For the second straight week, the 0-1 Bucs will be facing a backup quarterback in third-string signal caller Austin Davis for the 0-1 Rams. What are the six things PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game? Find out right here in SR’s Pick 6.
Who: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. St. Louis Rams
Where: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, FL
When: 4:15 p.m. ET – Fox
Last year: Rams beat Bucs 23-13
1. McCOWN NEEDS TO PICK UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF
Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown played like former Tampa Bay starter Josh Freeman through the first three quarters of last week’s 20-14 loss to Carolina. He looked lost, confused and tried to do too much, throwing two ill-advised passes instead of taking sacks or throwing the ball away against Carolina. Those turnovers led to 14 Panthers points.
But McCown rebounded in the fourth quarter, increasing his completion percentage from 54 percent to over 66 percent, and made better decisions with the football, throwing two touchdowns to help the Bucs rally to pull within three points. McCown needs to start Sunday’s game with the same type of focus he displayed at the end of the Carolina game and play within the offense and don’t try to force the action. The Bucs don’t have the talent to lose the turnover battle like they did last week (minus-3) and still prevail, especially against a stout Rams defense. McCown must take advantage of the Rams’ man coverage and throw some accurate jump balls to Tampa Bay’s 6-foot-5 wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.
2. RESERVE DEFENSIVE ENDS MUST RISE UP
Adrian Clayborn is out for the year. Michael Johnson suffered a bad ankle sprain on the first series of the Panthers game and didn’t practice all week. The Bucs will start two of the following reserves: Will Gholston, Larry English, Scott Solomon, Jacquies Smith and Da’Quan Bowers, and it’s likely all five of them will play on Sunday as the depth of Tampa Bay’s defense is being tested already.
Aside from a sack from defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in the fourth quarter, the Bucs defensive ends hardly got close to Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson all day. Clayborn, Johnson and Solomon were ineffective pass rushers last week, and in order for the Bucs to have a chance at beating the Rams, they must get pressure on the QB. That means Gholston, English, Solomon, Smith and Bowers must rise up and play better than the starters did last week and produce sacks. That might come easier against right tackle Joe Barksdale than will be against left tackle Jake Long.
3. CONTAIN AUSTIN AT ALL COSTS
The Buccaneers are geared up to stop running back Zac Stacy, especially since he racked up 103 yards and a touchdown last year against the defense in a 23-13 Week 16 victory, but the Ram that really concerns the Buccaneers is Tavon Austin. He was held in check last week, catching three passes for 34 yards as a wide receiver, in addition to getting three carries as a running back for five yards (1.7 avg.). He was also bottled up as a punt returner, with 24 yards on five returns (4.8 avg.).
But last year’s first-round pick can score from anywhere on the field with his blazing speed and supreme cutting ability. He had 40 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns, including an 81-yarder as a rookie, along with nine carries for 151 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown. Austin is the kind of player that can change the game with one touch, and it will be interesting to see how Leslie Frazier opts to defend him on Sunday, but undoubtedly he’ll use some of what Minnesota did to stop Austin. The 5-8, 176-pound speedster didn’t play against the Bucs last year, and the only player with the speed to stay with him is cornerback Alterraun Verner or linebacker Lavonte David.
4. BUCS MUST CREATE TAKEAWAYS
In last week’s SR’s Pick 6, we highlighted the matchup between Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and Buccaneers weakside linebacker Lavonte David and stressed the importance of David winning the head-to-head matchup on the stat sheet. While David led all tacklers with 10 on Sunday, Kuechly made two splash plays – a sack and a key forced fumble that helped the Panthers win the game in the fourth quarter, while David didn’t record a single splash play.
The Bucs had a golden opportunity to win the Panthers game in the fourth quarter, but a potential pick-six slipped through free safety Dashon Goldson’s hands. As a result, Tampa Bay didn’t record a single takeaway last Sunday and lost to a backup quarterback with a minus-3 turnover margin. That can’t happen again, and that point has been stressed all week at One Buccaneer Place and there will be some opportunities for takeaways on Sunday. The Rams threw two interceptions last week and fumbled the ball four times – although St. Louis recovered all four.
5. PROTECT McCOWN AT ALL COSTS
The Rams suffered a big blow with the loss of left defensive end Chris Long to a season-ending ankle injury. William Hayes will start in his place and needs to generate a pass rush as St. Louis was held sackless last week, which was a surprise. Even without Long there are plenty of other Rams defensive linemen to worry about, starting with Pro Bowl right end Robert Quinn, who had 19 sacks a year ago, including three against the Bucs. Anthony Collins will have to play the game of his life to keep Quinn at bay. Defensive tackles Michael Brockers and rookie Aaron Donald also have pass rush ability and will test the interior of Tampa Bay’s offensive line, which didn’t play well after Logan Mankins’ knee injury in the first half.
