After a brutal loss to the New York Giants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Rams. Starting the year 3-0, the Rams defense is already in mid-season form. They currently rank seven in points allowed and fourth in passing yards allowed. The passing offense has struggled out of the gate, ranking 22nd in the NFL. Even with this struggle, the Rams have had success running the football with Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown. With that being said, here are the strengths and weaknesses to look out for when the Buccaneers kickoff at 4:05 Sunday afternoon.
Pounding the Rock
Bruce Arians erected the Buccaneers as a run first team, and the numbers don’t lie. Tampa Bay has recorded the eighth-most rushing yards in the NFL has 19 runs on first down. Every time the Buccaneers line up on first down, you expect a run. The Rams are no different, ranking one spot higher in total rushing yards.
Todd Gurley is not the same since news surfaced about arthritis in his knee. But that doesn’t matter to head coach Sean McVay, who has used a running back by committee approach with Gurley and Malcolm Brown.
The Buccaneers have been stout against the run, shutting down Christian McCaffrey and Saquan Barkley in back to back weeks. I have confidence that this defensive line led by Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh can continue their run-stopping dominance.
I believe the Rams will continue to use a run-first approach to disguise Jared Goff’s weaknesses. If the Buccaneers can limit the run effectiveness, Jared Goff will have no choice but to throw the football.
Jared Goff has been anything but special in his first three starts to begin the year. In fact, Goff has only four touchdowns to three interceptions, well off from his almost 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio in 2018.
But do not underestimate this receiving core. Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods may be the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL. Cooks recorded his fourth 1000 yard season in 2018, and before Cooper Kupp injured his ACL, he was on pace for 80 receptions and 12 touchdowns.
We all witnessed the secondary get exposed in the second half of the Giants game, heck even four sacks by Shaquil Barrett wasn’t enough. I worry that this Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary is completely outmatched by a talented group of wide receivers.
Even looking at the sack totals, Goff has only been taken down six times this year. If the Rams offensive line can hold up, it might be a long day for a young Buccaneers secondary.
Aaron Donald and the Defense
Aaron Donald is arguably the best defensive tackle in the league. With 20.5 sacks in 2018, this Bucs offensive line better be preparing for consistent double teams. I don’t think I have to convince any NFL fans to watch out for the previous defensive player of the year. Just put a body on him.
Taking a quick glance over the entire defense, it’s difficult to find a weakness. Corey Littleton and Clay Mathews man the middle of the field. John Johnson III and Eric Weddle act as safety valves in the back end. Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters man both corners.
Just by name recognition alone, this defense looks terrifying and the numbers check out.
The Rams are 3rd in the NFL in yards allowed per play with 4.7. They are 4th in the NFL in passing and 11th in rush yards allowed.
In simply looking at the stats, there is no real weakness in this Rams defense. But the passing offense has been underwhelming, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to capitalize on this weakness for a chance to win Sunday.