This Sunday is far-and-away the toughest challenge of the year in terms of a complete team with a top offensive and defensive unit. The Bucs have talent at all three levels of the defense which includes defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, linebacker Devin White, and rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr.
Offensive, they face Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Mike Evans, and that just naming a few of the players the Bolts will have to worry about.
It’s going to be fun! (I think)
A big shout out to Evan Winter from our sister site, Bucs Nation, for answering our five questions for the enemy this week.
1. The Bucs look to be without WR Chris Godwin for this week but the offense is still flush with talent. Who is the likely candidate to receive a boost in targets and how will the offense look different without Godwin?
Good question. Scotty Miller would be my immediate answer, but since he’s missed the last two practices, I’m not sure if he’s going to play this week. Fortunately, the wide receiver depth gets a bit of boost with Justin Watson’s presumed return, but I’d have to say O.J. Howard or another one of the tight ends are in line for more targets this week. We saw the tight ends -especially Rob Gronkowski- get heavily involved last week against the Broncos and that will likely carry into this week. But I’d say Howard will see more targets due to Godwin’s absence.
2. The strength of the defense looks to be the defensive front, but the young cornerbacks like Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis are also flourishing. Who has been the best defensive player for the Bucs through three weeks?
The defense has been playing really well lately and has received major contributions from all different types of players, but if we’re talking ‘best player’ it’s gotta be Lavonte David. The dude is unreal. He can cover, he’s elite in run defense, he can be used in blitz packages, he makes plays, and he leads by example. This defense would lose three steps if he were to go down. Antoine Winfield Jr.’s versatility has provided a huge boost to what Todd Bowles can do with the personnel on defense, but David is definitely the cream of the crop in terms of the ‘best’ defensive player.
3. Has Tom Brady been everything that fans expected through the first three weeks? How has he exceeded/fallen short up to this point?
It really depends on who you ask. Some would say he’s been great, but I’d say he’s been good at best. This offense is really hard to learn and it takes a while to get on the same page so you can’t expect a hot start out of the gate, but I’ve seen him leave several throws (and points) on the field and I’ve also seen him miss open reads, as well as take some unnecessary checkdowns. His arm looks good overall, but there’s been a few throws where you wonder if he’s going to be able to zip it in Week 14 and so on. I certainly didn’t expect ‘Elite Brady’, however, I expected a bit more than what we’ve seen so far. Overall, he’s been able to capitalize on short fields and turn turnovers into points, which has helped tremendously. He’s also improved each week, so as long as that continues, everything should be fine.
4. What’s been going on with Rob Gronkowski? One day he says he’s primarily a blocker in the offense and the next he’s leading the team in targets. Has he been who fans thought they were getting?
I’ll be honest: I believe that last week was really just to shut people up. I don’t think they forced the ball to Gronk, or anything, but I do believe they put extra emphasis on getting him the ball. He made some good plays last week, but he is definitely not the same guy we’ve seen in the past. He simply looks old. He has done a very good job blocking, however, which has helped an inconsistent offensive line. What kills me about the situation is that he is the second-highest paid tight end in terms of base salary and the Bucs also traded a fourth-round pick to get him. They could’ve used that money and that draft pick on several other areas to fill some major depth needs. It’s OK if they actually use the guy, but so far he’s been really nothing more than a sunk cost. Regardless, it’s still early, so there’s still time to up the ante stat-wise.
5. Give us a short summary of how you think the game will go and a final score prediction.
I just think the Chargers are too beat up to win the game, however, if the Chargers don’t make mistakes and the Bucs make mistakes like they did the first two weeks, it’s anyone’s game. Aside from the mistakes, I don’t know how the LA offensive line will hold up without Bulaga and Turner (possibly). Tampa Bay’s front seven are game-wreckers and really took advantage of subpar offensive lines over the last two weeks. The Chargers have a formidable line when healthy, but obviously that’s not the case right now. If those two don’t play, then I just don’t see how LA can move the ball against this defense.
The Chargers will make some plays here and there. I expect Hunter Henry to have a big game and I think LA will get to Brady a couple of times, but outside of that, the Chargers just don’t have enough to get it done. It’ll be a close game, though. I’m thinking something along the lines of 20-16 when it’s all said and done.