Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
Tampa rebounded after their Week 1 loss by taking care of business against the Carolina Panthers, winning 31-17. While they did win by 2 touchdowns, there were some bumps the offense experienced throughout the afternoon. Between drops, a fumble, and an interception, the offensive unit left a lot of opportunities to score on the field. The Panthers outscored the Bucs in the 2nd half, 17-10. At the end of the day, a win is a win, now Bruce Arians will have to continue to work out the kinks in his offense, but he has to be smiling with how early his defense is gelling. The unit helped the Buccaneers win the turnover battle, 4-2. Now the team has an opportunity to get better against an injury-riddled and young team in the Broncos. Here are this week’s Top 5 things I want to see from the Bucs on Sunday:
1. Does a healthy Mike Evans and Chris Godwin make a difference in the offense?
We have yet to see this offense at it’s best, which could be pointed to the lack of an offseason program, but a big part has been that Tom Brady hasn’t had his set of weapons at full health. Evans entered the Saints matchup with questions about him even playing and Godwin missed last week’s game against Carolina because of a concussion. Now we have an opportunity where both are a full-go and everyone should have shaken off any offseason rust. If Brady can get the ball flowing through these two early then Tampa could jump out to an early lead.
2. Is Antoine Winfield Jr. taking an early lead to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors?
Winfield Jr. has racked up 17 tackles (11 solo), 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 1 pass deflection, and a forced fumble. Keep in mind, he would have even more tackles if he wasn’t playing with Lavonte David and Devin White. He’s been very impressive in his small sample size as a professional and has given Tampa a playmaker in that Honey Badger role in a Todd Bowles defense. If he can continue to make this type of impact then I expect him to be in competition to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He is the #4 prospect for the Bucs in the Blitzalytics Prospect Encyclopedia.
3. What’s going on with this backfield?
Leonard Fournette is coming off his welcome to Tampa game after going over 100 rushing yards and getting 2 touchdowns. Ronald Jones has a miscue with Tom Brady which led to a lost fumble, has he found himself in the doghouse? Shady McCoy seems to have a role in the passing attack. BA told the media that he told rookie, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, that he likes what he sees from him, be prepared, and that “You’re time’s coming”. If there was one thing that Brady has taken from New England, it’s him having multiple backs for him to use and that is where this backfield seems to be headed for now.
4. Can the defense transform into a championship-caliber unit?
Bowles’ unit has been pretty impressive in their first two games as they limited the Saints offense and made life difficult on the Panthers. If the young secondary continues to impress, then they could make an argument about being the best defense in the NFL. They have playmakers on all 3 levels of the ball, can stop the run, and have defensive backs that are willing to take the risk to get a turnover. If they can continue to get better and most importantly, stay healthy, then they could carry the Buccaneers on a deep playoff run and possibly host this year’s Super Bowl.
5. Will Tampa just dominate in a winning performance?
The Broncos are entering Week 3 without Von Miller, Courtland Sutton, AJ Bouye, Drew Lock, Dre’Mont Jones, and Phillip Lindsey. Plus, rookie, Jerry Jeudy, is questionable heading into the matchup. Jeff Driskel is set to be Denver’s starting quarterback and is surrounded by a younger set of skill players. Their secondary has two rookies that have been thrown into action because of injuries and struggled last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a team that the Bucs should handle in all 3 phases of the game.