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Film Study

Film Study: Scouting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers


The Giants take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. The Bucs are 5-2 and have the best point differential in the NFL, outscoring opponents by a combined 80 points this season.

When the Giants have the football…

* Even with Tom Brady guiding their offense, the Buccaneers greatest strength might be their defense. They lead the NFL in yards allowed per play (4.75), have the best run defense in the league (66 yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry), and are sixth in yards allowed per pass play (6.31). In Week 6, they held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to 201 total yards (107 passing). The advanced metrics indicate they are the best defense in football. They rank first in expected points added (EPA) per play (-.136) and are first in defensive efficiency (DVOA) at -29.9%. Todd Bowles runs an aggressive, attacking style defense.

* The Bucs' run defense is elite, especially on early downs. They allow 2.7 yards per rush on first down (best in the NFL) and 2.96 yards per rush on second down (second-best in the NFL). They also prevent big runs, holding opponents to a league-low seven runs of 10+ yards. They have allowed two runs of more than 20 yards, which is tied for third-fewest in the NFL. 

* It's a cliché, but it all starts up front for Tampa Bay. Even after losing emerging star nose tackle Vita Vea, their run defense hasn't missed a beat. They traded for former Jets NT Steve McLendon last week. Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston are the two down defensive lineman in their base 3-4 alignment. They have combined for seven tackles for losses. According to Pro Football Focus, they also have five sacks and 15 quarterback hits between them.

* The majority of Tampa's pass rush comes from their stand-up outside linebackers who put their hands in the dirt as defensive linemen in sub-packages. Former Giant Jason Pierre Paul, who is primarily playing right end, is having a resurgent season, and is tied for fifth in the NFL with 5.5 sacks. He also has 14 hurries, according to PFF. Shaquil Barrett only has three sacks, but leads the NFL with 32 hurries, according to PFF.

* The Bucs utilize a variety of players to blitz the quarterback. Linebacker Devin White has four sacks, linebacker Lavonte David has 1.5 sacks, and safeties Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield each have two sacks. According to PFF, the Buccaneers blitz on 44.2% of pass plays, which is the third-highest rate in the NFL. On their blitzes, opposing quarterbacks have a 78.2 quarterback rating, which is the seventh-best in the league. They pressure the opposing quarterback on 41.3% passing plays, which is third-best in the league. Their 25 sacks are second in the league to the Steelers.

* Inside linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David are one of the NFL's best tandems. White is a physical downhill player who excels against the run, blitzing the quarterback and getting sideline to sideline. He leads the Bucs with 61 tackles and six tackles for losses. David is an excellent coverage linebacker who doesn't have a weakness. He is second on the team with 55 tackles, has 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, three passes defended, three quarterback hits and five tackles for loss.

* The Buccaneers' secondary is young and extremely talented. All six primary members of the group have been drafted in the first four rounds of the draft since 2018. Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean are the two starting outside cornerbacks, with Sean Murphy-Bunting playing the nickel spot. David has three interceptions, but has allowed 23 catches on 51 targets for 231 yards and two touchdowns, according to PFF. Dean only has one interception but has been much stingier, allowing 19 catches on 34 targets for 178 yards and one touchdown.

* The safeties are playmakers. Rookie Antoine Winfield Jr. plays with excellent instincts, and can handle things in the box, in the slot or as the deep free safety, which is his primary position. Jordan Whitehead plays closer to the line of scrimmage more frequently and is used more as a blitzer. Mike Edwards has played just 66 defensive snaps this year, but he has shown excellent anticipation as a deep safety, attacking routes and passes thrown in front of him.

* Since the Bucs are so aggressive bringing pressure, they are somewhat susceptible – not to confused with a weakness - to plays down the field. On passes that travel more than 20 yards in the air, they are allowing a 93.8 quarterback rating, which is 14th in the NFL. They've allowed 19 passes of 20 or more yards, which ranks 13th in the NFL. They are allowing opponents to convert 32% of their third downs of greater than 6 yards, which is ranked 22nd the league.

* The Bucs run a wide variety of defenses depending on the situation. They will try to disguise their single-high coverages between Cover 3 and Cover 1, and mix in two high safety formations out of Cover 2 and Cover 4. They will also run hybrid defenses where man and zone are occurring on different sides of the field.

