Football is upon us. The season starts now. Kicking off the new year the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Dallas Cowboys this Thursday. In order to win the Buccaneers must take advantage of key matchups and mismatches. Here are some key battles to keep an eye on in week one.
Buccaneers Wide Receivers vs Cornerbacks
In possibly the biggest mismatch for the season opener the Buccaneers return the most talented and stacked wide receiver corps. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown should be able to take advantage of this mismatch and excel.
Anthony Brown and Trevon Diggs are starting for the Cowboys in week one. Diggs, the most capable of the two amassed three interceptions and 14 pass deflections (tied for 18th) last season. He earned a coverage grade of 63.9 from Pro Football Focus (PFF, subscription required). Additionally, this placed him 49th of 119 qualifying corners last season. He’ll have a tuff matchup to start the season.
Anthony Brown will have a harder time. Drawing either Godwin or Brown to cover. Two receivers who could be number one targets and many other teams. Brown’s PFF grade in coverage was a measly 48.3. Landing him 100th out of 119. From there the situation gets worse for the Cowboys as those two corners leave either Godwin or Brown and Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, and Jaelon Darden for others to cover.
Buccaneers Defensive Trenches
Now the argument could be made in reverse. The Cowboys have great receivers too. The difference is twofold, fortunately for the Buccaneers. First, the gap in talent between the Cowboys receivers and Buccaneers corners is not as large. Second, The Cowboys Offensive line will be missing key piece, Zack Martin.
Replacing Martin, one of the best guards in the league, will be difficult. At this point, Connor McGovern will start in his place. McGovern is a far cry from the talent Martin brings and will have a huge impact on this offensive line.
Furthermore, La’el Collins will need to knock some rust off. He has not seen full action since the 2019 season. If the Buccaneers can apply pressure from the front four it could void the receiving corps of the Dallas Cowboys from being effective.
Preseason has eluded us to a potential strong point for the Cowboys. One that will bear some paying attention to. Their linebacker corps looks very strong. First-round pick Micah Parsons has already earned himself a starting position and looks every bit as advertised. Also, another first-round pick, Keanu Neal has found himself starting in Dallas after five seasons with the Falcons.
The Buccaneers staff will need to account for these two at all times. The offensive line will have to maintain good discipline with assignments. In the run game they will have to quickly get to the second level of blocking to ensure a balanced offense.
The first game of the season is always hit or miss. Teams that finish at the bottom of the league walk away with wins against playoff contenders in the first week. This is because teams need to gel and get to actual game speed. Some teams take longer than others. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, they return all the starters. This should aid them in getting into a rhythm rather quickly.
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