Entering week five the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit atop of the NFC South standings at 3-1. Coming off of an emotional Sunday night game against the New England Patriots, the Buccaneers face off against another AFC East team in the Miami Dolphins. Let’s take a look at some things to watch out for on Sunday.
During last season’s championship run the Buccaneers remained relatively healthy. That obviously was a key factor late into the season and playoffs. The beginning of the current campaign has not been as kind.
Already down two of their starting corners in Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, the team lost starter Carlton Davis Sunday night. Davis will be on the injured reserve for at least the next three weeks healing his quad injury suffered against the Patriots. Thankfully, the team signed veteran corner Richard Sherman earlier in the week.
The defense also lost star safety, Antoine Winfield Jr., during the game as he suffered concussion-like symptoms. Thankfully safety is one of the deepest spots on the roster. Tampa has Andrew Adams and Mike Edwards to come in and play in place of Winfield on Sunday.
The team needs to give their players time to heal and take advantage of the long season by giving the vets time to heal up and come back fully healed. The goal for the Buccaneers, besides winning, should be to use their depth and leave the building as healthy as possible.
The 1-3 Dolphins have not played well so far into the season as they currently have the 31st ranked offense and the 24th ranked defense. Games like these are the perfect opportunity for contenders to take care of business while also letting some depth players take key roles in the game.
In a rare glimmer of hope for the Buccaneers’ defensive backs, they face a Dolphins offense struggling to move the ball. Miami’s offense led by quarterback Jacoby Brissett is averaging 173 yards per game through the air.
He currently has thrown for two touchdowns while throwing one interception. With a strong pass rush, like the one displayed against New England, the defense has a chance to grab multiple turnovers.
Sunday night had some big storylines for obvious reasons (Brady’s Return Home), but two key players for the Buccaneers’ defense made their first big impressions. Rookie linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and corner Richard Sherman saw extensive action and both had their names called often. Let’s start with the veteran Sherman.
In the game, he was rushed into the starting lineup and was targeted heavily which was to be expected. Pro Football Focus credited Sherman with 7 solo tackles but he also gave up 8 catches on 8 targets for 98 yards. Against Miami Sunday, he will be the teams’ top corner.
Coach Todd Bowles should implement some schemes that Sherman has thrived within when he was a star with Seattle and San Fransico. He has never been a great man-to-man corner as he has made his living in Cover Three. That scheme allowed him to drop into coverage, covering a third of the field while giving him the opportunity to read the quarterback’s eyes and make a play.
The rookie on the other hand had his coming-out party as he earned his first two sacks as an NFL player. His play Sunday night was phenomenal, filling in for injured veteran linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul for the second straight game. Along with his two sacks, he also was credited with four quarterback hits.
If Tryon-Shoyinka can continue playing in the backfield, the defense has another level to take. On the other hand, Sherman has been a star in the league for a long time, if he can get comfortable in the defense his experience alone will help the defense. Sunday will be another step for the rookie and the vet to make plays and help their team handle business against Miami’s 31st ranked offense.
Lenny and Rojo
Sunday night was the best game for running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II up to this point. Fournette had 91 yards rushing averaging 4.6 yards a carry. He did the heavy lifting while Ronald Jones had only six carries for 25 yards but also scored the Buccaneers’ only touchdown of the game.
The Dolphins have struggled against the run so far allowing 136 rushing yards per game. Tampa Bay would be wise in trying to establish the run game early and often at home this weekend. Taking some pressure off of Tom Brady and the passing offense will only build confidence in the offensive line. The team has proven capable of moving the ball through the air as they currently trot out the number one passing offense.
Fournette and Jones can each be used as workhorse running backs but have yet to show any consistency. If they can take advantage of the Dolphins’ poor rush defense, this game can be handled with ease for the Buccaneers.
What to Watch For
In conclusion, week five should be a week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to use some of their depth built through the years. When your top four defensive backs are all dealing with different injuries, the game plan should be ball-dominant. Running the ball constantly will not only help beat the Dolphins but also show a precedent for the future when the best teams are more well-rounded.
Defensively look for Richard Sherman to look more comfortable behind the very talented front seven of Tampa Bay. Rookie Tryon-Shoyinka will look to continue improving now that he is getting playing time with the starting unit.