Who predicted that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would toss a 48 spot on a “newly improved” New Orleans Saints defense? I sure didn’t, but I did have the Bucs +10 as one of my lock picks last weekend. Not this week!
In my opinion, Ryan Fitzpatrick — the Buccaneers starting quarterback while Jameis Winston serves his suspension — has been overlooked his entire career. Sure, both defenses were open more than a 7/11 last Sunday, but Fitzpatrick is a wily veteran that is capable of anything, and that scares me. After the Philadelphia Eagles put up only 18 points in their Week 1 game, we have a massive offensive disparity on our hands.
Let’s dive head first into the Bird Watching Journal for Week 2:
Running back by committee and the best offensive line in the NFL
Doug Pederson made it very clear that he will be using a committee approach in the backfield during the Eagles’ Week 1 victory. Darren Sproles and Corey Clement got the bulk of carries in the first half, however, the two combined for 10 carries and just 36 yards (3.6 YPC). Jay Ajayi went for 62 yards (the most yards gained by a skill player) on 15 carries, which comes out to 4.1 yards per carry. While the difference is not astronomical, it’s one back versus two, and the “Jay Train” mentality is for real. When he gets rolling, he will not be stopped.
Ajayi runs off momentum and the quick burst that follows his cutback gets him upfield in a hurry. I can’t remember a run where he didn’t fall forward at the end of the play. My point here: Ajayi needs more bulk touches to get that train rolling. If said train doesn’t leave the station, then let’s go with the committee approach.
In the passing game, Alvin Kamara crushed the Bucs defense to the tune of nine catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Corey Clement could be in for a big day, especially in third down situations.
Meanwhile, the entire Eagles offensive line played out of their minds — four of the five of the team’s highest rated Week 1 performers by PFF were offensive linemen. The Falcons’ premiere pass rusher, Vic Beasley Jr, was held to a lone solo tackle. Jason Peters absolutely manhandled Beasley all game long. On the other side, the 26th pick from the 2017 draft, Takkarist McKinley, got the same treatment from Lane Johnson. McKinley racked up one sack when Foles fumbled the snap and he was there to fall on him. Johnson and Peters becoming literal human walls for Nick Foles was crucial when the run game began to falter. All in all, the Eagles line dominated the tempo and momentum of the game, something that they will hope to do week in and week out.
Can't overstate how good Peters looked WK1. He's usually the 1st 2 move off the LOS on either side, and is here. Explosive, beats Tak to the spot with half-man relationship established, beautifully syncs hands/feet at POA to anchor & push him past the pocket. Makes it look easy: pic.twitter.com/ES3yExnMMR
— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) September 10, 2018
Eagles secondary vs. Bucs wide receivers
Jim Schwartz and the entire defense earned the Eagles their first W. I personally counted over ten plays where Matt Ryan scanned through his reads with nothing there, then had to force an errant throw with pressure bearing down. Philadelphia will need more of the same on Sunday, because the Buccaneers have one of the most well-rounded receiving groups in the NFL. While the Eagles secondary has been playing well, this crew is not to be taken lightly. Superstar Mike Evans (6-5, 231 pounds) is a 50/50 ball demigod. He’s already etched his name as one of the game’s top receivers and has made some of the most ridiculous one-handed grabs you will ever see. What I’m hinting at is: Evans might be a problem on Sunday.
Dirk Koetter also loves pounding the rock with bruising back Peyton Barber (5-11, 225 pounds) to create lanes in the secondary for his receivers to exploit. A familiar face, DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia’s 2nd round pick in 2008, had a breakout performance in Week 1. Jackson suffered a concussion and shoulder injury last week but returned to practice Friday. If he cannot go, Adam Humphries will most likely take his spot on the outside. Humphries is not nearly the deep threat Jackson is, but there is something about him that screams, “This guy is going to destroy the Eagles and I am not going to like it.”
I see Jim Schwartz utilizing the same secondary scheme with or without DeSean Jackson. Ronald Darby might not have “won” the matchup against Julio Jones last week, but he certainly displayed that he can hang with the best receivers in the game and not let them take over. I expect him to get the Mike Evans assignment while Jalen Mills will utilize his physicality in press coverage on Humphries or DeSean Jackson. The only thing keeping me up at night is the potential of Mills biting on a double move and Jackson scoring a long touchdown. However, the slot matchup potentially poses the biggest threat.
If Mike Evans is the 50/50 ball demigod, then Chris Godwin is the king. He balled out last weekend and Sidney Jones is going to have a much more difficult task than the rookie he faced last week. That’s where Rodney McLeod comes in to play. With so many weapons for Ryan Fitzpatrick on offense, McLeod’s overhang safety position will be vital. He will neede to read and react to plays in the blink of an eye, especially in the event a receiver gets a step on a defensive back.
Most Important Player
#Bucs get some terrible news for their secondary as CB Vernon Hargreaves is OUT for the season after injuring his shoulder. Hargreaves was the 11th pick 2016 and found quite the role as slot corner
— Armchair NFL (@ArmchairNFL) September 12, 2018
With the news that Buccaneers slot cornerback Vernon Hargreaves tore his labrum, rookies Carlton Davis and MJ Stewart will most likely split reps at his spot. It’s either that or put one of the rookies on the outside and task 35-year old Philly native Brent Grimes or Ryan Smith with covering Philly’s most dangerous weapon: Nelson Agholor. With the way the Bucs secondary communicated last week, I expect Dougie P to run a lot of misdirection plays where Agholor or Corey Clement gets freed up on a backside screen. Either way, Nelson was Nick Foles’ security blanket in Week 1. I don’t see that changing, and Agholor’s stat-line should improve facing a weaker secondary.
PREDICTION: Eagles 23, Bucs 17
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