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Eye On: Scouting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The Giants are coming off their bye and have to travel to Florida to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. The Bucs have lost two straight games to the Saints and Washington Football Team. Tom Brady has only lost three straight games as a starting quarterback once (2002) in his career – it was his first season as the Patriots' full-time starting quarterback and the team lost four in a row. (They did not make the playoffs that season.)

When the Buccaneers have the ball…

It is hard to find something that the Tampa bay Buccaneers do poorly on offense. Here is where they rank in some major categories: third in yards per game (406), points per game (31) and third-down conversions (48.2%); second in yards per play (6.22); 16th in rush yards per play (4.26); fourth in pass yards per game (315.6); fifth in first downs per game (23.6); and ninth in red zone touchdown rate (65%)

The Bucs' success starts on first down, when they average 6.06 yards per play (sixth in the league). They pass the ball on league-high 69.2% of their first-half snaps, and only six teams pass the ball more than they do on 1st-and-10.

The Bucs are not an explosive running team, but they are happy to run the ball if teams insist on playing boxes against them. Leonard Fournette has taken over the full-time running back duties on early downs for the Buccaneers with 363 offensive snaps, which is more than three times as many as Ronald Jones. Fournette has run for 339 of his 486 yards after contact. Giovani Bernard has taken on passing down duties even though Fournette has the third most receptions (38). Pro Football Focus has tracked Fournette for five drops this season.

Tom Brady is happy to throw short passes to move the ball downfield. The Bucs have lost only an NFL-low 133 yards on negative plays. They have 65 penalties this season, which is tied for the 11th-most in the NFL and have an uncharacteristic 12 giveaways which is tied for 13th.

Only one team has more than the Bucs' 43 completions of 20 or more yards, and only three teams have had pass plays go for 15+ yards more frequently than Tampa Bay (17.1% of their pass completions). Despite the big plays, the Buccaneers are only tied for 10th in the NFL in pass attempts that travel more than 20 yards in the air. They get a lot of their chunk plays thanks to 1,374 yards after the catch, which is the most in the NFL. Chris Godwin has accounted for 409 of those yards, 173 of which have been gained after contact.

Brady's 27 touchdown passes leads the NFL, with nine going to Mike Evans (second in the NFL). Evans is 6'5 and 231 pounds and serves as Brady's go-to red zone and downfield target. His 11.7 average yards at the catch ranks ninth and only five players have more than his eight catches of 25+ yards. Evans has moved into the slot on 38.7% of his snaps, though Godwin plays inside far more (67% of his snaps).

Antonio Brown hasn't played since Week 6 with an ankle injury but there are indications that he may be able to play this week against the Giants. In his absence, the Bucs have given snaps to Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman and diminutive rookie speedster Jaelon Darden. Brown was extremely productive when healthy, with 29 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns in just five games.

Rob Gronkowski has only played six snaps since Week 3 with chest and back injuries. In his absence, Cameron Brate and OJ Howard have picked up the team's tight end snaps. The Bucs only line up with two tight ends 19% of the time. They use one running back and three wide receivers 70.6% of the time, which is the fifth highest rate in the league.

Brady does a masterful job of getting the ball out of his hands quickly, but still managing to challenge downfield. His 2.38-second average time to throw is the second-fastest in the NFL (behind only Ben Roethlisberger) and his 8.9-yard average depth of target ranks 14th. The Bucs have allowed a league-low 21.4% pressure rate and 2.9% sack rate. Their 12 sacks allowed is tied for the fewest in the NFL. The offensive line has been healthy this year with all five starters (from left to right - Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, Tristan Wirfs) logging more than 590 snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, only right guard Alex Cappa has allowed more than one sack (two) and more than two quarterback hits (four). Left tackle Donovan Smith and right tackle Tristan Wirfs have combined to allow only two sacks and three quarterback hits. Wirfs' 98.9 pass block efficiency leads NFL tackles (min. 150 pass blocking snaps).

Keys for the Giants' defense…

  • Tackle well after the Bucs complete short passes
  • Pressure Brady up the middle
  • Keep Evans out of the end zone

When the Giants have the ball…

Despite a slew of injuries in the secondary, the Bucs defense has played well this season. They are ninth in yards allowed per game (334) and seventh in yards allowed per play (5.28). They rank 18th in points allowed per game (23.6) and tied for seventh with 15 takeaways.

The strength of the Buccaneers defense is up front stopping the run. They rank second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (79.8) and per play (3.72), thanks to a defensive that features Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea and former Giant Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul is playing through shoulder and hand injuries, and Vea suffered a mild MCL sprain and bone bruise against Washington last week. Linebackers Devin White (downhill) and Lavonte David (coverage) form a strong tandem.

Tampa only allows 4.92 yards per first down (ranks fourth), thanks in part to their strong run defense. The Buccaneers have struggled getting off the field on third downs, allowing a 42.7% conversion rate. They have been particularly weak on 3rd-and-long (7+ yards), when the opponents' 30.6% conversion rate ranks as the eighth-worst in the NFL. The Bucs have allowed touchdowns on only 54.5% of their possessions (tied for ninth).

The Buccaneers blitz more than any team in the NFL except for the Miami Dolphins. Their 41.6% blitz rate is more than 5% higher than the next-place team. Howver, the Bucs only have a 35.1% pressure rate (ninth) and opposing quarterbacks have a 99.9 quarterback rating (19th) against their blitz.

Edge rusher Shaq Barrett leads the team with 5.5 sacks and is second with 10 quarterback hits. According to PFF, he leads the team in total pressures with 47, which is 22 more than second-place Vita Vea. Barrett splits time with Pierre-Paul on the right and left sides of the line. Pierre-Paul's injuries have impacted his ability to rush the passer this season. He has only 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits, and 18 pressures on 249 quarterback snaps. Rookie Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has flashed pass rush ability throughout the season with three sacks, six quarterback hits, and 15 pressures in just 135 pass rushing snaps, according to PFF. Suh has three sacks, six quarterback hits and 21 pressures. Devin White's best skill might be his ability to rush the quarterback with two sacks and 12 quarterback hits. The Bucs have 22 sacks, which is tied for 13th in the league and their 6.2% sack rate is 18th.

The Bucs have allowed 35 passes of 20+ yards (tied for 23rd), although the opposition only has a quarterback rating of 64.8 (fourth-lowest) when throwing deeper than 20 yards downfield. According to Pro Football Focus, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' most popular scheme is "Cover-3" (three-deep zone), which they play just over a third of the time. Antione Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead have been mainstays at safety this season, with Winfield playing free safety more often, and Whitehead playing close to the line of scrimmage more frequently. Safety Mike Edwards was forced into duty as the slot cornerback last week – he and corner Jamel Dean have two interceptions each.

Keys for the Giants' offense…

  • Find and attack good matchups in the secondary
  • Communicate well, protect against blitzes, and make good decisions with the ball.
  • Be patient with a quick-release and underneath passing game

View rare photos from the all-time series between the Giants and Buccaneers ahead of their Week 11 Monday night matchup.

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