The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs.

This week’s topic: Which Bucs On Offense And Defense Must Step Up At Washington?

Scott Reynolds: QB Tom Brady and OLB Jason Pierre-Paul

Bucs QB Tom Brady
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The reason why the Buccaneers signed quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t just to get to the playoffs. It was to advance in the postseason and compete for a chance to win Super Bowl LV. Brady has a ridiculous 30-11 record in the postseason and has won an NFL-record six Super Bowls. Coming off a tremendous first season in Tampa Bay in which he accounted for 43 touchdowns (40 passing, three rushing) at age 43, Brady needs to live up to his postseason glory and guide the Bucs to a win on Saturday night in Washington in the team’s first wild card playoff game since 2007. Brady has struggled against teams with good defensive lines – New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles and Kansas City – and completed just 123-of-208 passes (59.1) for 1,262 yards with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions in all five of Tampa Bay’s losses. As the trigger man for the Bucs offense, Tampa Bay averaged just 18.6 points per game in those losses – well below their season average of 30.8 points per game. And the Bucs did not score over 24 points in any of those defeats. Brady needs to shake off any pressure he receives from Chase Young and Co. and power the Bucs offense to 30 points or more in the nation’s capital.

On defense, outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul needs to show up and show out in D.C. Since being named as the Bucs’ lone Pro Bowler he’s been nearly invisible on defense, registering just five tackles and two pass break-ups over the last three games. In fact, after recording a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Minnesota, Pierre-Paul didn’t even make the stat sheet in Atlanta the following week, which is the first time that has happened all season. Pierre-Paul has battled a knee injury all year, but he must come through with a splash play or two against Washington to help Tampa Bay win and advance in the playoffs.

Mark Cook: LT Donovan Smith and LB Lavonte David

Bucs LT Donovan Smith
Bucs LT Donovan Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs are favored in this game – and for good reason – they are the more talented team overall. But roster talent doesn’t always equate to wins, as the Buccaneers found out against the Chicago Bears this season. Its about the matchups and this one doesn’t exactly favor the Bucs when you look at their offensive line going up against Washington’s defensive line. The most important piece on this chess battle will be Donovan Smith who must have his best game of the season on Saturday night. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady can’t be constantly harassed and forced to get rid of the ball before he wants to. The Bucs offense will perform only as good as their offense line plays, in particular Smith.

Defensively the Bucs will be without Devin White again this week and this is where Tampa Bay really needs Lavonte David to take it to an even higher level. David has been very good for the most part this season but without White, David’s play becomes even more crucial whether in pass coverage or run support. And maybe this is the game where defensive coordinator Todd Bowles unleashes David as a blitzer, taking on White’s pass rush role to some degree. David is constantly overlooked for national honors and part of that has been playing on poor teams during his previous years in the league. If David wants more recognition, this is a great stage to show the casual fan outside of the Tampa Bay area how good of a player is and has been over his career.

Jon Ledyard: LG Ali Marpet and OLB Shaq Barrett

Bucs LG Ali Marpet
Bucs LG Ali Marpet – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Much of the attention on Washington’s defensive line goes to soon-to-be Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young or sack leader Montez Sweat, but defensive tackle Jon Allen may be having the best year out of any Washington defender. Sure, his stats aren’t gaudy, but Allen has been a monster at producing pressure in one-on-one situations, and left guard Ali Marpet will need to be ready. The Bucs’ best offensive lineman was outstanding in two premier match-ups against Grady Jarrett in Weeks 15 and 17, and he’ll need to continue that level of play against Allen’s patented cross chop-hump move. We know Tom Brady isn’t built to escape the pocket on a consistent basis, but he typically does a great job of navigating edge pressure by stepping up or sliding in the pocket. It’s a lot harder to evade interior pressure, so Marpet and center Ryan Jensen will be key in shutting down Washington’s top pocket pusher.

