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FAB 1. Bucs Must Draft Another Pass Rusher In 2022
The Buccaneers aren’t quite done with their 2021 season yet, but a quick glance at the team’s 2022 opponents screams one thing – quarterbacks.
As in, top NFL quarterbacks.
How about Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Dallas’ Dak Prescott, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, Los Angeles’ Matthew Stafford, Arizona’s Kyler Murray and Seattle’s Russell Wilson – just to name a few?
With the exception of Stafford, all of those quarterbacks have at least a good degree of mobility and escapability from the pocket. That means the Bucs will need some speed up front to be able to pressure the pocket and chase those QBs when they escape. Tampa Bay added a very valuable piece in outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka with the 32nd overall pick last April. Tryon-Shoyinka has four sacks in limited playing time during his rookie season and has star potential.
While defensive tackle may be the team’s most pressing need in 2022 depending on what happens with Ndamukong Suh, who turns 35 on January 6, and Steve McLendon, who turns 36 on January 3, the Bucs should consider drafting another talented edge rusher.
Tampa Bay will need another edge defender to possibly replace oft-injured outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, who turns 33 on Saturday. Pierre-Paul is in the final year of his contract and is making $12.5 million this season. His effectiveness has been greatly limited due to a torn rotator cuff injury that happened in Week 1. Pierre-Paul has just 2.5 sacks, which ranks seventh on the team.
Reserve outside linebacker Anthony Nelson, who has a career-high three sacks, is entering a contract year. So Tampa Bay could add another speedy edge player to compete for playing time behind Tryon-Shoyinka and Shaq Barrett in 2022.
Bucs OLBs Jason Pierre-Paul and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
And with Pierre-Paul missing several games with a shoulder injury and Barrett now out for several weeks with an MCL and ACL sprain, Bucs general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians are realizing just how important having multiple players that can get to the quarterback. The 2022 NFL Draft appears to have some good edge rushers that fit Todd Bowles’ defensive system.
With the playoff-bound Bucs picking in the late 20s in the first round due the team’s 11-4 record, Tampa Bay won’t have a shot at three of the top edge defenders in this year’s draft – Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, Michigan’s Adian Hutchinson and Purdue’s George Karlaftis. Thibodeaux and Hutchinson won’t make it out of the Top 10, and Karlaftis figures to be a Top 20 selection.
So let’s skip the evaluation of that talented trio and get to 10 edge rushers that fit the Bucs defense and will likely be on Tampa Bay’s draft radar next April.
Michigan EDGE David Ojabo – 6-5, 250 – Redshirt Sophomore
Ojabo is a one-year wonder that has benefited greatly playing opposite Hutchinson at Michigan. Still, Ojabo is no slouch and has come into his own as a pass rusher in 2021 with 12 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, three passes defensed, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Ojabo is more explosive and was more productive than former Wolverines edge defender Kwity Paye, a first-round pick last season.
Ojabo has tremendous ball awareness and hand-eye coordination to not only sack the quarterback, but create sack-fumbles. He’s a speed rusher with a quick first step, but also plays with a physical presence. Ojabo has strong hands and doesn’t miss many tackles or sacks. Although he’s a few inches taller, Ojabo’s game resembles that of Tampa Bay’s Barrett. He may not be around by the time the Bucs pick if they go deep in the playoffs.
Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson – 6-5, 265 – Senior
If the Bucs are looking for Tryon-Shoyinka version 2.0, Johnson is the guy. Johnson is a grad transfer from Georgia where he recorded a combined 6.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the 2019-2020 seasons. He starred at Florida State in his lone year with the Seminoles, recording 17.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Johnson is an extremely physical player, and there isn’t much finesse to his game at all. Yet his athleticism shows up on his speed rushes on the outside and converts speed to power exceptionally well.
Johnson is a very sure tackler that goes low and wraps up the legs of quarterbacks and ballcarriers. He makes good use of his hands as a pass rusher, whether it’s a rip move or a swipe. Johnson is tough in run defense, evidenced by 70 tackles last year for the Seminoles, and will stick his nose in a gap to stuff the run. He plays angry and with a relentless motor. Johnson would be a heck of a first-round selection by the Bucs if he’s still available.
