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New Orleans Saints - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Three key matchups when the Bucs are on defense

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Here are my three key matchups for the Bucs when the Saints have the ball. 

The Bucs' interior defensive line vs the Saints' interior offensive line
The New Orleans Saints have an explosive offense, but they are also very efficient on the ground. If the Bucs want to stop the New Orleans offense they need to do it through the middle. Without Gerald McCoy the Bucs lose an explosive presence in the middle of the defensive line, and they need to figure out a way to stop the New Orleans running game without him. That always starts with the defensive tackles. 

Perhaps more importantly, the Bucs need to get pressure on Drew Brees up the middle. Brees is the master of the quick release and compensates for his poor offensive tackles like no one else by stepping up and getting rid of the ball on time. The key to stopping him and forcing him to make mistakes is to get pressure up the middle. If the Bucs can do that, they have a shot at stopping him. But this will be very tough without McCoy. 

Sean Jones vs Jimmy Graham
In general the Bucs have used Sean Jones in man coverage on tight ends over the past year-and-a-half, and he has done a decent job. Unfortunately he may be going up against the best tight end in the business, and certainly the most productive one. Jimmy Graham has turned into Drew Brees's go-to weapon. Last week was especially ridiculous as Graham was seemingly targeted on every other pass - and kept hauling them in. 

There are some alternatives to playing Jones man-to-man on Graham, though. I don't know what the Bucs are going to do, but there aren't a lot of positive matchups here. If they decide to play a lot of Tampa 2 you'll often see Mason Foster on Jimmy Graham down the seam - which is a mismatch that favors the Saints. Overall, the Bucs just have to find a way to stop the second-year tight end. That's a lot easier said than done. 

 

Mason Foster vs Drew Brees
Mason Foster is a rookie, but he's calling the defense and making the audibles. He's now facing one of the best quarterbacks in the league, who has a lot of freedom at the line of scrimmage. Outsmarting Drew Brees isn't going to happen, but Foster does need to keep up with what Brees is doing. Ronde Barber should help Mason Foster a little with those audibles, but the main burden will fall on the rookie. Can he keep up with Brees's adjustments?