Bucs @ Saints Preview: Three key matchups when the Bucs are on defense

Here are my three key matchups for the Bucs when New Orleans is on offense. 

Gerald McCoy and Brian Price vs the New Orleans guards
New Orleans may have the best pair of guards in the NFL in Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, although center Brian de la Puente isn't nearly as good. Still, that interior line is the key to their pass protection and running game. The Bucs managed to get to Brees last time, but couldn't get him down on the ground because there wasn't much interior pressure.

With Gerald McCoy back that should change, as the explosive defensive tackle has looked extremely disruptive this season against both the run and the pass. If he can continue to play at a high level against the Saints he should be able to disrupt their interior running game, and take away Drew Brees' option of stepping up into the pocket, giving the defensive ends a better chance to get to the star quarterback. 

Adrian Clayborn vs Jermon Bushrod
Last time this matchup rolled around, Adrian Clayborn clearly won. He managed to pressure Brees on several occasions and simply manhandled the Saints' left tackle. 

Equally important will be Michael Bennett vs Zach Strief, who should be back as a starter this week. If both Clayborn and Bennett can consistently beat the tackles they will force New Orleans to restrict their offense, or they will pressure Brees into mistakes. 

Jimmy Graham vs Ronde Barber
Last time these two teams played the Bucs tried to stop Jimmy Graham with Ronde Barber. This forced them to use a nickel package against the Saints whenever Jimmy Graham was on the field, but they had to find a way to stop the second-year tight end. 

And yet, they couldn't do it. Graham repeatedly made some ridiculous catches and was a major factor in the Saints' passing game. I would expect the Bucs to approach Graham in the same way again, but the question will be whether they can actually slow him down. Graham has a major height advantage over Barber, which gives Brees the confidence to throw to him even when he's covered. The Bucs need to take advantage, or simply take away Jimmy Graham. If they can't do that it could be a long day in the office for the Tampa Bay defense. 

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