USC EDGE Drake Jackson – 6-4, 250 – Junior
Jackson is a freaky athlete who resembles a younger version of Pierre-Paul. The Trojans defender is a physical player that plays at a frenetic pace. Jackson recorded 11.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble as a freshman before notching two sacks and an interception in six games during a COVID-shortened season in 2020. As a junior, Jackson notched eight tackles for loss, five sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Jackson is a choppy pass rusher. While not smooth in his movements, he has the fluidity to bend the corner and get to the QB. USC dropped Jackson into coverage, which is something that Bowles likes to do with his outside linebackers in Tampa Bay. While the ability to play in coverage works in his favor with the Bucs, those that cover USC felt like it cut into Jackson’s production as a pass rusher. With good testing numbers, Jackson could be a late first-round pick, but should be selected no later than the second round.
Penn State EDGE Arnold Ebiketie – 6-3, 253 – Senior
Ebiketie was a grad transfer from Temple, which should please Bowles and Arians. He posted a combined 10.5 tackles, six sacks, three forced fumbles and a scoop-and-score in 13 games for the Owls over the 2019 and 2020 seasons. In his lone season at Penn State, Ebiketie was a monster, racking up 62 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Ebiketie is a classic speed rusher off the edge, but he can also play with power, too. He’s a hard hitter that causes fumbles and will do the dirty work in the run game by maintaining his gap, too. Ebiketie wins in the run game with penetration and with a quick first step. He’s a sure tackler and there is a lot to like about his game. With good pre-draft testing Ebiketie should be a Day 2 selection.
Washington EDGE Zion Tupuola-Fetui – 6-4, 266 – Redshirt Sophomore
The Bucs have had great success with Washington defensive linemen, including Tryon-Shoyinka, nose tackle Vita Vea and reserve defensive lineman Benning Potoa’e. Tupuola-Fetui, also known as ZTF, might be the next one. The Huskies star replaced JTS in 2020 and had seven sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in just three games. An Achilles injury limited Tupuola-Fetui to just two games this year where he recorded nine tackles and had one sack.
Although not as athletic as Tryon-Shoyinka, Tupuola-Fetui is a little thicker and more powerful. He plays a nasty, physical style of football and is relentless in pursuit. ZTF has very good hand-eye coordination and has a knack for punching and slapping the ball out of the QB’s hands on nearly half of his sacks. The fact that Tupuola-Fetui has only played in 13 games at Washington might lead him to return to school for another year. Then again, Tryon-Shoyinka had nine career sacks in 23 career games for the Huskies before he left for the NFL. Given the lack of production and the small sample size, Tupuola-Fetui is likely a Day 2 pick right now.
Cincinnati EDGE Myjai Sanders – 6-5, 255 – Senior
While Sanders has contributed to Cincinnati’s storybook undefeated season, he hasn’t put up great numbers as a pass rusher. After recording four sacks and a forced fumble as a sophomore in 2019 and notching 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 10 games last year, Sanders has just 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2021. One thing Sanders has going for him is great awareness at the line of scrimmage. He’s batted down 11 passes in his four years at Cincinnati, including five last year and four this season.
Sanders has a nice inside move and shows good bend while turning the corner. He’s a smart rusher that takes good angles to the QB and plays with decent speed to power. Sanders is a physical player, and is more of a throw down tackler than someone who wraps up like Florida State’s Johnson. That may not work at the NFL level, so his tackling may need improving. Sanders should be drafted somewhere in rounds 2-4.
Ole Miss EDGE Sam Williams – 6-3, 265 – Senior
Williams came to Ole Miss in 2019 as one of the nation’s top JUCO prospects after notching 28.5 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks and four forced fumbles as a sophomore. As a junior at Ole Miss, Williams recorded 9.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. Last season he notched eight tackles for loss and four sacks before a breakout senior season. As a fifth-year senior, Williams has 14 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Williams is a physical force with good speed and long arms. He has experience playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme at Ole Miss. Williams was asked to drop in coverage as well as rush the passer, so he fits Bowles’ scheme well. While he has a quick burst and decent closing speed, Williams is not a very fluid athlete and wins more with power, effort and strong hands, which allows him to shed blocks with ease.
