[2014] Week 5 [preview] Bucs @ Saints

The Buccaneers are coming off their first win. The Saints are coming off an embarrassing loss. The Saints, no doubt, are looking to redeem themselves and what better opponent than a division rival? Will the high from the Buccaneers first win be enough to carry us to another victory? Perhaps. Here’s how:

Buccaneers Offense against Saints Defense

QB Mike Glennon (#8) was poised and collected during last week’s matchup against Pittsburgh. It could have been what was needed to jumpstart this offense. But more importantly, in our opinion, the offensive staff attempted to spice up the playcalling this past week. Perhaps with QB Coach Marcus Arroyo officially taking over the reigns for OC Jeff Tedford, Arroyo has finally been able to break out from the vanilla play calling that plagued the offense the first few weeks. After only calling six play action passes through Week 3, the offensive play calling last week included a pass from Bobby Rainey and an end around by Solomon Patton (#86). Glennon attempted seven play action plays, but is about as good as former Bucs QB Josh Freeman at really selling it. It remains to be seen whether trick plays will become a hallmark of Arroyo’s offense, but surely a few surprises each game couldn’t hurt.

The Buccaneers receiving corps is a big question mark going into this week. WR Mike Evans (#13), after having his best game all season, suffered a groin injury in the third quarter last week and is reportedly expected to miss 2-3 weeks. WR Vincent Jackson (#83) had five drops last week. He ended the game with just 32 yards and a touchdown. It begs the question if his wrist injury is bothering him more than he is letting on, or if the Steelers coverage against him was just good. WR Louis Murphy (#18) stepped up during last week’s game and led the team in receiving yards with 99. With losing Evans, one can only assume Murphy will play in his place.

Luckily for us, the Saints passing defense is ranked as bad as ours. The Saints’ secondary is decent at coverage. However, the linebackers stand around waiting for play to happen. They often allow receptions with multiple Saints players standing around the receiver. It would be possible to spread the secondary thin by sending 3+ receivers downfield at a time, because the linebackers certainly will not be there to help. To top it off, the tackling is the most glaring weakness in this defense so yards after the catch can net us some ground. Additionally, the defensive line is not aggressive. With the way our offensive line played last week, we should not expect much pressure on Glennon.

Our passing game needs to flourish because our running game has been unable to get off the ground thus far. RB Doug Martin (#22) returned from injury last week, but was largely ineffective, rushing for only 40 yards and a touchdown. The Saints run defense is better than their pass defense (perhaps because the linebackers are always standing around looking for something to do). Martin is not a back that will run through contact so we will probably have to win this game through the air.

Buccaneers Defense against Saints Offense

Steelers and Saints are similar in that they rely heavily on their tight ends. We had a hard time stopping Roethlisberger’s safety net TE Heath Miller (#83) from catching the ball up the middle. And Miller is not nearly as hard to bring down as TE Jimmy Graham (#80). Our tackling has to be on-point Sunday or Graham will tear us to shreds. Our linebackers should be on notice this game.

Additionally, while Brees has been overthrowing receivers this season, we cannot count on the Saints dropping the ball like we did with Pittsburgh. However, our secondary may be able to capitalize on the overthrows with heightened ball awareness. Brees is generally less accurate with long distance passes – another area our secondary could exploit.

The Saints run game has been decent this year. They favor small shifty running backs our linebackers will have to contain.

Our defense managed five sacks against Steelers but we should not count on that with the Saints. Brees’ release time is too fast. He is also a master at getting the ball off to avoid a sack and still manages to not get called for intentional grounding. That is not to say that he is impossible to pressure. Both Cleveland and Minnesota were able to get in Brees’ face enough to force (inaccurate) throws. A concerted effort by the defense could keep the Saints high-flying offense in check

The Saints are largely considered the best team in the division, yet have the same record as the Buccaneers (1-3). Last year, they succeeded largely by scoring early. When getting at least a 10-point halftime lead on their opponents they won roughly 90% of the time. They have been unable to do so this year, except for in their close loss against Atlanta. We should contain them early in order to stand a chance. At the very least, we should keep the score close.

Lastly, the Saints are known for trick plays. Our linebackers showed better awareness last game against trick plays. But the Steelers are not the Saints. The Saints have a plethora of trick plays with the potential to leave us embarrassed. Good awareness will be key Sunday.

Spotlight: Buccaneers Linebacking Corps

The first three games were marked by terrible defense. In particular, our linebackers were often standing around and confused. Pittsburgh saw an improved linebacking corps. On Sunday they will be absolutely vital if we want to stand a chance against New Orleans. With any luck, LB Lavonte David (#54) will return to his normal form and rally the troops enough to stop Graham from making large gains. They will have to hit hard and often. They must stop the run while simultaneously being cognizant of the Saints’ trickery. This is their game.

Conclusion

  • Keep the score close.
  • Do not let New Orleans get an early lead.
  • Pay close attention to Graham, shifty running backs.
  • Exploit their linebackers.
  • Be cognizant of trickery.
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