Buccaneers vs. Patriots: Five Impact Players to Watch in Sunday’s Game
By Ken Boehlke
Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster (59) reacts after making a play against the New York Jets during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The Buccaneers head into the Week 3 matchup in Foxboro with glaring 0-3 record starting them in the face. In the first two games they have been almost excruciatingly close to winning the game, but in both they walked off the field wondering what might have been. This week they set out to change that, and these are the players you should keep your eyes on when the Buccaneers try again to get their first win of 2013.
Last week Foster came up with a pick six circa the 2002 Bucs. But aside from just the huge play, Mason has really taken his game to the next level. He’s been all over the place as part of this rebuilt and seemingly reinvented defense. However, the task changes a little bit this week as Foster now has to match wits with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Foster is responsible for a lot of the movement along the middle of the Buccaneer defense. Against the chameleon that is the New England offense, he’ll have to be on top of his game both physically and mentally, otherwise the Buccaneers will get picked apart all afternoon.
Leonard Johnson/Johnthan Banks
The second player(s) to watch in New England are the non-Revis coverage men. Tom Brady has made it clear not only this week but over his entire career that he’s not had success against Darrelle Revis. So, he’ll be forced to attack anyone and everyone else. Johnson and Banks have held up pretty well through two games, but facing Brady is a different beast. The good news is that the Patriots wide receivers are not very good. With Amendola out and Gronkowski most likely out, the key receivers are Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Aaron Dobson. Johnson and Banks may not be the type of guys who can shut down top flight receivers like Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green, but they should be able to hold their own against these guys. The problem is, they have Brady throwing to them, which makes the task all the more difficult.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Carl Nicks on the field, and his conditioning will likely show this as well. The Buccaneers are going to want to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands as long as possible, so Doug Martin and the run game will be critical. Nicks’ return should make this a bit easier, but only if he can hold up for the entire game. A tired Carl Nicks isn’t even worth it out on the field. It will be interesting to see how he’s able to handle the return, and how the offense is affected.
Through two weeks of football, the Buccaneers defense has been solid, except for one black spot, they cannot seem to slow down opposing tight ends. Kellen Winslow looked like the guy from the Browns again, and Jimmy Graham completely mauled the Bucs over the middle. Sudfeld has been a major disappointment thus far in his impossible role of trying to replace Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But this is a good week for Sudfeld to get going as the Bucs seem to be a defense that doesn’t worry too much about TE’s beating them. Brady will look to Sudfeld a lot, his impact on the game will go a long way in deciding a winner.
We meet again. The man that was run out of Tampa because of off the field troubles has seemingly found a home in New England. Buccaneer fans know how talented this guy is and has always been. His only issue was he couldn’t stay on the field. Well, this week he’ll be out there wearing blue rather than red. Talib will likely draw Vincent Jackson for a majority of the game and will have a chance to make Freeman look bad for a third week in a row. But he gambles and he gets caught up emotionally, and in a game against his former mates, maybe this is a spot the Bucs can exploit.