Gunter has had a solid, but not spectacular career for the Chanticleers. As a four-year starter, he’s been productive. Gunter has 17 career sacks, including at least five sacks in each of the last three seasons. He’s forced nine fumbles in his career, including six in 2020 and two this season. Gunter also has 38.5 career tackles for loss, including 8.5 this season.
What makes Gunter appealing is that he plays the game with a mean streak and a nasty edge. He gave former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson the business in a bowl game after he threw a pick.
And also dragged Liberty QB Malik Willis down by the facemask.
Gunter plays with a good motor and has really worked hard to add weight and play physical. Still, he has some athletic limitations that will likely make him a Day 3 selection.
South Carolina EDGE Kingsley Enagbare – 6-4, 265 – Senior
Enagbare is a solid, steady edge rusher. He’s more physical than he is fast, although he is an above average athlete. As a four-year starter he’s got plenty of experience, and has recorded seven tackles for loss in each of the last three seasons. After recording 3.5 sacks as a sophomore, Enagbare had six sacks last year and finished his Gamecocks career with 4.5 more in 2021. He’s also tallied three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery at South Carolina.
Enagbare is effective as an inside rusher on stunts. And he’s physical enough to split double teams and still produce sacks. Playing with good speed to power, Enagbare is a high-effort player, but a fair amount of his sacks are clean-up sacks rather than beating 1-on-1s cleanly. He needs to be better at understanding how to defend the running game and disengage from blocks better against the run. Enagbare is likely a Day 3 pick next April.
Western Kentucky EDGE DeAngelo Malone – 6-4, 240 – Senior
Malone returned for his fifth year and wound up playing in 62 games at Western Kentucky. He notched 32.5 career sacks, which broke the school record. Malone had a breakout season in 2019 with 99 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. After recording 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles a year ago, Malone finished strong with 94 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and four forced fumbles in 2021.
Malone has good speed and quickness to go along with ideal length and long arms. But at 240 pounds he’s too undersized to be anything more than a designated pass rusher in the NFL unless he gains 10-15 pounds of bulk. Malone is a willing tackler in the run game, but his motor can run hot and cold, which has scouts concerned. Malone is a Day 3 pick despite his production – most of which happened against non-Power 5 schools.
FAB 2. New Year’s Resolutions For The Bucs
As the year 2021 draws to a close and we get ready to welcome 2022, here are five New Year’s Resolutions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Get Evans His 1,000 Yards
Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans is just 101 yards away from his eighth straight 1,000-yard season. Evans has already broken Randy Moss’ record for most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to start a career with seven. He accomplished that feat last year in the season finale against Atlanta.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Evans, who missed last week’s game at Carolina with a hamstring injury, will likely miss Sunday’s game at New York. But there is hope that he could return to action in Tampa Bay against the Panthers in this year’s season finale. If Evans can return, Tom Brady needs to force feed him the ball to hit the 1,000-yard milestone.
Evans has been one of the NFL’s best receivers since entering the league in 2014. But with only three Pro Bowl berths, Evans’ consecutive 1,000-yard streak is what will likely get him into the Hall of Fame. Adding another year (or two, or three) to that record would certainly help Evans’ cause.
Barber Gets Into The Hall Of Fame
Speaking of Bucs in the Hall of Fame, legendary Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber definitely deserves to be enshrined in Canton. This year’s Hall of Fame class will be announced after Super Bowl LVI. Barber is going up against the likes of defensive ends Jared Allen and DeMarcus Ware, tackles Willie Anderson and Tony Boselli, safety LeRoy Butler, return specialist Devin Hester, wide receivers Torry Holt, Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne, linebackers Sam Mills, Zach Thomas and Patrick Willis, and defensive tackles Bryant Young and Richard Seymour.