On the other side of the ball, pressure from anywhere is probably the key to defeating quarterbacks Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke. That’s where Shaq Barrett comes in huge for Todd Bowles’ defensive game plan on Saturday. Washington right tackle Morgan Moses is a good player, but he better have his hands full with Barrett on Saturday. Tampa Bay’s best pass rusher has been up-and-down this season, but if he can win one-on-one on a consistent basis, it’ll keep the Bucs from having to go blitz heavy and instead allow them to drop seven more often and smother the short-intermediate areas of the field. If Barrett wants to be paid as a top-tier pass rusher this season, these are the types of games he needs to be a force in, especially with Tampa Bay’s interior pass rush struggling most of the year.

Matt Matera: LT Donovan Smith and OLB Jason Pierre-Paul

Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

We all know the Bucs’ offense is all about protecting Tom Brady, and that starts and ends with left tackle Donovan Smith. A majority of the Bucs’ losses have been similar in which Brady has been sacked multiple times and the offense failed to score more than 24 points, most notably that came in losses to New Orleans twice and Chicago. The biggest detractor for Smith has been that he’s inconsistent and can take a play or two off, but that can’t happen against Washington pass rushers’ Montez Sweat and Chase Young, who have combined for 16.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns on the season. If Washington smells blood in the water the team will make sure it can get one-on-one match-ups against Smith and dominate the line of scrimmage. That would be a disastrous recipe for the Bucs.

Jason Pierre-Paul was the Bucs’ leading pass rusher this season with 9.5 sacks, just edging out linebacker Devin White, who had nine. While getting back Shaq Barrett is big for the Bucs, White will still be absent from the game, so Pierre-Paul will have to step it up. Since coming to Tampa Bay, no one has talked more passionately about making the playoffs than Pierre-Paul, who’s only been to the postseason once in his career during the 2010 season, making the most of it when the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI. Though he led the team in sacks, Pierre-Paul hasn’t taken down the quarterback since Week 13. It’s time to see all that enthusiasm for making the playoffs again come to fruition on Saturday.

Taylor Jenkins: LB Lavonte David and RB Ronald Jones II

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Washington wins games by leaning on its defense, finishing the season at 7-9 despite ranking 25th in the NFL at 20.9 points scored per game. Defensively, Washington has allowed the second-fewest yards per game at 304.6 and it specialize in something that has given Tampa Bay problems this season, creating pressure with a fierce front seven that totaled 47 sacks in 2020, the sixth-best mark in the league. We know that when the Bucs’ offense is clicking they’re as dominant as any unit in the league, but should Washington force Tampa Bay into another instance of a slow and uncomfortable start, the Bucs will have to rely on an efficient run game led by Ronald Jones II to stay on schedule and keep the chains moving.

Washington’s offense, as previously stated, has struggled throughout the season. One of the consistent bright spots however has been rookie running back Antonio Gibson, Jr. Gibson, in just 14 games and 10 starts, totaled 795 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns on 130 carries while adding 36 receptions and 247 yards through the air. Linebacker Lavonte David is the anchor for Tampa Bay’s defense and he will need to fill that role even more so, as second-year linebacker Devin White is set to miss the Bucs’ first round match-up as he remains on the league’s COVID list. In addition to keeping Gibson under wraps, Washington also brings talented tight end Logan Thomas to the table, finishing second on the team with 72 receptions for 670 yards and six touchdowns. David has spent all nine years of his career with Tampa Bay, never seeing a playoff appearance, and he will be the key player on the Bucs’ defense in his first chance at a rare postseason victory.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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surferdudes
14 days ago

I hope our O line is as fed up hearing about TWF’s teams D line as I am.

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toucan
Reply to  surferdudes
13 days ago

You mean the Redskins? Screw the PC crap.

