right, but they are considerably more qualified to stop Brees and Payton than we are.
Question: Assuming Bucs defense plays as bad as it did against Washington, how many points will the Saints realistically score on us – 30, 40 or more? In other words, how many points will we likely need on offense to get the win?
Answer: A lot most likely. The Saints offense is dynamic and complex, but there is a path to slowing them down. Just take a look at the game on Sunday with the Bears. The Bears pressured Brees, limited the explosive plays and tackled well. They were also very physical on defense and that held the Saints to 385 yards and only 21 points. So it can be done. I really like the Bucs’ chances if they hold the Saints to 21 points or less. The problem is, Tampa Bay doesn’t have a Khalil Mack or Akiem Hicks on defense right now. And Tampa Bay’s combination of a lack of a pass rush and a secondary that struggles at times isn’t a good recipe when facing Brees.
Having linebacker Devin White back will be a big boost next Sunday against New Orleans, but he can’t single-handily keep the Saints offense in check. Tampa Bay will need the best games of the year from Shaq Barrett and hope that Jason Pierre-Paul can find a Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid to do the magic hand rub on his banged up knee. Seriously, without a pass rush, the Bucs stand little chance to win.
The one wild card in this game is the Bucs offense, which is humming as of late and playing much better than it did in the previous two match-ups, which resulted in losses. The Bucs can win in a shootout if they can protect quarterback Tom Brady and establish a running game to keep the Saints defense honest. The Bucs can’t fall behind by a couple touchdowns, so they will need to come out and start fast, something we have seen they do a much better job of as of late.
Question: What’s the plan without Alex Cappa moving forward?
Answer: The Ted Larsen experiment didn’t go as well as Arians and offensive line coaches Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert would have liked on Saturday in Washington. But Larsen was thrown into a tough situation when Alex Cappa suffered his ankle fracture, and was not expecting to play. And Larsen, who was recently signed to the roster, was likely still not 100 percent up to speed on the playbook. Of course we know he has no chemistry with center Ryan Jensen or tackle Tristan Wirfs outside of a few practice reps.
A full week of practice knowing he is the starter hopefully helps, but other than that Tampa Bay would be asking a very inexperienced Aaron Stinnie, or a struggling Joe Haeg two fill in. Neither would be ideal replacements at this point going into such an important game.
Question: What’s the biggest question mark for Sunday’s game – the D-line or the secondary?
Answer: While both units will need to play well for Tampa Bay to have a chance of winning in New Orleans, the play of the defensive line will be the biggest factor as to whether the Bucs can slow down the Saints offense. It first starts with limiting running back Alvin Kamara, which Tampa Bay did in both of the previous two games this season.
Yet the Bucs struggled containing Taysom Hill when he came in the game to run the ball, and will need to be ready to see a heavy dose of him on Sunday night. That will be on White and Lavonte David more than the line, but the entire front seven all needs to work together to limit Hill on the ground.
Getting pressure on the quarterback is still the secondary’s best friend. The Bucs could have two Deion Sanders at cornerback and two Ronnie Lotts at safety, but if Brees has all day to scan the field and go from progression to progression it doesn’t matter. He will carve up this Bucs defense and it will be a long evening for Tampa Bay fans if he isn’t pressured in the pocket.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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