There might only be a couple of surefire picks out of this group, but it’s a group that Barber can compete with. And it helps that he is the only cornerback in this year’s class of finalist, and just one of two defensive backs. With a Super Bowl ring, 47 interceptions, 28 sacks and 14 non-offensive touchdowns, Barber has Hall of Fame credentials. He helped pioneer the nickel cornerback position.
What he’s going up against is the fact that there are three other Buccaneers from the Super Bowl XXXVII team already in Canton, including Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch, who was inducted last year. Is it too soon to induct another Buccaneer? And is four members off the Bucs Super Bowl defense too many? The answer is no. Barber belongs in the Hall of Fame. He actually has a stronger case than Lynch does.
Here’s To Good Health!
The one resolution we’ll start with is the one thing the team can’t control – injuries. The Bucs need to get healthy just after the new year and before the playoffs begin. Tampa Bay has had its share of injuries this year after being relatively healthy in 2020 en route to winning Super Bowl LV.
Here’s a quick glance.
Bucs Players Who Were Placed On IR
WR Chris Godwin – 3 games + playoffs – ACL
RB Leonard Fournette – 3 games – hamstring
LB Lavonte David – 3 games – foot
CB Carlton Davis III – 7 games – quad
CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – 8 games – elbow
RB Giovani Bernard – 3 games – hip
CB Richard Sherman – 6 games – hamstring/calf/Achilles
G Aaron Stinnie – 10 games – knee
Bucs Players Who Missed Time Due To Injury
WR Antonio Brown – 6 games – ankle
TE Rob Gronkowski – 5 games – ribs/back
S Antoine Winfield – 4 games – concussion/foot
S Jordan Whitehead – 3 games – calf
OLB Jason Pierre-Paul – 3 games – shoulder/hand
CB Jamel Dean – 2 games – knee/shoulder/COVID
WR Mike Evans – 1 game – hamstring
That’s a lot of starters – and stars – missing a lot of time due to injury this season. The most significant injuries last year were Vita Vea’s broken ankle and O.J. Howard’s torn Achilles. But Vea returned by the NFC Championship Game, and Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate played so well that Howard wasn’t missed.
Wide receiver Chris Godwin missed a few games due to a concussion and right guard Alex Cappa broke his ankle in the first round of the playoffs. Otherwise, Tampa Bay was a very healthy team in 2020. That’s not been the case in 2021.
Win A Home Playoff Game
The Bucs are 0-2 in their last two playoff appearances at Raymond James Stadium. By virtue of Tampa Bay winning the NFC South division, the team will play at least one playoff game at home during the 2021 season. The defending Super Bowl champion Bucs need to win that game to avoid the embarrassment and disappointment that comes with an early playoff exit.
Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and QB Brad Johnson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Bucs went 11-5 in 2005 and hosted the 10-6 Redskins. Tampa Bay’s defense held Washington to just 120 yards of offense, but the Bucs committed three turnovers, including a scoop-and-score fumble recovery by the late Sean Taylor. The Redskins opened up a 14-3 lead at halftime and went on to win, 17-10.
Two years later, the 9-7 Bucs hosted the 10-6 Giants in a wild card game. After leading 7-0 in the first quarter, Tampa Bay lost, 24-14, to a New York team that went on to beat the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
The last home playoff game the Bucs won was in 2002 in the first round against the 49ers, 31-6. That victory catapulted Tampa Bay on to its first Super Bowl championship.
Make The Tough Decisions In The Offseason
Bucs general manager Jason Licht and vice president of football administration Mike Greenberg re-signed every free agent starter from Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl team last year. The team can’t afford to do that in 2022 because it already kicked the can of dead cap money down the road once. Doing so again would jeopardize the Bucs’ future.
There are some tough personnel decisions looming, such as the futures of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who turns 35 next week, and outside linebacker Jason Pierre, who turns 33 on Saturday. Suh may want to retire, but Pierre-Paul might want to keep playing.
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul and GM Jason Licht / Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Suh is set to cost Tampa Bay $6 million in dead cap money next year and he made $9 million in 2021. Can the Bucs afford an aging Suh again at a similar price? Pierre-Paul made $12.5 million this year and is just physically falling apart. With Joe Tryon-Shoyinka drafted to replace him, it’s time to let JPP go despite him being an absolute warrior and great leader.
