The Buccaneers and Eagles will take to the stage at Raymond James on Sunday, bringing to an end a drama-filled bye week for the Bucs, but bringing into focus the reality of an 0-4 football team desperate for a win.
This week’s game against Philadelphia is one of the most winnable games left on the schedule for the Bucs, so how do they match up, and what are some of the key storylines?
I was graciously given the time of Josh Collacchi, a staff writer for Bleeding Green Nation and fantasy football writer for Pro Football Focus. You can follow him on Twitter @PFF_JCollacchi. Here’s what he had to say about the game.
Leo- Chip Kelly’s offense doesn’t quite run teams off the field as it did at Oregon, but it certainly seems to be working just fine in the NFL. What are your thoughts on the offensive scheme in general, and do you believe the team is growing and learning within the offense as the season goes along?
Josh- Chip Kelly’s offense has been good so far this season, and it shows great promise in the future. The scheme has a high success rate because it is relatively simple. Kelly does not have an abundance of plays in his playbook as many seem to think. His playbook is composed of a lower number of plays, but different options on each play. For example, when the Eagles run dual stacked WRs and the QB in shotgun with a RB at his side, the QB has three options. Option one is to keep it on the option play, two is a rocket screen, and the third is a designed run to the RB. Everyone can agree that Vick is not one of the most cerebral QBs in the league (like a Peyton Manning), but with these three choices, it maximizes his abilities. The offensive players are learning more and more every week and the feel around Philadelphia is to have the entire system in place for the next quarterback to come in and run.
Leo- Do you believe that Nick Foles stepping in at quarterback will change the offense in any meaningful way? Will there be more throws, or more of a reliance on LeSean McCoy, for instance?
Josh- The first thing is the fact that Nick Foles does not have near the speed as Vick, so the read options will be cut down to a bare minimum. But there will likely be more bunched or two tight end sets leading to more blockers for McCoy, but the biggest difference will be the passing game. Vick and Foles are complete opposites in terms of the passing game. Vick has a strong arm, but is inconsistent with his accuracy. Foles struggles with the deep ball, but has very good short and intermediate accuracy. It is not just the idea of getting the ball to the playmakers, but Foles can lead a receiver better than Vick can, and that will lead to more drag or curl routes on Sunday.
Leo- Tell us about the front seven of the Philadelphia defense. The Buccaneers need time for Mike Glennon and space for Doug Martin to have any hope for success on Sunday, so will the defensive line and linebackers for the Eagles be up to the task of stopping them?
Josh- There has been much discussion on the local radio shows about the Eagles front seven, and honestly the issue may be personnel. The Eagles posses two very good pass rushers in Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, but they are currently not getting near as many snaps as they should be. The starting front seven includes Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Isaac Sopoaga, Trent Cole, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis is a big believer in the 3-4, even though the team’s personnel is built for a 4-3. The more Graham and Curry play, the more pressure the Eagles will get on Glennon, but if they see as few snaps as they usually get, Doug Martin could have a field day for the Bucs on Sunday. The Eagles cannot stop the run, and will have a tough time bringing down Martin, especially if they miss the first opportunity to tackle.
Leo- It’s unlikely that Darrelle Revis is going to spend all of his time lined up across from DeSean Jackson, but there will be times when the two will go toe to toe. Do you think that Jackson can “win” that matchup, and do you think Nick Foles will even test Revis? Who are the other receivers that the Bucs should keep an eye on if Jackson is shut down?
Josh- If Michael Vick were healthy, DeSean Jackson could beat Revis deep almost every time, he is one of the faster players in the NFL and if Vick has enough time, Jackson can beat almost anyone deep in one-on-one situations. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Nick Foles is the starter this Sunday. He does not have a very good deep ball, and anytime Jackson is not going deep or on a drag route, Revis will shut him down. Look for the Eagles to put Jackson in motion a lot this Sunday so Foles can identify where Revis is, and whether or not he is playing man coverage on a given play. The other receiver the Bucs should keep an eye out for is Jason Avant. Avant has some of the best hands in football, but lacks any other physical tool. Riley Cooper has eight catches on the season and should be locked down by one guy all day. Cooper cannot get open, and is really out there for run blocking purposes. If the Bucs can contain Jackson, and prevent Avant from getting open in the middle, it will be a long day for the Eagles offense.
Leo- Give us a prediction of the final score of the game, and the biggest headline we’ll be discussing on Monday.
Josh- This game has the makings of a relatively high scoring game by the Bucs defensive standards. But I think the Bucs actually pull this one out. The Eagles defense is absolutely dreadful, and despite Glennon being untested, he should still have a good day. 34-31 Tampa Bay. Monday morning will be the beginning of a week-long love fest for rookie QB Mike Glennon. He should play well and Bucs fans will get excited, but remember, it is just the Eagles defense.