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OPPONENT: Washington Redskins
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
WHERE THE REDSKINS STAND: The Redskins are 5-5 and tied for third place in the NFC East division.
REDSKINS HEAD COACH: Joe Gibbs
REDSKINS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Al Saunders
REDSKINS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Gregg Williams
REDSKINS SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Danny Smith
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS OFFENSE OVERALL: 17th (324 ypg) RUSHING: 14th (116 ypg) PASSING: 15th (207 ypg)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS DEFENSE OVERALL: 5th (285 ypg) RUSHING: 18th (106 ypg) PASSING: 3rd (178 ypg)
DID YOU KNOW … … the Redskins are ranked 18th in the NFL with a minus-2 turnover ratio?
SCOUTING THE REDSKINS
Quarterbacks Redskins third-year quarterback Jason Campbell has posted decent numbers in 2007, which is his first year as a full-time starter. The former first-round draft pick has completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,083 yards and tossed 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions while leading the Redskins to a 5-5 record. Campbell made his first career start vs. Tampa Bay in Week 10 of last season. He fared well under the circumstances, completing 19-of-34 passes for 196 yards and tossing two touchdowns and no interceptions en route to the ‘Skins’ 20-17 loss to the Bucs. That familiarity should come in handy for Campbell. However, Tampa Bay’s defense is much improved from 2006, where it finished the season ranked 17th overall. The Bucs currently have the fifth-ranked defense in the NFL. Campbell is fairly accurate and has a strong arm, and he’ll have to be on top of his game to move the ball through the air vs. the Bucs’ No. 3-ranked pass defense.
Running Backs Washington’s offense, which ranks 16th in the NFL, is led by running back Clinton Portis. The shifty and strong back has rebounded from an injury-plagued 2006 season by rushing 193 times for 802 yards (4.2 avg.) and six touchdowns and hauling in 25 passes for 185 yards in 2007. Tampa Bay’s defense completely shut down Atlanta RB Warrick Dunn and Co. last week, but the 5-foot-11, 212-pound back figures to give the Bucs more of a challenge in the running game, where the Redskins currently rank No. 8 overall. Tampa Bay’s defense, which ranks 18th against the run, did not face Portis in its meeting vs. Washington last season.
Wide Receivers The Redskins offense is only ranked 16th in the NFL, but it has enough talent to explode at any time. Its wide receivers are a big reason for the ‘Skins’ big-play ability.
Washington’s most explosive playmaker is arguably WR Santana Moss. However, Moss has struggled with a heel injury this season and has caught 33 passes for 418 yards and one touchdown. Like Portis, Moss did not face the Buccaneers last year. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound speedster will be covered mostly by Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber, who is still looking for his first interception of the 2007 season. With Campbell likely to look for Moss early and often in this contest, Barber should have the opportunity to come up with a much-needed turnover.
Tampa Bay would like to be able to defend the run with its front seven so it can leave safeties Jermaine Phillips and Tanard Jackson in the secondary to help defend Moss and WR Antwaan Randle El, who has receptions 39 receptions for 576 yards. Neither Moss nor Randle El (5-10, 192) have great size, but they’re both extremely fast. The good news is Bucs CB Phillip Buchanon is also fast and has the cover skills to contain Randle El, who has had to step up due to a shoulder injury to WR Brandon Lloyd.
Former Bucs WR Keenan McCardell is Washington’s No. 3 receiver. He has caught 13 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown. While he lacks ideal speed and is no longer in his prime, McCardell still is an excellent route runner and has reliable hands. Bucs CB Brian Kelly, who likely will see action in nickel situations as he continues to work his way back from a groin injury, is familiar with McCardell and is healthy enough to keep him covered on Sunday.
