Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
The Bucs are coming off a 28-10 win over an injury-riddled Denver Broncos team. Tom Brady is coming off his best performance as a Buc but will be missing a couple of pieces as Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette are expected to miss the game. Shaquil Barrett had a solid afternoon against his former team, grabbing 2 sacks, 2 QB hits, 3 TFLs, and a total of 6 tackles. He gets a chance to chase down a rookie quarterback in Justin Herbert. The team is on a 2-game winning streak and has a chance to create separation in the NFC South if they can get another victory on Sunday. Here are the Top 5 things I want to see from Tampa against LA:
1. Will the defense rattle Justin Herbert early in the game?
The defensive unit of the Bucs has been one of the best in the NFL so far in this young season. Now they have an opportunity to take advantage of a rookie quarterback who is not only on his first road game (there will be a fan presence), missing 2 of his starting offensive lineman in Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga, as well as one of his receivers, Mike Williams. The defensive front should be able to get pressure all afternoon and force Herbert into bad decisions. They need to get after him early, they can’t be surprised like they did last year against Daniel Jones.
2. Can Tyler Johnson take advantage of this opportunity?
Johnson was selected by the Buccaneers in the 5th round of this past NFL Draft. Because of an injury and the lack of a true offseason program, the rookie has had to work his way back so he could start competing for snaps. Godwin is not only expected to miss this game, he could miss a couple more with his current injury. Johnson saw the field last week but failed to bring in his only target. Scotty Miller is entering the matchup banged up and Justin Watson is his only other competition for time on the field. He has a chance to carve out a role if he can impress Bruce Arians.
3. How does the secondary deal with Keenan Allen?
Allen is one of the best route runners in the league and will offer a true test to this secondary. Since Herbert has taken over at quarterback, he has targeted Allen 29 times in 2 games. As I mentioned, Williams isn’t playing, so outside Austin Ekler and Hunter Henry, the rook has receivers that are still looking to make a name for themselves. If the secondary can cut off that connection then they can help shut down the offense. Will they stick someone on him or just double-team from the start? Regardless, it’s an enticing matchup to see play out.
4. Does Ke’Shawn Vaughn make his debut in the backfield?
Similar to Johnson, Vaughn is another rookie in the 2020 Bucs draft class that had a slow start to his rookie year. The 3rd round pick was expected to potentially win the starting role from Ronald Jones but has found himself at the bottom of the depth chart since those summer thoughts. With Fournette out, he could potentially get a portion of the snaps out of the backfield. BA has talked him up to the media over the last couple of weeks so if Vaughn can put on some good tape with his touches then he could make the coaching staff considering shuffling up the running back room. He has the capability of being a 3-down back.
5. Can the team have a strong 2nd half performance?
Despite being 2-1, the team still has a lot to figure out, especially on the offensive side of the ball as the deal with injuries. In 3 games, the Bucs have scored 82 points, 31 of those have been in the 2nd half of games. 16 of those 31 points came in the first game against the New Orleans Saints. To be fair, there wasn’t much of an urgency to score against the Broncos, but at some point, they need to be more consistent in the 2nd half when they face a proven offense. The schedule has worked in their favor so they can work out their issues on offense, but in a few weeks, they face a red-hot Aaron Rodgers and can’t afford to not push the pedal to close out games.
Shameless plug here, if you’re an NFL fan and want to know the next wave of talent of players like Justin Herbert, Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Justin Watson, and Ke’Shawn Vaugh, then get a copy of the Blitzalytics Prospect Encyclopedia. Bucs fans can get just the Team PDF for $5.