Two games are in the books. The Bucs record is 0-2. We knew the schedule was tough coming in to the season, but I didn't imagine that our biggest opponent would be us. The Bucs have been beaten with the help of some self destruction. The trend has to be stopped or the season will get out of hand.
Next in town are the New Yok Giants, fresh off of a last second win against the Dallas Cowboys. New York rolls into town a crisp 2-0 and looking to continue their streak. The last meeting the Bucs and Giants had seems like ages ago, but it was January of 2007 when the Giants came into Tampa as the wildcard winner and walked out of the stadium a winner, on their way to a Super Bowl win.
Both teams have changed drastically since then, so let's take a look at some of the keys to the game.
As previously mentioned, the Giants are coming off of two big wins over division opponents. The Bucs are coming off two huge losses against non-division opponents. This would seem to be a case of two teams heading in drastically different directions. The Giants are led by (almost) $100 million dollar man Eli Manning. They feature a run game with two speeds; run you over and run by you. Their receivers aren't household names, yet, but are getting the job done. I'll get into some basic stats later in the column.
The Bucs seem to be a hodge podge team thrown together at the last minute. Our offense can be efficient when the run game is working, and our defense, well, I can't even come up with a joke here. Let's just move on.
When the Giants have the ball.
Pick your poison against the Giants. They can run the ball down your throats with bruiser Brandon Jacobs and back up Ahmad Bradshaw. This used to be a team that needed Jacobs and crew to run well to win. But with Manning growing up, and with no prima donna to appease, the passing game is clicking. They have several options to use on any play and are seeing a true deep threat in Manningham emerge with a classic possession guy in Steve Smith come of age.
The targets over the first two weeks have been evenly distributed. It's ahrd to shut a guy down when Manning shows no favoritism. It will be important for the Giants to mix up the play calling and keep the Bucs on their toes. The more they feature all receivers, the tougher it is to stop someone.
On the Bucs defensive side, it's still all about the big plays. There was improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, but the big plays were still there. WIth Phillips out, we wil be relying even more on backups to help shut down the deep stuff. I almost wonder if going to zone coverage for half the game would benefit us. You have to be disciplined in zone coverage and can't sneak up (Sabby), but it takes the island responsibilities away from each guy.
Of course, man to man coverage works fine when there is a pass rush. The good news? The Bucs recorded a few sacks last week against the Bills, so it can be done. The bad news? The Giants have given up one sack all year. Adams and company have to get in the backfield. If we have to blitz, then so be it, but thus far I think we've seen that bringing four and dropping seven hasn't worked. It's time to adapt Mr. Bates.
When Jacobs gets the ball, we need the early 2000's Bucs to come to play. We need multiple people hitting and holding the carrier. Play through the whistle. Wrap up. Bring help defense to the game. Or, as we can now call it, play Pop Warner football. Everyone runs through the play. If the Bucs don't tackle well, you will see alot of Mr. Jacobs bouncing around in our secondary.
When the Bucs have the ball
18 carries last week. If we have less than 20 carries in a week, call it a loss. This goes hand in hand with throwing more than 35 times. We aren't built for it. We have to establish the run. We've got three great backs, including an ex-Giant. I bet he'd like to run wild this week, let's give him the chance. Stay in the game plan. If we're down 7-10, so be it, run the effing ball.
With Leftwich enjoying a statuesque performance in the backfield, the Bucs OL and RB/TE's have to pick up the blitz. When the heat is brought, we need to protect Leftwich. He has shown that with time, he will deliver a strike. The Bucs may luck out and not have to face Justin Tuck, but the Giants DL is as deep as any in the league. It will be important to pass block well and I wouldn't be opposed to going to a shorter passing game to start. Use Clayton, Stevens and Stovall in the short stuff. Keep Leftwich clean. Run the ball. Then go deep off of that. Easy enough to say, let's see what Olsen cooks up.