The player Tampa Bay’s defense must account for on Sunday is Washington tight end Chris Cooley. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Cooley is a popular target in the red zone and has the speed to get open downfield and find soft spots in zone coverage. Cooley has hauled in a team-leading 40 passes for 399 yards and six touchdowns this season. Phillips and Jackson, and Bucs linebackers Cato June, who was arrested for DUI on Monday, and Derrick Brooks will each have to help contain Cooley. The Redskins are converting 38 percent of their third downs this year, and Cooley is one of Campbell’s favorite targets in these situations.
The Bucs have done a great job of covering tight ends this season, but Cooley might be the best one they face all year.
Offensive Line Washington’s offensive line is one of the main reasons why the Redskins are averaging 125 yards rushing per game and have allowed just 15 sacks through 10 games this season.
Redskins offensive coordinator Al Saunders likely will attempt to run Portis early and often behind a very athletic offensive line that features left tackle Chris Samuels, left guard Pete Kendall, center Casey Rabach, right guard Jason Fabini and right tackle Todd Wade.
Samuels (6-5, 310) might be the best player on this unit. He is responsible for protecting the blind side of Campbell, and he’s done a pretty good job. Samuels will go up against Bucs rookie defensive end Gaines Adams, who has notched 2.5 sacks. He could also face reserve defensive linemen Patrick Chukwurah and Greg White, who has recorded 4.5 sacks while playing defensive tackle and end for the Bucs.
Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan likely will take on some double teams from Kendall (6-5, 292) and Rabach (6-4, 296). These are two of the smaller offensive linemen Hovan will face this year, but they’re also quite athletic and capable of opening up running lanes for Portis.
Tampa Bay under tackle Jovan Haye leads the defense with six sacks. He’ll likely see some one-on-one matchups with Fabini (6-7, 309). Haye must win this matchup more often than not in order for the Bucs to win the battle in the trenches. Haye has played some of the best football in his young career over the last few weeks, but he’ll have his work cut out for him against a savvy veteran like Fabini.
Most of Saunders’ running plays are designed to run Portis behind Fabini and Wade (6-8, 314), who has replaced injured starting right tackle Jon Jansen. Although he’s no longer the pass rusher he once was, Bucs DE Kevin Carter (6-6, 305) still has the ability and size to take on Washington’s potentially potent ground attack. Carter will receive the majority of reps in this contest with DE Greg Spires still recovering from a calf injury.
Getting after Campbell will be tough for Tampa Bay’s defense against Washington’s offensive line, which has allowed just 29 sacks over the past 26 games. However, the Bucs are a pretty confident defense after notching four sacks and four turnovers vs. Atlanta last Sunday.
Defensive Line Washington defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is notorious for throwing a variety of blitz packages at opposing offenses, and that’s exactly what he’s expected to do to Tampa Bay’s offense.
The play of Washington’s front four is much improved from a year ago. Last season, the Redskins ranked 27th against the run, which explains how the Buccaneers were able to rush for 181 yards vs. the ‘Skins in Week 10. However, the Redskins currently rank 10th against the run and are allowing just 93 yards rushing per game.
It will be tough for Bucs RB Earnest Graham, who is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and has scored five touchdowns, to find room to run vs. the ‘Skins’ front four, which is made up of defensive ends Andre Carter and Phillip Daniels and defensive tackles Cornelius Griffin and Anthony Montgomery.
Daniels (6-3, 275) has recorded 2.5 sacks and three forced fumbles while anchoring the left side of Washington’s defensive line. He will go up against Bucs second-year right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who has been one of the Bucs’ most consistent offensive linemen this year. Quarterback Jeff Garcia will have to be aware of Daniels at all times, especially when he throws the ball. Daniels has five passes defensed this season and will attempt to deflect Garcia’s passes when he can’t get to the quarterback.
Life won’t get any easier for Bucs left tackle Donald Penn, who has done an admirable job of filling in for Luke Petitgout. Penn will face Carter (6-4, 252), who has notched a team-leading seven sacks this season. This is definitely one of the best matchups to watch in this contest as Penn excels in pass protection and Carter thrives as a pass rusher.
