Bleeding Green Nation’s game-by-game preview of the Eagles’ 2018 schedule continues today with Philadelphia’s Week 2 opponent: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Week 1 preview is here.)
The last time the Eagles played the Bucs was back in 2015 when a rookie Jameis Winston completed 65.5% of his attempts for 246 yards, five touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a 131.6 passer rating. What a miserable day for the Birds.
Winston won’t be available this time around due to a three-game suspension to start the season. Instead, the Eagles will face off against Ryan Fitzpatrick. The 35-year-old journeyman quarterback is 48-70-1 in 119 career starts. He’s 1-3-1 against the Eagles.
Fitzpatrick shouldn’t be scaring anyone but the Bucs do have some noteworthy offensive weapons: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson (oh hey), Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Ronald Jones, etc.
On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay decided to copy the Super Bowl champion Eagles in an effort to fortify their defensive line. The Bucs took this to the extreme by actually signing two former Eagles in Vinny Curry and Beau Allen. They also acquired another former NFC East-er in Jason Pierre-Paul.
The feeling here is that the Bucs are very beatable. I’m not saying it’ll be a blowout but the combination of Fitzpatrick and head coach Dirk Koetter isn’t very threatening.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the Buccaneers from our SB Nation colleagues over at Bucs Nation.
Notable free agent additions: The offensive line was a big disappointment in 2017 and the experiment of Ali Marpet to center didn’t work out as well as the Buccaneers had hoped. Signing center Ryan Jensen and moving Marpet to the left side of the line should solidify a young crew up front, protecting Jameis Winston and opening holes for new running back Ronald Jones.
A complete defensive line overhaul was sorely needed and long overdue. There was the addition-by-subtraction move to release Chris Baker while also bringing in Super Bowl champions and former Eagles Vinny Curry and Beau Allen. Mitch Unrein was brought in for depth while Jason Licht made a mega-move for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Coming off of one of the worst seasons in recent memory as far as quarterback pressures and sacks are concerned, Bucs fans have reason for optimism with the new crews battling in the trenches.
Finally, as the tales of the kicking woes continue, the Bucs brought in former Cardinals and Jets kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Though some fans and the Bucs appear to be excited about the addition, I’m not sure Catanzaro is the man for the job if you’re trying to end the drought of below average kickers in Tampa Bay.
Over / under: 6.5 wins: Over, but maybe not by much. With the suspension of Jameis Winston for three games and the Bucs facing the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers during those three weeks the Buccaneers are going to likely have to dig themselves out of a hole. This team is loaded with talent, but in the most competitive division in football, Tampa Bay is likely looking at a seven to nine win season.
Rookie I’m most excited about: Ronald Jones without hesitation. Doug Martin was nothing but an anchor on the ship last season and was shipped out of town. Peyton Barber emerged towards the end of 2017, but Ronald Jones was taken with the first of three second-round picks and big things are expected. His explosiveness and elusiveness will lead to explosive plays where any time the ball is in Jones’ hands he can make big things happen. The Bucs desperately need to get their running game back to a high level if this team is going to succeed.
Best position battle heading into camp: It’s the cornerback battle for sure. Brent Grimes is cemented on one side while Vernon Hargreaves III looks to bounce back. VHIII was far more effective inside as a solt corner last season but still possesses the skills necessary to be an outside corner. However, the Bucs drafted M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis both in the second round so Hargreaves will either sink or swim. There’s a lot of excitement and buzz surrounding Davis being able to line up on the outside opposite Grimes and it’s up to Hargreaves to prove he was worth the top fifteen pick from just a few short years ago.
Biggest storyline heading into camp: Dirk Koetter and his coaching staff aren’t on the hot seat. They’re literally sitting in flames. The Winston suspension is not an excuse for another subpar season and anything less than the playoffs may result in Koetter and his staff getting shown the door. New defensive line coach Brentson Buckner is regarded by many as not only a future defensive coordinator but also a future head coach. He may get his name called to take over if Koetter & Co. can’t get it done.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into camp: Ryan Griffin outplayed and outperformed Ryan Fitzpatrick throughout training camp last season. With Fitz pegged as the weeks one through three starter, Griffin will again get the opportunity to shine throughout camp and pre-season. If things appear as they did last season, Griffin may not only see his first NFL start, but his first meaningful snap as a Buccaneers quarterback.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: Linebacker Kendell Beckwith suffered a broken ankle as a passenger in a car earlier this year. He will not be fully recovered by time camp begins but is expected to be ready by the start of the season. However, how can effective can he be - and how close to game shape will he be in - when he’s missed off-season workouts thanks to the injury? It may be mid-season before Beckwith really looks like himself.
Do you think the Eagles will beat the Buccaneers?
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