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San Diego Chargers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Defense

Tampa Bay runs the Tampa 2 defense.  This is a zone defense where the two safeties play deep.  It goes out of a 4-3 setup; four defensive lineman and three linebackers.  The corners will cover the wide receivers on the outside and the safeties provide help over the top.  The middle linebacker is key to helping out with coverage over the middle.  Since it is a zone coverage, generally offenses try to attack the coverage seem that lies between the corners and MLB position; usually with passes to the Tight End.  You would expect Gates to be targeted a lot in Tampa.  The other soft spot is usually intermediate passes that target between the corner and the safety.  Teams will also try to run as both safeties are playing deep; While Tampa has performed well against the run overall this year; Carolina just rolled over them with 300 yards.  Here are the overall numbers on Tampa's defense:

Team Stats - Game Averages

Pts Yrds Pass Rush
Off 22.4 338.1 (13th) 223.8 (12th) 114.4 (13th)
Def 17.9 299.4 (9th) 183.7 (3rd) 115.6 (20th)

The defensive line for the Buccaneers is good and they have a lot of depth.  At left end they have Kevin Carter who has four sacks on the season, at left tackle they have Hovan with one sack.  At right end is Gaines Adams who has 5.5 sacks and two interceptions; he is questionable for Sundays game.  At right tackle is Jovan Haye; he is just a little bit light at 285 pounds, the rest of the line runs right about 300 pounds each.  The impressive thing about Tampa's line is that their backups have about the same number of sacks as the starters.  If the Chargers fall behind and have to abandon the run; it could get ugly fast.

The right linebacker is Derrick Brooks; but he is looking iffy for this weekend with a rib injury.  Barrett Ruud is the middle linebacker and has racked up 117 tackles this season.  That MLB position is a tough position in this defense and Ruud has performed well; he was a legitimate candidate for Pro Bowl honors.  San Diego catches a break as Tampa's Safety Jermaine Phillips is done for the season with a broken arm; he is a solid tackler that will surely be missed.  Ronde Barber and Phillip Buchanon are the corners and they are good.  They have six picks on the seasons.

This is a brutal defense; football outsiders ranks them as sixth (eighth against the run and fourth against the pass) just behind the Titans.  Surprisingly they show that teams number one receiver tend to do better against them; so if VJ is playing he could have a big day.  They are coming off two straight losses.  Carolina wore this defense down by the fourth quarter and racked up big yards with their two backs alternating at the end of the game; I'm not convinced our offensive line or LT is up to that.  The Falcons also ran over Tampa; Michael Turner had 152 yards with a 4.8 average against this stout defense.  Early in the season Drew Brees was the only quarterback to really victimize this defense for 348 yards and three TD's; all on deep strikes.  He also gave up the pick six.  To me it looks like the Chargers path lies in establishing a credible running game; passing to Gates in the seams and then stretch plays deep to Vincent Jackson.