By Connor Donald, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have met 19 times. The Eagles own a 10-9 record against them, winning the last two straight. Both teams looked very different when they last met in 2018.
What to know about the Bucs?
You may or may not have heard by now, but the Buccaneers offense is really good! They have score the third most points for at 167 and have the third most total yards at 2157. Through the air they are pretty much first across the board. This includes most attempts, most yards, second most touchdowns and the second lowest number of interceptions. Their ground game, not as good, which plays well for the Eagles who have struggled mightily against the run all season.
Tom Brady and the entire Super Bowl returning offense has managed to stay fairly healthy. Defensively the Bucs will be without LB Lavonte David and S Antoine Winfield. The secondary and coverage in the middle of the field already was spotty, losing a top linebacker and safety should help the Eagles offense. The Bucs have given up the third most touchdowns through the air. This includes the most passing yards and attempts against as well.
The Bucs secondary may be lacking but certainly not up front with their defensive line and pass rushing linebackers. The Buccaneers blitz the most in the NFL at a 40.2% rate. Although the blitz rate doesn't translate to top half of the league pressure and hurry rates, they do rank 9th in quarterback knockdowns per pass attempt. And they are very strong against the run allowing the fewest yards, yards per attempt and touchdowns.
Bucs Player to Watch
I'm going Shaq Barrett for my Bucs player to watch. The whole offense is a must watch for the Eagles from Fournette and Bernard to Evans, Godwin and Brown at receiver to Tom Brady under center. Like I mentioned the Bucs blitz at the highest rate in the NFL and Shaq Barrett may not be having a monster season, but is a key part of the pressure. Barrett has 3.5 sacks on the season, three tackles for loss and six quarterback hits. He ranks eight in total hurries with a near 50/50 mix of damage being done from the left and right side. He will have to be constantly found and accounted for by the offensive line.
What to know about the Eagles?
Based on the Bucs rushing defense stats I think it's safe to say, keep your 'Run the ball' chants to a minimum this week. We want to see more Miles Sanders, but this really isn't the team to do it against. The frustration continues for Eagles fans as the Eagles do have two backs who have combined for the fourth best yards per attempt on the ground. Among all running backs averaging 4.5 yards per attempt or better, Sanders has the second fewest yards per game trailing only Myles Gaskin. Ouch!
Jalen Hurts has looked the part of a viable franchise quarterback in the early going. He makes mistakes, yes. He also flashes some really good stuff that you want to see. It feels like the offense is still finding an identity, which makes sense five weeks into the season with a new staff. Devonta Smith remains as advertised and finally Quez Watkins is out snapping Jalen Reagor. Beyond the running game, something feels good about this offense if they can establish some sort of run game and put up points.
Defensively, my jaw hit the floor seeing the Eagles with not one, not two, but three interceptions against the Panthers. It had up until that point was the Javon Hargrave show. Now if the turnovers can keep coming and the front four continue to force pressure, maybe this defense is finding its stride. Hopefully both the offense and defense can play together for 60 minutes because so far that's been the main issue.
The Eagles still rank 20th in percentage of opponents drives that end in a score plus 17th in number of opponents drives that end in turnover. There is still work to be done. They blitz a league low 12.2% of the time which also leaves them in the middle of the pack for pressures and hurries overall. Gannon did move from his two high safety look two weeks ago and played single high safety most of the game Sunday. Hopefully there continues to be some adjustments made by Gannon as his defense will be tested against the Bucs offense mightily this week.
Eagles Player to Watch
Despite rolling out five different offensive line combinations already this season, the Eagles are near the middle of the pack for pressures allowed. They have allowed 58 pressures, while only being responsible for two sacks and six quarterback hits. This is quite impressive.
It will be important for the Eagles offensive line, without Lane Johnson again, to give Hurts a nice pocket to work with. The Bucs are no slouches up front with Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston. Plus the linebackers who apply pressure to the quarterback like Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon. I'm going with five key Eagles to watch: Andre Dillard, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Jack Driscoll and Jordan Mailata. They all flashed last week at times, but also had their moments that made you cringe. They will definitely be in need of their 'A' game Thursday.