Griffin will likely find himself in one-on-one matchups with Bucs second-year right guard Davin Joseph, who has had mixed outings this season. Griffin (6-5, 311) has notched 2.5 sacks through 10 games.
Bucs center John Wade and rookie left guard Arron Sears will spend some time double teaming Montgomery (6-6, 315), who is better against the run than he is the pass.
Linebackers The Redskins linebackers are effective at helping to stuff the run and get after the pass. Washington’s three starting linebackers have combined for six sacks this season.
This unit is led by middle linebacker London Fletcher, who probably blitzes the least amount of times out of this group. Fletcher (5-10, 245) leads the team in tackles. He is valuable in pass coverage and has notched three interceptions and scored one touchdowns in 2007.
Most of Washington’s blitzes will come from the outside, where weakside linebacker Rocky McIntosh (6-2, 231) and strongside linebacker Marcus Washington (6-3, 250) each have notched three sacks.
Tampa Bay will use running backs Graham and Michael Pittman to help pick up blitzes in this contest. These two running backs and tight end Alex Smith will also be counted on to take advantage of some of those blitzing situations by getting open quickly and having Garcia hit them in the passing game.
Secondary Tampa Bay could catch a break in this contest. Washington’s secondary is banged up. The Redskins are without cornerback Carlos Rogers and could be without safety Sean Taylor, who has five interceptions, Sunday. Those injuries along with Dallas’ ability to pick up Washington’s blitzes were two of the main reasons why Cowboys WR Terrell Owens was able to catch eight passes for 173 yards and score four touchdowns vs. the Redskins last Sunday.
The Buccaneers are hoping WR Joey Galloway can have similar success vs. cornerback Fred Smoot. Galloway has caught 40 passes for 711 yards and six touchdowns through 10 games. He appears to have a favorable matchup with Smoot, who is still looking for his first interception of the season.
Redskins CB Shawn Springs is a little long in the tooth. He will spend most of the game covering Bucs WR Ike Hilliard, who has caught a team-leading 47 passes for 562 yards and one touchdown.
Washington’s 2007 first-round draft pick, LaRon Landy, is starting at strong safety. He doesn’t have any interceptions, but Landy has been used to blitz, evidenced by his 1.5 sacks. If the Redskins have to bring Landry and free safety Pierson Prioleau, who is starting in place of Taylor, to defend the run their secondary could give Garcia the opportunity to hit Galloway and Hilliard on some plays down the field. The Redskins are allowing opposing offenses to convert 42.6 percent of their third downs.
Special Teams Special teams play could make or break the Buccaneers and Redskins in this contest, which likely will be a close one, evidenced by the fact that seven of Tampa Bay’s last eight meetings vs. Washington since 1998 have been decided by six points or less.
Washington has a solid special teams unit. Kicker Shaun Suisham has made 17-of-21 (81 percent) of his field goals. Three of his misses have come from 40-plus yards out. The Bucs are averaging just 22.7 yards per kickoff return and likely will have wide receiver Michael Spurlock returning kicks vs. the Redskins.
Redskins punter Derrick Frost is averaging 41.4 yards per attempt. He placed 15 of his 46 attempts inside the 20-yard line. Washington has one of the best punt coverage units in the league, which does not bode well for Tampa Bay. The Bucs, who are averaging 8.2 yards per punt return, have sorely missed PR Mark Jones (knee injury) and will continue to rely on cornerback Phillip Buchanon and wide receiver Ike Hilliard to handle these duties on Sunday.
Tampa Bay P Josh Bidwell, who is averaging 44 yards per attempt, will have to be careful where he places the ball for Washington PR Antwaan Randle El, who is averaging just 7.1 yards per attempt but has the ability to break off a long return at any moment. Kick returner Rock Cartwright has fared much better, averaging 27 yards per attempt with a long of 80. The Bucs’ kickoff and punt coverage units have been solid this season, and they will have to be on top of their game in this contest as the Bucs cannot afford to give the Redskins offense a short field to work with.
FLYNN’S FORECAST: Buccaneers 20 Redskins 17
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