The Bucs have similar decisions to make about wide receiver Antonio Brown, running back Leonard Fournette, center Ryan Jensen, Cappa and others. Some deserve to return at the right price, but some don’t and it’s time for the Bucs to bring in some new blood at certain positions. Licht can’t be afraid to do what’s right for Tampa Bay long term and move on from some Buccaneers either due to age or salary cap – or both.
FAB 3. 4 Matchups To Watch: Bucs Offense vs. Jets Defense
Each week you can find 4 Match-Ups To Watch on offense and defense in my SR’s Fab 5 column. Here is preview of Tampa Bay’s game at New York against a woeful 4-11 Jets team. Both teams have been hit with COVID, but the Jets will be without more players. Here is a look at Tampa Bay’s key players on offense vs. New York’s key defenders.
Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady vs. New York MLB C.J. Mosley
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Mosley is a veteran in his eighth season, including his third year with the Jets. He has the experience to match wits against Brady from an audible perspective, but that’s about it. Mosley sat out last year due to COVID and only played in two games during the 2019 season in New York. While he has a career-high 142 tackles this season, that’s more of a product of the Jets having the worst defense in the league rather than his play. Mosley has a 38.4 Pro Football Focus grade.
Brady should carve up the Jets defense, which is just a mess this season, allowing 29 points per game. The Jets play a lot of man coverage, so he won’t see a lot of Cover 2, which is a tougher defense to play against with Bruce Arians’ vertical passing offense. Where Brady needs to be careful is when the Jets send Mosley on blitzes. He has a pair of sacks and a pair of QB hits this season. Brady must also be ready to slide when scrambling, as the 6-foot-2, 250-pound linebacker packs a punch as a hitter. ADVANTAGE: Brady
Bucs WR Antonio Brown/Breshad Perriman vs. Jets Rookie CBs
Bucs WR Antonio Brown – Photo by: USA Today
With top cornerback Bryce Hall out due to COVID, the Jets will likely start a pair of rookie cornerbacks in Brandin Echols and Michael Carter II. Both are Day 3 picks that have had their share of struggles this season, although Carter hasn’t surrendered a touchdown. Echols has allowed just one TD, but he has one interception whereas Carter has none. They’ll have their hands full against Brown, who is still one of the best receivers in the game.
Brown returned to the lineup with a vengeance last week, catching 10 passes for 101 yards and being targeted 15 times. With Chris Godwin and Mike Evans out, Brown will remain the focus of the Bucs’ aerial assault if he’s able to play due to a sprained ankle. With New York playing a lot of Cover 1 and Cover 3, look for Brown and quarterback Tom Brady to pick apart the Jets defense and wreck havoc on the rookie defensive backs in coverage with another 100-yard receiving day. If Brown can’t go, speedster Breshad Perriman could easily have a 100-yard day in his place against the rookies. ADVANTAGE: Brown/Perriman
Tampa Bay RT Tristan Wirfs vs. New York DE John Franklin-Myers
Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs and Saints DE Cameron Jordan – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Franklin-Myers is the Jets best defensive player. He’s tied for the team lead with six sacks is just coming off the COVID list. Franklin-Myers is the highest-graded starter on the Jets defense with an 80.8 PFF grade. At 6-foot-4, 288 pounds, the veteran is built similar to New Orleans’s Cameron Jordan, who gave Wirfs problems this year and recorded both of the sacks the right tackle has surrendered in 2021.
