The Buccaneers (2-8) take on the Detroit Lions (6-4) and are trying to extend their winning streak to three games. What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game?
1. PUT REVIS ON MEGATRON – AND LEAVE HIM THEREDetroit’s Calvin “Megatron” Johnson is capable of beating Tampa Bay by himself. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound All-Pro receiver can outrace most cornerbacks downfield and out-jump them for the ball when it gets there. The Bucs will undoubtedly play their top cornerback, Darrelle Revis, on Johnson for most of the game in man coverage, but Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano admitted on Friday that there will be some plays when Johnson will be defended by 6-foot-2, 185-pound rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks.
Banks does not have the experience and speed to keep up with Johnson – even with safety help – so that would be a mistake. Because football games typically come down to four or five plays, why would Tampa Bay risk letting Johnson catch a touchdown pass or make a big play against a rookie cornerback?
The best option would be to play Revis on Johnson on every play and give safety support over the top, even if Megatron is fully capable of out-leaping and out-fighting two defenders for the ball. The Bucs would be better off forcing Nate Burleson or Kevin Ogletree to beat them than allowing Detroit’s biggest gun to fire off on Tampa Bay’s defense.
2. DEFEND THE SEAMS OF FORD FIELDThe Buccaneers will be without two of its centerfielders on Sunday as free safety Dashon Goldson and middle linebacker Mason Foster as Goldson is suspended for another helmet hit and Foster is out with a concussion. That means the middle of Tampa Bay’s defense is susceptible with second-year safety Keith Tandy replacing Goldson and veteran reserve Adam Hayward replacing Foster. The Bucs lose some big-play ability as Foster had a pick-six last week and Goldson had an interception and a forced fumble.
As dangerous as wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush are, the Bucs need to keep an eye on tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria in the middle of the field. Pettigrew has more experience and has a good mix of strength and speed, while Fauria, a 6-foot-7 rookie, is a red zone threat that can create a mismatch with his size and enormous wingspan. 3. BE WARY OF BUSH ON SCREEN PASSESAs good as Lions running back Reggie Bush is as a running back, he’s just as dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. The Bucs defense was targeted by screen passes against Philadelphia earlier in the season and LeSean McCoy had two catches for 55 yards, including a 44-yarder.
Bush has 36 catches for 366 yards and two touchdowns, including a career-high 77-yard reception this season through nine games after catching just 35 passes last year for 292 yards. Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David has the speed to keep up with Bush, but he may be the only defender that can cover him in a one-on-one situation. The Bucs have to be able to quickly recognize the Lions’ screen passes and snuff them out before Bush has a chance to break off long gains.
4. PROTECT GLENNON AT ALL COSTSDetroit’s defensive line consists of several players that can get to the quarterback. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is one of the league’s best, and has 4.5 sacks this season. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley has 3.5 sacks, rookie defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has three sacks and Willie Young has two sacks on the year.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line has done a very good job in not just the running game, but also in pass protection. The Bucs’ O-line will have the added challenge of playing against the Lions in a very noisy environment. Tampa Bay has done a good job of protecting Glennon this year in hostile stadiums before at Atlanta and at Seattle. They will have to remain focused and give Glennon plenty of time to find wide receiver Vincent Jackson downfield.
5. JACKSON NEEDS TO BE CONSISTENTBuccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson had a huge game last week against Atlanta, catching 10 passes for a season-high 165 yards and a touchdown. However, in the three previous games Jackson totaled just 10 receptions for 118 yards and no touchdowns.
Jackson has four 100-yard games this season, but has also had four games with less than 35 yards receiving. As Tampa Bay’s big-play threat in the passing game, Jackson will need to become much more consistent down the stretch, and the best time to start will be now by posting back-to-back 100-yard games against Atlanta and Detroit.
The Lions’ weakness on defense is at the cornerback position, and Jackson should be able to win most one-on-on match-ups, especially with his 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame. Even if he’s double covered, Jackson has to step up, avoid the drops, and continue to make plays on a consistent basis.
6. REPLAY OF RUN, RAINEY, RUN Last week, one of the things Tampa Bay had to do to prevail against Atlanta was to run Bobby Rainey. The Bucs did just that as Rainey had a career-high 163 yards and scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) on 30 carries. As a result, Rainey was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Tampa Bay needs to continue to establish the ground game with Rainey as the feature back. The Lions have a fast artificial surface at Ford Field, and Rainey could take advantage of that as a runner and as a receiver. The Bucs need to make sure that he gets at least 25 touches on Sunday. So Rainey doesn’t get worn out, the Bucs do need to mix Brian Leonard and newcomer Michael Hill into the running game to keep their starter fresh for the fourth quarter.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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