The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost three heartbreaking games during the first month of the NFL season, and they’ll be looking to redeem themselves against the closest thing they have to a rival, the Philadelphia Eagles.
So what do the Bucs need to do to earn a win against the team from Philly? Here are my five keys to a victory.
1. Remain Disciplined on the Defensive Line
The Eagles will run rushing and passing plays designed to not only confuse the defensive line, but to key off of their behavior and attempt to exploit it. Nick Foles might not be the same kind of rusher as Mike Vick, but he is a capable decision maker in the read option game.
The Buccaneers must keep gap discipline and contain plays that could break to the outside for big gains. The Eagles have set up teams to fail many times this season on offense, and the Buccaneers must be smart up front to make sure they’re not another victim.
2. Contain LeSean McCoy as a Runner and a Receiver
LeSean McCoy may be the most talented offensive player the Buccaneers will face this season. He’s tremendous in the open field and easily evades potential tacklers with Madden-style juke moves.
If the Buccaneers continue their typical run defense, he will have trouble getting into open space and making plays. But the issues for the Bucs won’t end there. McCoy is a capable pass catcher, and the Philly offense will get him involved in the flat if the running game won’t work.
McCoy cannot be allowed to break big plays, because the Bucs can’t keep up in a shootout with the Eagles.
3. Protect Mike Glennon
As we saw during Week 4, Mike Glennon actually had a decent day when he was allowed time in the pocket. But when he faced pressure, everything fell apart.
The Eagles are going to stack the box against the young quarterback, begging him to beat them with his arm. And they’ll be successful in stopping the Buccaneers if they combine a stacked box to stop the run with a consistent pass rush.
Glennon can’t be expected to handle NFL pass rushers as a first-year starter, so it’s on the offensive line to help him out.
4. Mix Up the Ways They Use Doug Martin
Doug Martin has carried the ball 100 times this season. 70 of those carries have come on first or second down with 8-10 yards to go. There’s no surprises with the Tampa Bay offense, as every drive in every quarter, regardless of score, will feature a Martin run on either first or second down, regardless of how successful it has been to that point in the game.
The Bucs must mix up the playbook and get Martin into more short-yardage situations on second and third down to allow him to take pressure off of Mike Glennon. Simply running right at a stacked box on first and 10 over and 0ver will lead to another disappointing day for Martin.
5. Use Chris Owusu, Eric Page and Tiquan Underwood to Spread Out the Field
How can the Bucs help Martin? Spread the field and dictate matchups to the defense. If Chris Owusu, Eric Page, and Tiquan Underwood can provide any sort of respectable threat in the passing game, the Eagles will have to unstack the box to defend them, opening up more room for Martin to run.
Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams (if he plays) will be the main focus of the Eagle pass defense. The Buccaneers must use that to their advantage and get other players involved in the passing game. If Mike Glennon truly is better at going through his progressions that Josh Freeman, then the team should give him a chance to do just that by spreading the field.