Wirfs made his first Pro Bowl this season, and it’s well deserved. He’s established himself as one of the game’s best right tackles. While Franklin-Myers isn’t a household name because of the Jets’ poor record, he’s a formidable foe that Wirfs will have to contend with on every snap. The key to Wirfs winning the pass rush downs against Franklin-Myers is to punish him on the run downs and wear him out physically. Franklin-Myers wins with power and not speed, so Wirfs can slow him down even more by dominating him in the run game early on. Wirfs didn’t have a great game at Carolina and will look to bounce back this Sunday. ADVANTAGE: Wirfs
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Jets SS Ashtyn Davis
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: USA Today
Davis, the Jets’ third-round pick last year, just came off the COVID list and that’s a big boost for New York this week. He’ll spend a decent amount of time covering Gronkowski in man coverage and bracketing him when the Jets play zone. At 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, Davis has good size and speed for a strong safety. He’s a physical playmaker that has forced three fumbles and picked off two passes in coverage. Davis will also occasionally blitz from the slot, and has half a sack this season.
Gronkowski is coming off two rough games. He had a couple of uncharacteristic drops against New Orleans two weeks ago, and only caught two of his 10 targets for 29 yards. Safety Malcolm Jenkins did a great job defending Gronkowski. Last week at Carolina, it was safety Jeremy Chinn, who helped hold Gronkowski to just one catch for 23 yards. The future Hall of Fame tight end also dropped a catchable touchdown pass from Brady in the end zone. Whatever is causing Gronkowski to lose focus must be corrected soon, as Brady needs him without his top targets at wide receiver. ADVANTAGE: Push
FAB 4. 4 Match-ups To Watch: Bucs Defense vs. Jets Offense
Each week you can find 4 Match-Ups To Watch on offense and defense in my SR’s Fab 5 columns. Tampa Bay’s defense is coming off a seven-sack performance versus Carolina. The Jets starter is rookie QB Zach Wilson, who has been sacked 35 times. Here are the key match-ups to watch on Sunday when the Jets have the ball.
Tampa Bay OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka vs. New York QB Zach Wilson
Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Wilson is having a rough rookie season with just seven touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. The former first-round pick hasn’t been helped by a depleted arsenal in the passing game and some injuries to his offensive line up front. In fact, Wilson has had to run for his life in recent weeks. He had an 18-yard scramble vs. New Orleans and finished with 33 yards on the ground a few weeks ago. In last week’s 26-21 win over Jacksonville, Wilson had a 52-yard touchdown run and finished with 91 yards rushing. He’s got four rushing TDs on the season, so the Bucs will have to contain him in the pocket, especially when playing man coverage.
With Shaq Barrett out and Jason Pierre-Paul not expected to play, Tryon-Shoyinka needs to step up as both an interior rusher and edge defender. Tryon-Shoyinka has four sacks in his rookie season, and could easily have another four if he had wrapped up better or taken better angles to the quarterback. The speedy first-round pick will be charged with hunting down Wilson in the pocket and needs to come up with a key sack or two against a banged up Jets offensive line. Wilson has been sacked 35 times this season and JTS needs to add to that total on Sunday. ADVANTAGE: Tryon-Shoyinka
Bucs ILB Devin White vs. Jets RB Michael Carter
Bucs ILB Devin White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Carter is having a fine rookie season as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. He leads the Jets with 566 yards rushing and four touchdowns, in addition to catching 35 passes for 316 yards. With a big all-purpose game against the Bucs he could top 1,000 yards of total offense on Sunday. The problem is that Carter is just about the only weapon the Jets have left. Wide receiver Corey Davis is out for the year. Jamison Crowder is questionable with an injury. Leading receiver Elijah Moore, who is a rookie, is on the COVID list. So that means Carter must step and take on a heavy workload. That might be tough for the 5-foot-8, 201-pound rookie.
White will be assigned to cover Carter out of the backfield due to his speed in dashing to the flat. Don’t be surprised to see the Jets to try to isolate Carter on White on the perimeter and try to run a go route, as White is not the greatest linebacker in coverage. The Jets will also try to isolate Carter on slower linebacker Kevin Minter on the weakside, too. Where White can really beat Carter is in pass protection on blitzes. White has 3.5 sacks on the season and will test the rookie in blitz pick-up on third downs. ADVANTAGE: Push
Tampa Bay NT Vita Vea vs. New York C Dan Feeney
Bucs NT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Starting center Connor McGovern was the highest-graded Jets offensive lineman with a 75.8 Pro Football Focus grade before being lost for the season last week with an MCL injury. In steps Feeney (71.1 grade), who has starts at left tackle and left guard this year and has played in eight games – but not at center. Feeney is a good pass protector (77.5 grade) and he’ll need to be stout as the Bucs like to do a lot of interior stunts with the speedy Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, in addition to some A gap blitzing with Devin White. But Feeney needs to worry about helping left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker with Vea, who is a monster at 6-foot-4, 345 pounds.