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eaustinyoung
14 days ago

The NFL has plenty of top rushers. If the Bucs want to make any kind of statement, the O line needs to learn how to contend with the pass rush. This game will be telling. If the Bucs lose, they were frauds and its just another notch of embarrassment on the franchise. If they win, it’ll juice them up hard to go to Seattle, Lambeau, or New Orleans (depending on who wins their matchups).

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Naplesfan
Reply to  eaustinyoung
14 days ago

That’s a dumb thing to say. There is no fraudulence with the Bucs team. They legitimately played 16 games and won 11 of them, with one of the toughest schedules in the league (I think their schedule was ranked 4th toughest in the league).
Whatever the Bucs do this Saturday, if they play their very best, that is all that anybody can ask for. If they do that, they are likely to win, but nobody who is in the playoffs didn’t earn their spot in the playoff.

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eaustinyoung
Reply to  Naplesfan
14 days ago

Losing to a 7-9 team that needed the Eagles to tank to make the playoffs would be the biggest Tampa Bay bust since the 2019 Lightning got creamed in the Wild Card against Columbus.

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fredster
14 days ago

I agree only way we lose to this 7-9 Team with no offense is if we let them get to Brady. So all you guys that are always defending Smith, if he allows some sacks or has his usual penalty or two at worst time and they edge us, then hopefully you will get it and want to replace him with someone actually worth 14 million yearly. If he holds up great he will have to for two more games against top quality teams to get to super bowl. Not feeling real good about our chances being on him and… Read more »

eaustinyoung
Reply to  fredster
14 days ago

Really want Gronk to stay in and block except for Red Zone.

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Eddie
Reply to  eaustinyoung
13 days ago

That has to happen. Slow feet #76 will get killed otherwise. Brady will too.

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Naplesfan
Reply to  fredster
14 days ago

Smith is not going to be the cause of a loss, or a win, by himself. That’s dumb thinking.
Brady was sacked only 21 times this season – that’s a 22% reduction in number of sacks he had the previous season in New England. Tom may tend to take fewer sacks than Winston did, but Tom still stayed the same as he always has been, yet played better (more yards, way more touchdowns) with Smith at LT and Wirfs at RT.

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Dave
Reply to  Naplesfan
14 days ago

Completely agree that no 1 player is going to be the cause of a loss if we lose. All I’ve heard all season, is that Brady beat up on bad teams, and played bad against the good teams. While I won’t pretend he played great in the losses to the Chiefs, Saints, Rams, and Bears. Acting like we lost(especially in the 2nd Saints game, Chiefs game, and Rams game) mainly because of Brady is just insane. In those 3 games, the combination of Mahomes, Brees, and Goff put up the following stats: 102-132(77%) 1060 yds(353/GM) 10 TD’s vs 2 INT’s.… Read more »

Last edited 14 days ago by Dave
Eddie
Reply to  Naplesfan
13 days ago

You may be right, did you also look at incomplete, rushed errant passes and harassed stat? Not just sacks?

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stlbucsfan
14 days ago

I hope the Bucs coaches realize that Ronald Jones is the key to slowing down the pass rush. We have enough evidence from our OL against slightly worse DLs to know how this game will go if we drop back and act like Donovan is going to play at some level we’ve never seen in the brightest moment. That logic is ridiculous. The Bucs need to use Rojo to slow down the run game in conjunction with the emerging short passing game that’s been used of late. If we use those to keep the DL off balance that will help… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  stlbucsfan
14 days ago

The Bucs got where they are by passing a lot, not by running a lot. Particularly since the bye. Changing it up now and going all conservative with a run first game plan is a guaranteed loss to the WFT and one and done in the playoffs.
Dance with the one what brung ya.