We have to find a big play threat in the absence of Bryant. Winslow stepped up last week, but while he led the team in targets, I was surprised we didn't go over the middle more. To be blunt, Stovall won't get it done as a go to guy. He might work as the red zone threat, or a chuck and pray type of offense, but we need to get Winslow and the RB/s more involved. We ran one screen last week. It failed. Let's use the whole playbook here. Keep the Giants guessing. This only helps Leftwich as he won't be getting slaughtered in the pocket.
Playaction passing has to be part of the plan. This means establish the run. Please see the first paragraph of this section.
The Giants have to do one thing to beat us. Make us one dimensional. If I'm the Giants, I load up early, stop the run, and let the DL loose to hit Leftwich. If he gets hit, he gets antsy and starts mis-firing. The run game makes our offense go. WIthout it, we're severely handicapped.
Traditional Team Stats
|20.5||Points Per Game||28|
|282||Pass Yards All/Game||157|
|168||Run yards All/Game||168|
|31.03%||3rd down % For||42.86%|
|31.81%||3rd down % against||47.83%|
Oh man. They gain alot of yards through the air, we give up alot of yards through the air. Wonder how they will attack us? Their defense has been pretty stingy also, so this will be a good test for our new offense. 3rd downs will be key, check out the differences there.
Advanced Team Stats (remember positive good for offense)
Pretty close in total offense, but look at the differences in pass and run. We're above average in pass offense, but the Giants are excellent in the air. On the ground, this almost seems backwards. The Giants are near the bottom. It should be noted they have zero rushing TD's currently.
Defense (negative good for defense)
See that 32 next to TB? That's not good. We are 31st against the pass in adjusted value over average. The only good news here is the Giants are awful against the run thus far and should allow us to exploit the ground game.
Traditional Player Stats
Penn/Trueblood vs Giants DE - If Justin Tuck is out, this gets a bit easier. But the edge rushers on the Giants are no joke. The tackle duo has to keep the pass rushers at bay. A one sack day from these two will be a win. Anything more and Leftwich might be an on-field casualty
Derrick Ward vs his old team - Truth is, Ward as one of our lead RB's has to get going. There's no doubt he wants to show well this week. He, Cadillac and Graham need a minimum of 30 total touches (carries and receptions).
Manningham vs Ronde/Talib - I couldn't tell you who will be on who. Smith seems like the number one receiver, which means he would draw Talib, but with Manningham having the speed, Talib might shift over there. This will be a battle to watch. The Bucs can't let Manningham run deep. He has the speed to beat us.
Players to Watch
Sean Mahan - It's a different OL with him instead of Faine. This will be a huge test. He has to lead the line and open up holes for the running game. The Giants DL will bring it, let's hope Mahan is up to the task.
Gaines Adams - I want one sack. That's all I ask. Get started this week.
Bo Barrett Ruud - Ruud has to be leading the attack on defense. Needs to be quick to the ball, be decisive and wrap up. Jacobs isn't a guy to be tentative with.
Brandon Jacobs - WIll just wear a defense out. He knows players like to go low on him once he gets outside, so don't be surprised to see a few low tackles that are missed. He could make this a long day for the Bucs.
Kenny Phillips - He may draw Winslow at times. Let's see if he can keep up.
Things to watch
Line of scrimmage - We've all heard it. You win the line of scrimmage, you win the game. Well, the Giants DL looks to be a menace, the Bucs OL has been fairly stout but will miss Faine. On the flip side, our pass rush is pretty weak. This doesn't set up well.
Field Position - Our offense can move the ball but our defense can't stop anyone. If the Giants have to move the ball 80 yards on every drive, I think we can get a stop or two. If they are starting around the 50, look out.
Assignments - This has been an issue I've harped on for both games. With Phillips out, our safeties are in the msot precarious position. Keep an eye on Sabby and Will Allen. Stay true to the scheme guys.
Well, I've never been a rose colored glasses kind of guy. I've seen the Bucs play two games with the offense being a shade above average overall and the defense just allowing plays to happen at anytime. The Giants are still one of the elite teams in the NFC. I don't see this being pretty. Giants 28 Bucs 17.