• The Bucs have a very good LT-LG tandem in Donald Penn and Carl Nicks. In Week 1, Josh Freeman checked down like it was going out of style, but in Week 2 against the Giants, they took more shots down the field. More often than not, Freeman had all day to throw. Credit the Bucs’ OL for giving Freeman time to find Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams down the field. Neither the Panthers nor the Giants tried to blitz the Bucs all that much. I thought the Cowboys should have blitzed the hell out of Russell Wilson last week. They didn’t. I think they’ll send more heat this week.
• Only the Bills (67.39%) run the more more often on 1st down than the Buccaneers (62.5%). The Bucs have held leads for most of the season so far through 2 weeks, but 62.5% is a rather large percentage regardless.
• The Bucs’ secondary was downright embarrassing Week 2 against the Giants. On the Giants last 3 drives, when the Bucs KNEW the Giants would be passing, and they gave up 21 points, 235 yards, and average of 21.4 yards per play.
• DT Gerald McCoy is the player to watch on the Bucs D. McCoy dealt with some injuries in his first two seasons in the NFL, but here is what he did statistically through 2011: 39 tackles, 4 sacks. That’s not what the Bucs had in mind when they drafted him 3rd overall in the 2010 draft. This year he has been great. He was almost unblockable in the Week 1 game against the Panthers. He chased Cam Newton around the entire afternoon. I also thought he did some disruptive things against the Giants. That’s the one player the Cowboys cannot let beat them. Their interior OL will have the hands full with McCoy today.
• I really liked what I saw out of the Bucs’ two young linebackers, Mason Foster and Lavonte David, Week 1 against Carolina. They looked very fast. Foster made a nice play against the Giants on an INT. Eli didn’t expect Foster to get as much depth as he did, Eli helped out by not making an accurate throw, and Foster made the play look easy. Here’s Foster at the snap on that play:
Eli drops back, Foster reads Eli’s eyes, and moves with him:
Eli fires, and Foster immediate hustles back to get as much depth as possible:
From release to pick on a ball with some zip on it, Foster gets 6 yards of depth and makes the leaping INT:
That’s really well done. Tony Romo needs to be careful when attacking the intermediate zones as he likes to do.
• As I noted when previewing Bucs-Giants, the Buccaneers were atrocious against the run in 2011:
- They gave up 156.1 yards per game – Dead last in the NFL.
- They gave up 5.o yards per carry – Tied 2nd worst in the NFL.
- They gave up a staggering 26 rushing TDs. That was dead last in the NFL. The next closest teams to the were the Bills and Colts, who each gave up 19.
- They gave up 135 first downs on rushes. 2nd worst in the NFL, behind only the Colts (136).
- They gave up 28 rushes of over 20 yards. Dead last in the NFL.
- And just in general defense, they gave up 30.9 points per game. Dead last in the NFL, next closest team was the Vikings (28.1).
So far, through 2 weeks of football, the Bucs have allowed 52 yards per game. That’s good for 3rd in the NFL. They’ve also only given up 2.7 yards per carry. Small sample size, but clearly, they’re much improved there. Unfortunately, as stated above, their secondary was an utter disaster last week, and they’ve given up over 400 passing yards per game. That’s dead last in the NFL.
Game prediction: I don’t see the Bucs stopping the Cowboys passing game, and while the Bucs’ run D is much improved, I don’t necessarily buy that it’s suddenly “good.” Cowboys show a balanced attack, move the ball with ease, regroup on special teams, and win comfortably on a score that’s closer than it appears, 27-22.