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Containing opposing stars begins up front for Buccaneers

Defensive line receives high praise from head coach

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

We’re only two games in and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense has played themselves to what should be a 2-0 start. Unfortunately the offense didn’t quite pull through on their part of the full team concept, so the defense has to carry forward the 1-1 record along with them.

If the Todd Bowles led defensive unit continues their hot start however, it’s reasonable to think the offense has a chance of catching up and providing enough points week-to-week to string together some wins and challenge for a playoff spot.

There are a lot of what-ifs and possibilities of course, but the path to future success certainly seems best paved on the foundation laid by the defense. Weird.

So far, the Bucs defense has faced two teams with very clear primary offensive weapons. George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers) and Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers) have been the main offensive catalysts for their teams in recent years, leaving most teams faced with the question of how to best combat the star players and force opposing defenses into other means of winning games.

In each game, despite the Week 1 loss, the Buccaneers side of these match-ups have come out on top, holding Kittle to 54-yards on eight receptions and keeping McCaffrey under 60-yards of total offense despite touching the ball 18 times in Tampa Bay’s Thursday Night Football victory.

Looking forward to Week 3 now, Bowles’ defense has another tough task ahead of them as they look to stifle New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.

In his only previous match-up with the Bucs coming in Week 11 of last season, Barkley carried the ball 27 times for 142-yards and two rushing touchdowns. The then rookie also added two receptions for ten yards and another score.

That was then however, and this is now. Looking across the NFL landscape, Tampa Bay should certainly come into this home game as favorites to come out with the win and send the Giants to an 0-3 start in what is looking more and more like Eli Manning’s last stand.

Despite the winless start to the season, Barkley is doing well on an individual level. With 29 carries up to this point, the former Penn State star has 227-yards rushing (7.83 ypc) and one touchdown. He also has seven receptions for 47-yards.

It’s clear the Giants need Barkley to be involved just like the 49ers look to get Kittle involved and the Panthers consistently lean on McCaffrey to help lead their teams to victory.

Asked just how the defense has been able to bottle up the early stars they’ve faced, head coach Bruce Arians offered the following, “It starts in the middle, really the front four, and attacking, penetrating, and freeing up those linebackers. But it’s really hustle. It’s just everybody getting to the ball.”

Freeing up linebackers certainly had an impact on Thursday Night as outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett got to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for three sacks including two coming on consecutive plays.

We’ll be taking a closer look at all things relating to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Week 3 home game against the New York Giants, and you can be sure the team’s ability to contain Barkley the way they have with Kittle and McCaffrey thus far, will start up front.