Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
Well, where do I began this week’s article? Typically, I would take a quick look back to last week’s dominant win by the Bucs over the Green Bay Packers. But, with the news of Antonio Brown making his return, how could I not talk about it? The rich get richer. Kansas City Chiefs added Le’Veon Bell, Baltimore Ravens traded for Yannick Ngakoue, and Tampa makes their latest addition of AB to make this push for the Super Bowl. It sounds like Tom Brady heavily influenced this decision and now will have one of the most talented offensive units in quite some time. Don’t get too excited Buccaneers fans, Brown is serving the final 2 games of his suspension so he won’t be lining up until Week 9 against the New Orleans Saints. So for now, the team is focused on their matchup with Vegas on Sunday afternoon. Here are my Top 5 things I want to see during their visit to Sin City:
1. Will the defensive front take advantage of the Raiders offensive line?
This game was flexed out of the Sunday Night Football slot because of concern over a potential postponement because Trent Brown tested positive for COVID-19. All other 4 offensive linemen were deemed as high-risk contacts so they have to quarantine for 5 days and continue to test negative to return to the team. That means if they are good to go by Sunday morning, then they will be playing without going through one practice this week. Does that lead to miscommunication between the unit? Regardless, this sets up well for the Tampa defensive linemen to have a solid afternoon. We will see if the lack of practice leads to poor play for the Raiders offense.
2. Is this now Ronald Jones backfield?
Jones has now rushed for over 100 yards in the past 3 games which has made life a lot easier on Brady. With how the defense looked against the Packers, a rushing attack like this can be that unit’s best friend as the Bucs can play clock control. Leonard Fournette is making his return to the lineup after dealing with an ankle injury that could cut into the touches that Jones has seen over the last 3 weeks. He has earned his role in the offense, but Bruce Arians might want to keep both players healthy and fresh as we get closer to playoff football. It will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds over the next month.
3. How will the secondary deal with Henry Ruggs?
Ruggs had a pretty quiet start to his rookie year as he dealt with an injury that caused him to miss some time, but now that he is healthy, we got to see his explosiveness as he helped out Las Vegas upset the Chiefs in their last game. He only had 2 catches but reached 118 yards on the day, which he got 72 on his touchdown grab. His ability to take the top off a defense is a concern for the defense as the secondary can’t be caught sleeping for even a second. Earlier in the season, we saw Justin Herbert connect on a couple of long balls against this Tampa defense, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jon Gruden has some plans for deep shots on Sunday. “Don’t get beat deep” should be repeated all day anytime Ruggs is on the field.
4. Does Rob Gronkowski stay involved in the passing attack?
Gronk is coming off a season-high 8 targets which he turned into 5 receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown. He has gone for over 5 targets in 3 of the 6 games but has seen 5+ targets in the past two weeks. Will this be a continued trend? Or does BA and Bryon Leftwich go back to hiding him as a blocker? I’m not sure how they don’t go back to the well and let Brady continue to feed his BFF. I’m sure Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will want more involvement before AB joins the lineup. Similar to the backfield, I’m intrigued to see how this air attack evolves for the offense.
5. Can Josh Jacobs break through the front seven of the defense?
The Vegas offense flows through the running game and they look to wear down the opposing defense by giving their lead back 20+ touches a game. Jacobs has the capability to move the chains consistently and help the Raiders play clock control. It won’t be easy for him this week. As I mentioned, the status of his offensive line is currently up in the air, and he is facing the best rushing defense in the NFL. The Bucs are only giving up 64.3 YPG. If Tampa can eliminate the run and make their offense one-dimensional, then I like their chances of walking away with their 5th victory.