Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
Tampa is coming off a decisive 35-22 win over one of their divisional foes in the Atlanta Falcons. After starting the game with an interception and tossing another, I wondered if this was the game Jameis Winston would be sent to the bench. But, the most Jekyll and Hyde quarterback in the history of the NFL decided to play more like Jekyll and threw all over the Atlanta defense. One of the most surprising performances was by the secondary. After it looked like it could be a long day for the defensive unit, the young guys in the backend of the defense held their own against the passing attack of the Falcons. While the NFL Playoffs are improbable for the Bucs, a strong finish could carry some momentum into the 2020 season. To show they are growing underneath Bruce Arians, Tampa should beat a mediocre team in the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here are my Top 5 things I want to see from the Bucs against the Jags:
1. Can the offense run the ball all over the Jaguars defense?
Jacksonville has allowed 200 rushing yards a game in their last 3 games, allowing 233 YPG. Tampa has been a pass-heavy offense this season, which was expected underneath BA. But, that may have to change this Sunday as the offense should look to exploit the obvious weakness in the Jags defense. While Ronald Jones has been solid since being named the starter, he has yet to have a breakout performance. The stars are aligning for him to have one of his best performances as a pro running back. If there was a game for the team to lean on him, it is against Jacksonville.
2. Is the secondary able to put back-to-back impressive performances?
The Bucs defense is coming off a game where they held the Falcons passing attack to 280 passing yards, 0 touchdowns and grabbed an interception in the process. The Jags offense relies more on Leonard Fournette to get things rolling, so if the defense can continue their dominance against the run, it will be on the secondary to make sure Nick Foles doesn’t carve them up through the air. With a lesser-talented collection of quarterback and wide receivers, this should be an easier task for the secondary. If they can repeat what they did last week, then it will give Tampa a great shot at leaving Duval County with a victory.
3. Does Jameis Winston finish the game without committing a turnover?
Winston has had only one game this season where he hasn’t thrown an interception or fumbled the ball away. He has two games that he hasn’t committed a turnover. As everyone knows, he has a bad habit of giving the opposing defense an opportunity to take the ball away. We live in a world where everyone asks, what have you done for me lately? Winston has 5 games left to leave a last impression on Jason Licht and 31 other NFL General Managers. The biggest blemish on his resume is the turnovers. If he can start putting together a string of games where he plays clean and doesn’t commit any, then maybe that will convince a GM to either give him a new contract or have the opportunity to compete for a starting job. Let’s see if he can at least do it for one game, then we can go from there.
4. Will Devin White continue to improve and be a playmaker within the defense?
White has put back-to-back impressive performances and is showing the player that the Bucs drafted him to be. After getting 13 tackles against the New Orleans Saints, he grabbed 8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks against Atlanta. Tampa’s defense needs a playmaker that can make an impact on a consistent basis alongside Lavonte David. If he can continue his growth as a rookie then he can form one of the better linebacker tandems in the NFL with David. He will be a key part of slowing down Fournette and could help out the secondary with some timely blitzes.
5. Who is this team?
Tampa has been one of the hardest teams to figure out this season. They have the capabilities of beating the bad teams, the mediocre teams, and can take it to the good teams, but then they can just look flat out bad in a losing effort. They currently sit at a 4-7 record, but they feel like a .500 team to me that is just missing some pieces on both sides of the ball before they can compete for the NFL Playoffs. As have said multiple times this season, underneath Arians, I don’t expect this team to back their bags and look forward to the offseason. We will see if they can pile up some wins to give their fans hope for the 2020 NFL season.