Quarterback sacks haven't been a frequent sight this season. Enter Minnesota's struggling O-line on Sunday.
Something’s gotta give Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa Bay’s inconsistent pass rush gets to face one of the league’s leakiest offensive lines that also happens to be dinged up as it tries to protect an inexperienced rookie quarterback.
The Minnesota Vikings (2-5) have surrendered 27 sacks through seven games, putting them just ahead of a one-win Jacksonville team that’s surrendered 29. Of those 27 takedowns, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s absorbed 15 of them in the four games he’s appeared. Buffalo defenders dropped him on five occasions and Detroit pass rushers got to him a staggering eight times.
As they try to resuscitate a floundering season after the bye, Buccaneers defensive players said this week that their overall performance needs to improve no matter the opponent … but they’re also well aware of Minnesota’s recent struggles.
“Every game is an opportunity to rush the passer,” said defensive tackle Akeem Spence. “But going up against Minnesota and seeing what they do, Teddy does hold the ball especially on play action. So us up front, we’ve got to be able to get after him. Those are the times he’s looking for the home-run ball – throw the 60-yard bomb or something.
“With them giving up a lot of sacks, up front we’re hungry for that. So we’ve definitely got to get after him.”
Getting after opposing quarterbacks hasn’t been a specialty of this year’s Bucs defensive front, though. Tampa Bay’s registered just nine sacks through seven games and five of those came during the team’s lone win in Pittsburgh. Despite the front four’s offseason additions of defensive end Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, the Bucs are tied with New Orleans at 25th in total sacks. Denver Broncos defensive end Von Miller himself has nine.
Tampa Bay’s poorest pass rushing performance came two weeks ago at home against Baltimore. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco stayed upright all day long and according to official game statistics he didn’t take a single hit. Players and coaches cited Flacco’s utilization of quick, three-step drops that kept Bucs pressure at bay. It’s a strategy that’s frequently been used against Tampa Bay, said Spence and fellow defensive tackle Gerald McCoy this week, but the line still needs to find ways to affect the passer.
“Us up front have to be ready for teams three-stepping because they see the way we get off the ball,” Spence said. “That’s been like the M.O., just three-stepping and getting the ball out early. So we’ve got to be able to get our hands up in the passing lanes and bat balls down.”
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Tampa Bay has plenty of room to improve in terms of deflecting balls at the line of scrimmage. The Bucs are credited with only two such batted down passes.
For McCoy, the Bucs’ new $98-million man in the middle, the statistical results aren’t far off but they’ll only come if players begin executing more consistently.
“In the New Orleans game, it’s not like we weren’t getting hits on Drew Brees,” McCoy said. “It’s not like we weren’t getting pressure. But there were times where we made small mistakes, like going for the pump fake or guys not spinning back but coming back and running past the quarterback. It was just guys not being in place. We could’ve had tons of sacks in that game.
“And then [Baltimore], it was a number of different things of why we didn’t get there. We definitely have to win our one-on-ones. They’ve been emphasizing guys just winning one-on-ones. It comes to you versus him and whether his family is going to eat or your family is going to eat. It’s as simple as that.”
McCoy and Co. will be hoping it’s a feeding frenzy while going against a Minnesota offensive line that’s struggling with injuries. Right guard Vladimir Ducasse and center John Sullivan have spent all week on the Vikings injury report. Ducasse, listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with a knee injury, has been at right guard since starter Brandon Fusco went down with a torn pectoral muscle in Week 3. Sullivan is listed as probable after suffering a concussion last week against Buffalo.
Tampa Bay will be lacking a little depth of its own on its defensive line since Da’Quan Bowers was hit with a two-game suspension for violating the league’s policy against performance enhancing drugs. Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said this week that McDonald will slide over to the three technique to spell McCoy and that defensive end William Gholston has also been worked out on the interior.
“We’ll have to have a way to give Gerald a break, especially with the fact he’s still playing with a cast on his hand and you have to get him off the field at times,” Frazier said. “But between those two guys, there’s not much else after that.”
Well that didn’t happen, did it? Disappointing loss. I’m for doing some trading before Tuesday.
Yeah Horse. I think you have mentioned that a few THOUSAND times!!
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