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NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs X-Factor: The interior offensive line must stand tall

The Eagles have struggled this year, but their interior pass rush will test Tampa

If you’ve watched Tampa Bay’s wins this year, you’ll notice a common thread: the offensive line has generally performed very well.

That proved especially true Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, as the Bucs’ starting 5 completely neutralized any pass rush and allowed Tom Brady to dissect Miami’s defense to the tune of 400 yards and 5 touchdown passes. The GOAT faced only 9 pressures all game, a season low.

The interior line of Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa have allowed just two combined sacks in five games thus far, and their run blocking has improved in the last two games as well after struggling to generate consistent push in the first month of the season.

They’ll need to build on their best collective performance on a short week as the Bucs travel north to face the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles have struggled more often than not this year, currently sitting at 2-3, but they have some quality players that can create trouble if not properly accounted for. Ask the Carolina Panthers, who Philadelphia defeated by constantly harassing Sam Darnold and forcing him into his worst game this year — 3 interceptions, 3 sacks and 8 quarterback hits.

The duo of Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave has proven to be a handful for basically every one of their opponents. Per ESPN, Hargrave currently leads the NFL in Pass Rush Win Rate for defensive tackles at 27%, better than players like Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt. Pro Football Focus grades him at 79.7, a top 5 mark at the position.

If you prefer traditional stats, he leads defensive tackles with 6 sacks and 17 run stops to go along with 9 QB hits and 7 tackles for loss. He good.

Cox has been one of the most dominant defensive linemen since he entered the league in 2012. While he has ceded the starring spotlight to Hargrave while taking on different roles in the defense, he’s still a dangerous player who wins his assignments more often than not.

Now, the good news is that Tampa has one of the best offensive lines Philly has seen thus far. The other top-tier lines they’ve seen this season, the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, both handed out whippings. That said, Dak Prescott and Pat Mahomes are much more mobile than Brady, so that does factor in some.

Everyone knows that No. 12’s kryptonite has long been interior pressure without having to blitz. While Brady has performed exceptionally well versus pressure this year, a slow 44-year-old can only handle so much before mistakes start cropping up.

Marpet has long been one of the NFL’s best guards, so he’ll need to make his money stonewalling whomever he draws a majority of the time. Jensen and Cappa often team up on blocks, so they’ll need to bring their peak nastiness that they’re known for while avoiding the stupid penalties that have popped here and there.

Slowing down the Eagles’ pass rush will make this a much easier task for everyone involved as Tampa looks to run its win streak up three and keep a hold on the division lead.

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