Vea recorded a sack last week against the Panthers’ backup center and will face another backup snapper this week. With four sacks on the season, Vea has established a new career high for a single season and he isn’t done yet. With the Jets surrendering 43 sacks this season, which is as many sacks as Carolina has allowed, the Bucs could have another big sack outing like they had a week ago versus the Panthers. Vea has the ability to get sacks in one-on-one situations or the beneficiary of Tampa Bay’s collective pass rush and get a clean-up sack. ADVANTAGE: Vea
Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead vs. Jets TE Kenny Yeboah
Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Yeboah, an undrafted free agent, who has spent much of the year on the practice squad, will likely get his first NFL start on Sunday. The Jets’ tight end room is a disaster with starter Ryan Griffin and backup Trevon Wesco both on injured reserve. Third-string tight end Tyler Kroft is on the COVID list, and Yeboah just got off the COVID list. Yeboah is an undersized tight end at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, and dropped his only target earlier in the season. He averaged 19.4 yards per catch and scored six touchdowns in his final season at Ole Miss, so he’s a decent receiving threat.
Whitehead is coming off what could have been his best game in the NFL so far. With seven tackles, three pass breakups and an interception, Whitehead was simply dominant at Carolina. Can he continue that high level of play as he works towards a big payday from Tampa Bay or another team in free agency? He’ll certainly win his match-up against the rookie tight end, as defensive coordinator Todd Bowles likes to match Whitehead with opposing team’s tight ends in man coverage. Look for Whitehead to also get in on the weakside blitz game and register a sack against Wilson. ADVANTAGE: Whitehead
FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• BENGALS OFFENSE WILL GIVE BUCS A RUN FOR THEIR MONEY: The Bucs have the most explosive offense in the league when all of its weapons are healthy and on the field. Right now Tampa Bay trails Dallas in total yardage and in points scored, where the Cowboys have a slight advantage 30.5 points per game to 29.5 points per game. But the young Bengals offense is up-and-coming, led by quarterback Joe Burrow and first-round receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
Cincinnati, whom Tampa Bay plays next year, has the 12th ranked offense and the seventh-ranked scoring offense (27.3 ppg). The Bengals are loaded with offensive weapons and should be even better next season with more experience, too.
Joe Burrow (25): 4,165 yards
Joe Mixon (25): 1,159 yards
Ja'Marr Chase (21): 1,163 yards
Tee Higgins (22): 1,029 yards
The Bengals are the first team in NFL history to have a 4,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 2 1,000-yard receivers all 25 or younger in the same season. pic.twitter.com/esaVoV50YV
• BUCS-JETS PREVIEWS ON THE PEWTER REPORT PODCAST: The Pewter Report Podcast is energized by CELSIUS and broadcasts four live episodes each week. The Pewter Pregame show for the Bucs at Saints game starts at noon ET prior to the 1:00 p.m. ET kickoff with Pewter GameDay. The Pewter Postgame podcast follows later Sunday night. Then we’ll have Pewter Report Podcasts on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 4:00 pm EST previewing the Bucs vs. Panthers game next Sunday.
Scott Reynolds and Kasey Hudson break down the Bucs’ win over the Panthers on a Victory Monday episode.
Reynolds and Jon Ledyard previewed the Bucs at Jets match-up on Wednesday’s show.
Matt Matera and Hudson hosted a Bucs Q&A on Thursday’s podcast.
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• IS BARBER CANTON BOUND? Legendary Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber has Hall of Fame credentials and deserves to be the next Tampa Bay defender enshrined in Canton. Check out this highlight reel of Barber’s storied career in Tampa Bay that spanned from 1997-2012.
Scott Reynolds is in his 27th 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 coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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