In a prime time match-up without their two best defensive players, the Buccaneers will have to lean heavily on rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith.
Missing Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy against any team hurts. Missing them in prime time against the division rival Atlanta Falcons hurts even more. That means the Buccaneers will have to look to rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith to help pick up some of the slack.
The defensive line is in complete shambles, so it’s hard to expect anything above mediocrity from them. However, the linebacker play – spearheaded by David – has been one of the bright spots. In his absence, Beckwith will have to try to make more splash plays than he has all season, and that’s no easy task.
Beckwith has had an impressive rookie season all things considered. He was a surprise pick by Jason Licht on draft weekend since he had an ACL surgery the previous November. To many’s awe, Beckwith was ready to go by the start of the season and has made an impact thus far. Beckwith has started nine games, played in thirteen, and amassed 52 tackles, one sack, two passes defensed, and a forced fumble.
Not too shabby for someone many believed wouldn’t see the field until the second half of the season.
The Falcons were without Devonta Freeman in their first meeting and will be without Tevin Coleman in this one. Beckwith will have to focus on keeping Freeman in check and forcing the Falcons into being one dimensional. Now, with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, one dimensional isn’t exactly a huge advantage, but it will help. Not allowing Freeman to get going in the run game and eliminating him from the passing game could go a long way down the stretch, allowing Mike Smith to focus his efforts on slowing down Jones and Mohammad Sanu with the rest of his defensive backfield rather than having to utilize the likes of Robert McClain or Kwon Alexander to take care of Freeman.
The Falcons are loaded with weapons and Beckwith taking one of those weapons out of the game will be key if the Buccaneers are going to have a chance for a major upset under the bright lights on Monday night football.
Check out our game preview and discussion with Mark Cook about Jon Gruden’s Ring Of Honor induction below.