Tampa Bay hasn’t had a consistent pass rush since its days of fielding dominant defenses in the early 2000s. That could change this year with the continued development of Jacquies Smith as well as the additions of Robert Ayers and Noah Spence. However, Gerald McCoy will still be the leader of the defensive line and with less pressure on him, he could be an even more destructive force in opposing backfields.
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Forcing Matt Ryan to make mistakes is one of the biggest keys for the Tampa Bay defense on Sunday. Ryan no longer looks like the same quarterback from his impressive early years, throwing 14-plus interceptions in each of the last four years. But, even at 31, he is still capable of picking apart a defense. With a heavy pass rush comes forced throws and big mistakes, so McCoy needs to force his way into the backfield and disrupt the Atlanta quarterback. Not only will his presence affect the passing game, but also the effectiveness of the Falcons’ ground game.
If the Bucs want to beat Atlanta on the road, they need a strong defensive effort. That has to start with pressure up the middle from McCoy.
Next: Devonta Freeman