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stlbucsfan
Reply to  Naplesfan
14 days ago

1-5 vs playoff teams with 8TDs and 9INTs is more than enough proof that this approach hasnt worked against the quality teams we’ve faced. The stand back there and air it out approach got us aired out by Saints. Just bc we beat the Lions and Falcons throwing the ball doesnt mean no change is needed to the gameplan. Not saying hand it off every plan but if we dont use the short passing game and some occasional 3rd down draws to keep the defense honest then Tom might be looking for 5th down again. Dont let history repeat itself… Read more »

RW
RW
Reply to  stlbucsfan
13 days ago

The game plan did change after the bye week. Did you not notice? More short throws , more play action, more throws on 1st down and used max protection much more often. Yes it worked well against bad teams but guaranteed they will use that game plan against the WFT and beyond.

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RW
RW
Reply to  Naplesfan
13 days ago

You both are correct.
Running can be effective against an overly aggressive and undisciplined pass rush which could be the case with WFT’s young D-line.
At the same time passing on 1st down should prove effective. But not home run balls like earlier in the season but lots of quick hitters like they started using after bye week. Both tactics can be used to keep pressure off Brady.

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Eddie
Reply to  stlbucsfan
13 days ago

agreed. Donovan will not overnight rid him of his lead foot, and Short passes to running back from back field will be effective.

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Naplesfan
14 days ago

Way too much focus on one or two individual players here at PR … whether it’ the weekly “most impressive” and “most disappointing” wastes of digital data, or this piece. Football is a team sport and nobody ever makes a team win or lose based upon individual effort or performance. For every quarterback who makes great throws, there are great blockers and great receivers and runners, as well as complementary defenses who make that performance possible. Ditto on defense … for every great rusher, there are teammates who also rush to close off escape routes for quarterbacks … and for… Read more »

RW
RW
Reply to  Naplesfan
13 days ago

Actually if the O-line plays really well this team can go to the Superbowl. Because if they give TB12 and the receivers time they can outscore every team in the NFC.

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PewDerPie
Reply to  Naplesfan
13 days ago

Curious, if we were down by 2 with 5 seconds left in the game. Succop misses a 20 yard field goal attempt and we lose. Would you still say the team lost that game?

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Dave
14 days ago

Look, the DLine for Washington is good. We all know that. But way too many people are insinuating that if they get to Brady, we’ll lose. As if to say, we can’t win an ugly game, or dominate even more on defense. We’ve had to win a couple ugly games, where Brady was under pressure more than he would have liked( Giants game, 1st Falcons game). Yet they found a way to win both. Brady could be under pressure and still win. It’s more likely that our defense shuts down Alex Smith than it is that Washington shuts down Brady.… Read more »

plopes808
14 days ago

I keep hearing about our Oline needing to step up against Washington’s Dline. While the criticism of our oline has some truth to it, lately we’ve been doing much better and that has more to do with the playcalling than anything else. Leftwich has finally figured out that Brady works best using short passes and the run game to set up the play action shots downfield. This gameplan should work well against Washington as they have a good front 7 but a suspect secondary.

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MWD
MWD
14 days ago

I don’t know about you guys but I’m pretty sick of hearing all the “yotta yotta yotta” about the Redskins, yes I said it, and I don’t give a damn. They are putting this team out there like they dominated their division and are 13-3. First off-they shouldn’t even have a home playoff game but because of the way the league has it for winning your division-it is what it is. Second- our O-line is capable of doing what they need to do. Will their D line get a few sacks, maybe, but collectively as a whole game-I think we… Read more »

toucan
13 days ago

Suh and Gholston ?

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Eddie
13 days ago

Also the coaching staff. Good coaches schemed to take away the opponent’s best player. And it should change from game to game or half to half even. Arian and Leftwich show us your stuff.

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scubog
13 days ago

The way some of you folks view this game with such fear is just incredible. Lets hope the Bucs’ players aren’t as intimidated as its’ fans. Seems to me when comparing defensive lines and pass-rushers, the Bucs and Washington “Hypocrites” are statistically very similar. Yet, I see no conversation about the opponent’s offensive line and how the Bucs might fare against them.

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MWD
MWD
Reply to  scubog
12 days ago

Thank you scubog- my thoughts exactly- please see my comment

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