Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
Tampa is coming off a very rough loss to their division rival, the New Orleans Saints. After a disappointing debut as a Buc, Tom Brady will be looking to rebound and remind everyone why he can still play at a high level. Despite falling short of expectations, the bright side is that the defense did look solid as they held the Saints to 4.1 yards per play. Now the team has an opportunity to right the ship and get a win against an NFC South foe, the Carolina Panthers. Here are this week’s Top 5 things I want to see from the Buccaneers on Sunday:
1. Is the honeymoon stage over for Tom Brady?
Brady’s tenure with Tampa got off to a less than ideal start, going 23/36 for 239 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, which 1 was a pick-six. Now he has a get-right matchup against a very young and inexperienced Panthers defensive unit. We will see if another week of practice has helped improved his chemistry with his receivers and tight ends, but if he has another up-and-down performance, one would wonder if Bucs fans will start to wonder if this is the same old team they have rooted on for the past decade.
2. Can the defense force Teddy Bridgewater to beat them?
Under the leadership of Todd Bowles, Tampa’s defense held Christian McCaffrey to 110 total scrimmage yards and 2 touchdowns in their 2 matchups in the 2019 season. Bridgewater had a decent debut as a Panther, he went 22/34 for 269 yards and a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders. While he does have weapons in the passing attack in D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Curtis Samuel, we have yet to see a game where Teddy puts a team on his back to carry them to a victory. If the defense bottles up CMC, it could be on Carolina’s new franchise quarterback to win the game.
3. Does the offensive line give Brady more time?
The Achilles Heel of the Tampa offense has always been their offensive line heading into the season and that showed against the Saints. Donovan Smith had one of the worst games of his career and could become a liability to Brady’s blindside if he doesn’t start to show consistency with his play. If the line can’t gel as the season goes along, then Bruce Arians will have to consider adjusting his offense to get the ball out of his quarterback’s hands at a faster rate. I will say this, Tristan Wirfs in his first action at the NFL level held his own against Cameron Jordan. He was the #3 prospect for the Bucs in the Blitzalytics Prospect Encyclopedia.
4. Who gets the first turnover of the season?
One of the biggest factors that played into the loss to New Orleans was losing the turnover battle, 3-0. As I mentioned in last week’s article, the defensive unit was one of the best in the NFL at creating turnovers. While the defense played well last week, they need some guys to make a game-changing play to help put the offense in scoring position. Will it be Shaq Barrett off the edge? Lavonte David or Devin White flying all over the field? One of the young defensive backs like Sean Murphy-Bunting or Antoine Winfield Jr. making a splash play? Regardless of who it is, somebody needs to get the ball in their hands to help the team win.
5. Are we going to get a classic Rob Gronkowski game?
Gronk’s first game back in the NFL was less than fruitful, but to be fair, he was used more as a blocker, despite playing 77% of the offensive snaps. After only receiving 3 targets, Arians should want to get him more involved in the passing attack. Especially with Chris Godwin being doubtful for the game as he deals with a concussion. As I alluded to in my first question, this is a get-right game for the Bucs, a classic Brady to Gronk game could help bring energy to this organization that this thing is legit and potentially propel them to go on a winning streak.