Also, Rams linebackers Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Alec Olgetree and James Laurinaitis are all capable blitzers. Carolina middle linebacker Luke Kuechly came free on an easy sack last week, so Tampa Bay’s running backs have to do a better job in blitz pickup than they did a week ago.
6. MARTIN MUST PROVE HIS WORTH
It’s been a long time since Doug Martin had a good game for the Buccaneers and there are some whispers that Bobby Rainey’s quickness or Mike James’ power running might be a better option at running back. Martin does little to create on his own and needs holes to run through, evidenced by his nine yards on nine carries last week in Sunday’s loss to Carolina. Martin also gave up a sack and dropped pass while injuring his knee.
He’s scheduled to play this week against St. Louis, but the Bucs would be wise to mix it up if Martin doesn’t catch the ball or run the ball effectively. It’s not as if he’s on a short leash. Head coach Lovie Smith is loyal to his struggling starters, including Martin and quarterback Josh McCown. It’s still early in the season and nobody needs a bounce-back game more than Martin. But with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins sidelined this week and guard Logan Mankins with a leg injury, finding ample running room may be difficult for Martin, who will face a fast and physical Rams linebacking unit led by Alec Ogletree.
SR’s Prediction: Rams 18, Buccaneers 17
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: [email protected]
I might be in the minority, but I think our performance against the Panthers was an aberration. I think we come out strong against a third-string QB and we get our confidence and win handily. Our team is still new to these systems. So I’m predicting a score of 27-14 or so. We’re not gonna end up with a -3 in the takeaway category that often.
Since kool aid is no longer a part of my diet I see the Space Pirates for what they are- not a very good football team…year after year the problems and weaknesses are the same.the team addresses its problems by creating more.We have lacked a decent pass rush since Rice was killin it off the end…We have had a crap O line for as long as I can remember …Our WRs have never been better than our Super Bowl group…The TE position has been weak since the Dilger days…it’s been over a decade and this team still has the same problems they have had since Gruden took Dungys team to San Diego…this team has a tradition of losing and making mistakes…It makes it very hard to be a fan and to give support to a system that makes the same errors time and time again…the faces change but the team and it’s philosophy seem to remain the same- almost like a ” we’ll get em next year…” attitude…then we win a game or two too many and end up with the second- third best player at the positions of need…see how great that’s been working…
Mdbuc wish you were right but. Don’t think so. The problems on Defense aren’t learning a new scheme IMO. The problem was complete lack of pass rush. Now no Clayborne I do not see it improving. Also foster is a liability in the middle of the field in cover 2. Not a good fit. Also as far as the turnovers I see us havering 2-3 per game. McCown is horrible when pressured. He will be pressured a lot with that O line. Glennon better at not throwing it up for grabs but he has tendency to be a sack/fumble waiting to happen. If you are right and they play decent or perhaps beat the Rams I’ll be back here to say sorry to be so negative and you were right. Lol.
fredster, I feel like you’re being more realistic than I am. I definitely don’t know enough about football to tell whether a player is a fit for a certain scheme so I won’t argue with that. Based on what we saw last week, that seems valid that Foster isn’t cut out for it. I just hope that our D will get some confidence from roughing up the 3rd stringer at QB. That guy can’t be as good Derek Anderson right? lol
He actually looked better than Anderson. Lol. Just another year of bucs fans saying maybe next year… Call me a Debbie downer whatever. I’ve been following and rooting for this team for decades and if I want to bitch, ill bitch. I feel like the price I’ve paid for tickets ive earned it! Lol. I’ll still be watching and hoping next week though….just call it like I see it. McCown stinks and is good for pick or two a game and we can’t seem to generate enough pass rush to beat second and third string QB’s at home. I do think the o line had better run blocking today. There’s a positive comment.
Rams 27 Bucs 17
What a bunch of Debbie Downers. After an off-season of high expectations; one game (actually 3 quarters) of dismal play against the defending Division Champions and we have fans already giving up and predicting another disastrous season. I’m not drinking the Kool Aid ( I hate that reference ) but I’m sure not drinking the hemlock and calling Dr Korvorkian to put me out of my misery after but one game. I’ve been following this mostly lousy team since its inception. It’s not been easy. But I don’t abandon ship while it’s still tied to the dock. After all, we were eventually rewarded when Dungy took Sam Wyche’s 5 dash 2 team to a few late season wins his first season and rode them to the play-offs the next. Don’t start planning the funeral because you woke up feeling a little squeamish.
I’ll be there cheering on our favorite team as I have for every home game since that 0-26 start. Hopefully some of you will do the same. Teams need the support of their fans. I’m sure it affects them when they see their backsides as they hit the exit after one game. Is it really time to retreat?
What a lame 5 of six picks. The first 5 are no brainers and apply every week for every team, like the last one though.
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