* The Bucs' defense is strong in third-down and red zone situations. They allow opponents to score on 58% of their red zone trips, which is tied for 11th in the NFL. On third downs, opponents are converting 39% of their opportunities, which is ranked 10th in the NFL.

* Tampa's defense is adept at taking away the ball. They have 12 takeaways, which is tied for third-most in the NFL. Nine of those takeaways are interceptions, and three are fumble recoveries. Tampa Bay has seven forced fumbles, with three coming from Jason Pierre-Paul.

When the Buccaneers have the ball…

* The offense is led by Tom Brady, who is running the Bruce Arians/Byron Leftwhich vertical downfield passing attack. The Bucs are 18th in the NFL in yards per play, and only 20th in the NFL in pass yards per play. Despite those numbers, they are third in the NFL averaging 31.7 points per game, partially due to their 78.6% red zone touchdown rate (fourth-best in the NFL). The advanced numbers paint a better picture for the Bucs. They rank ninth in the NFL in expected points added per play (.101) and sixth in offensive DVOA (14.6%).

* Despite the presence of Brady and a slew of receiving weapons, the Bucs start their attack with the running game. On 1st-and-10, the Buccaneers are running the ball 57.3% of the time, which is the fifth-highest rate in the league. The Bucs average yards 8.5 yards to go on second down, which is the second-highest number in the NFL. Ronald Jones is averaging 72 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry and is a fast, one-cut, downhill runner. Tampa does not run a lot of play-action off of those run plays. Play-action accounts for just 18.3% of their pass plays, which is the third-lowest rate in the league. Tampa has seven runs of 20+ yards, which is tied for fifth-most in the NFL.

* The rumors of Tom Brady's demise were greatly exaggerated. He has shown more than enough arm strength to push the ball downfield. According to PFF, Tom Brady's 24 big-time throws leads the NFL. He only has three turnover-worthy plays. His 9.9-yard average depth of target is eighth in the NFL. He has averaged 276 yards per game with 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions and completed 62.4% of his passes. Tampa's 26 passes of greater than 20 yards ranks tied for fourth-most in the NFL. On passes that travel greater than 20 yards in the air, Brady has a 91.4 quarterback rating. Tampa's 47 pass attempts of more than 20 yards is the second-most in the NFL.

* Brady has been pressured on only 20.6% of his passes, which is the lowest rate in the NFL. He has only been sacked eight times, which is the second-fewest in the NFL. Brady's ability to get the ball out quickly helps his offensive line. His 2.44-second average time to throw is the fifth-fastest in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Tackles Tristan Wirfs and Donovon Smith have combined to allow only five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Tampa has only lost 88 yards on negative plays this year, which is the second-fewest in the NFL. Brady's quarterback rating against the blitz is 82.1, which is ranked 24th in the NFL.

* Tampa Bay is ranked 13th in the NFL on third down, converting 43.8% of their attempts. They have struggled on conversions longer than six yards, coming in at only 17.5% (third-worst in the league).

* Even with Chris Godwin missing Monday's game with a broken index finger, Brady has an abundance of weapons to find. "Scotty" Miller, a 2019 sixth-round pick, leads the team with 365 receiving yards. He often operates out of the slot, but has the speed to stretch the field. Mike Evans has 318 yards and six receiving touchdowns. His size has been important in contested catch opportunities in the red zone. Evans only had two catches last week, but he was open frequently throughout the game and Brady chose to go elsewhere with the ball. Fifth-round rookie Tyler Johnson will take the majority of Godwin's snaps.

* Rob Gronkowski is playing at a high level the last three weeks, accumulating 13 catches on 22 targets for 192 yards and a touchdown. He will also be used as a jump-ball target near the goal line. Defensive backs have trouble dealing with his overwhelming physicality. The Bucs will try to use Gronkowski on deep over routes between the linebackers and safeties in zone, or to run away from man defense. Cameron Brate is the second tight end when they run "12" personnel (eighth-highest rate in the league).

View photos of the Buccaneers likely starters ahead of the Week 11 matchup against the Giants on Monday Night Football.


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