The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not played at Philadelphia since opening up Lincoln Financial Field with a victory on Monday Night Football to open up the 2003 season. Only two players on the current Bucs were part of that contest, so playing in the hostile environment will be new for many of the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay running back Derrick Ward has a lot of experience playing in Philadelphia. The former New York Giant played the Eagles twice a season in the rugged NFC East, and Ward shared the advice he is passing on to his teammates, especially starting quarterback Josh Johnson.
"Don't listen to the fans at all," said Ward. "Those might be some of the rowtiest fans in the NFL. But Josh is very mature for his age. He handles pressure well. I'm excited to see what he can do. I think this will be our first time together in the backfield. I'm looking forward to it."
While the Bucs offense will have to deal with the crowd noise and the blitz-happy Eagles defense, the Tampa Bay defense will have to defend against the potent Philadelphia offense. The Eagles have the seventh overall offense and seventh rated passing attack. Second-year WR DeSean Jackson is one of the league's fastest players. Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris discussed the matchup problems that Jackson presents on Thursday.
"As coach [Jon] Gruden use to always talk about, he's that Freddy Krueger type of guy," said Morris. "He is that. He is lightning in a bottle. He's a lethal injection. He will lull you into sleep, and then boom. I think he's averaging [21 yards] a catch, and they are impressive. When you put them on a reel and watch them all, you end up watching film underneath your desk. That's the kind of guy he is."
The former second-round pick makes the most out of a small total of receptions. Jackson (5-10, 175) has 12 catches for 259 yards (21.6 avg.) and two touchdowns through three games. He is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, but Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib thinks that Jackson won't present a unique set of challenges.
"Any time you face a guy like that with that kind of speed, he is very dangerous," said Talib. "You miss one of those jams in the five yards he could be out the gate. Any time you play a guy with that kind of speed you have to put a lot of emphasis on staying on top of him.
"You can be physical. You just have to play your game. You have to keep it in the back of your mind that this guy can fly. I'm sure coach Bates is going to keep it in the back of his mind that this guy can fly. He's going to call a lot of coverages where you will have a little help. We've played speed receivers before so we know how to deal with it."
Talib is coming off a three-interception game against the Washington Redskins. While Talib snatched three passes for the Bucs defense, he also allowed the Redskins only touchdown when he was beat by wide receiver Santana Moss for a 59-yard touchdown. Talib wasn't happy with that play, and knows that Philadelphia could choose to test him in a similar manner.
"I got a lot of opportunities," said Talib. "Jason Campbell threw a lot of balls my direction. It seemed like for the routes they were running, coach had us in good position and gave me opportunities to make some plays."
WINSLOW LEADING RECEIVER
Through four games the Buccaneers leading receiver is tight end Kellen Winslow. With 17 catches Winslow has healthy lead of 10 receptions on starting wide receivers Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton. Winslow also leads the team in receiving yards 155 yards and touchdown catches (two). The numbers are not a focus of Winslow. Instead he wants to see the Bucs end their losing streak.
"We are just trying to win games," said Winslow. "I'm trying to do the best I can to help us win. They are trying to find ways to use me, and everybody is getting acclimated to each other."
Morris believes that the Bucs standout tight end can help open things up for his receivers.
"I think it is a case where that's where the open routes have been right now, and that is the comfort zone right now," said Morris. "You would like to believe that would open things up. The next team we play, the next team after that will see those same numbers. Hopefully that allows him to draw more double teams and open more things for the football team. Maybe they continue to stack the box for Cadillac and Derrick, and that opens up more things in the passing game."
On the official injury report the Buccaneers had the following players listed as not participating in practice: cornerback Torrie Cox (ankle), center Jeff Faine (triceps), running back Earnest Graham (hamstring), defensive end Kyle Moore (knee), and defensive end Gaines Adams (ankle).
"Gaines Adams did not participate today," said Morris. "Actually it happened in practice yesterday. It was a little tweak of his ankle. We will have to see where he is tomorrow, but he didn't practice today."
Limited in practice was wide receiver Antonio Bryant (knee). Fully participating in practice were: wide receiver Michael Clayton (ribs), quarterback Byron Leftwich (hip), running back Derrick Ward (knee), linebacker Geno Hayes (knee), and wide receiver Brian Clark (dehydration).
The Philadelphia Eagles had the following players listed as fully participating: wide receiver Kevin Curtis (knee), safety Quintin Demps (hamstring), guard Max Jean-Gilles (shoulder), quarterback Donovan McNabb (rib), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (hand), and running back Brian Westbrook (ankle). Guard Todd Herremans (foot) did not participate.