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Eagles Film Preview: Looking for answers against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers’ offense

Shocker: Tampa Bay presents a huge challenge for Jonathan Gannon.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Hello BGN, this film review is going to be a bit different. After a Twitter poll where 94% of you voted for me to do a Bucaneers preview rather than a Cowboys review, I decided to listen to the people. If you want a vote on what I do in the offseason, make sure you are following me @JonnyPage9.

So anyway, I got to work on the Bucs film. This is the first time I’ve written about another team other than the Eagles and I got a bit carried away... the Bucs offense is extremely fun to watch. Due to time commitments and the effort this took, I won’t get time to review the Bucs defense in this article. However, I did talk about the Bucs defense in my film review this year so you can always check that out here.

This article will therefore be a deep dive into the Bucs offense. I am going to try and highlight all the strengths and some weaknesses and then throughout the article, I will randomly throw some thoughts in about what the Eagles might do against this offense. Then I will finish by looking at the Saints defense and whether they can provide a blueprint for the Eagles defense. I have also focused on the most recent games as I think that’s the best way to get a feel for what we will see on Sunday. Lets get to the film!

Passing Offense

The Bucs offense is a fascinating blend of Brady’s offense with some of Bruce Arians traditional downfield vertical shots. If you play man against them, they will get out the pick plays and create natural ‘picks’ in order to get guys open. Mike Evans is used a lot more on these shorter routes than I had realized too, he does a little bit of everything.

You are going to see this a lot on Sunday and I am not sure the Eagles have an answer in man coverage. The Bucs use trips a lot and will line Gronk up as the lone receiver a lot. They will also move Mike Evans around to try and create favourable matchups. Without Godwin and Brown, the Bucs offense revolves around Gronk and Evans but they are elite talents and are extremely hard to matchup against.

Honestly, from what I saw, blitzing or late disguises just didn’t really work against Tom Brady. He is so decisive and gets the ball out quickly. If you give receivers like Evans free releases off the line of scrimmage, Brady is going to get that ball out lightning quick and Evans has the ability to pick up yards after the catch too.

I seriously could have recorded about 10 examples of Gronk making a big play on a seam route. The timing between Gronk and Brady is off the charts. The Panthers tried to play a lot of 2-high zone and Brady and Gronk ruined them on seam balls. Gronk looks like he doesn’t move well but he understands the gaps in a zone defense and has a huge catch radius. I don’t like allowing Gronk a free release off the line of scrimmage but I am unsure what Eagles member of the secondary is physical and tough enough to slow him down at the line of scrimmage. Maybe Anthony Harris? But he could easily get burned.

I think if the Eagles sit in simple 2-high zone coverage the linebackers are going to get murdered by the Hi-Lo stuff that the Bucs run in the middle of the field. It could be rough out there for Alex Singleton and T.J. Edwards.

It is absolutely insane how well Brady is playing. I know he has had a good year but the film is better than I expected. Everything is at an elite level, the processing speed, accuracy, decision making. If you try and jump everything short Brady and Arians will not be afraid to throw it over your heads. This is about as good as a ‘hole shot’ against cover 2 as you will see.

(More on this later) but the Saints did a fantastic job stopping Gronk by lining up Eagles legend Malcolm Jenkins in press man coverage when he is lined up outside. I hope the Eagles try and do this somehow. Without Godwin, I think you could get aggressive and line up Slay on Gronk and hope he is physical enough to win and then make sure you put a safety over to the side of Steven Nelson who will then be on Mike Evans.

However, there is an issue with the above. If you put Slay on Gronk and Evans moves inside, then you have a problem. Evans against a slot corner is just unfair. He is too big and physical.

This is just a perfect job by the Bucs to get Evans one on one with loads of room to work with. Brady is so accurate you know the ball is going to be in the perfect spot. You have to be a very, very good cornerback to stop this.

We have spoke a lot about Evans and Godwin but do not forget about the running backs either. Fournette had 69 receptions this year! If you do line up in soft zone coverage Brady will just check it down to a back or a tight end and play another down. If you plan a lot of man coverage, they will run a lot of this stuff. The Saints did an excellent job by only rushing 4 and having a ‘robber’ come down and take away a lot of these type of plays.

We have touched on scheme, personnel and design so far. But we haven’t really focused on just how good Tom Brady is. These two throws are absolutely nuts. Sometimes as a defense there is literally nothing you can do. On the first throw, you can see the Bucs are also more than happy to go to empty to get a defense to show their hand and here they have Evans and Gronk lined up inside on either side of the formation. This can create some bad matchups for a defense.

This is not fair.

One final thing on the passing game, the offensive line is really good at picking up late blitzes and they are rarely confused. If you are going to get creative upfront and try to bring disguised pressure you better be seriously good to beat this offensive line. They are a smart group.

Running Offense

For most pass heavy teams, the running game is a complimentary piece. Not for the Bucs. It is a legitimately very, very good running game. Fournette is playing very well and the offensive line can move people. They do a lot of things well. They can spread you out and run zone and can also play heavy personnel and just maul defenders. Brady is obviously an elite quarterback but if you just continually sit in soft zone coverage with 2 high defenders they will not be afraid to consistently run it and pick up good yardage. Look at the interior offensive line here!

Gronk is a cheat code. They can line up with 3 WRs spread out and Gronk inline and you have no idea if they will throw or run. He is still an awesome run blocker and can really move people. The offensive line plays nasty and has an identity, just like the Eagles, and you can see that the running game is a big part of their identity.

As we have all noticed with the Eagles recently, everyone is involved in the running game. If you want to be a serious running team then everyone needs to do their job. The Bucs receivers will come down and block hard if they need to. However, don’t be fooled that it will always be a running play if you see the receiver come down because the Bucs are also very good at building off the run game and using RPO’s and quick screens to take advantage of a defenses aggressiveness downhill and confusing them.

Under center, tough physical blocking. Its a fun team to watch.

This is as good as it gets. This is against a very good Bills defense too and the Bucs had 137 rushing yards (as well as 351 passing yards...) and a chunk of them came on this play. Just look at this play and watch the offensive lineman move in sync to create a huge hole. If you love offensive play, this is beautiful. The left tackle embarrassing the safety at the end is the icing on the cake too.

This play is the Bucs go to running play. I would expect to see this a lot and the Eagles linebackers are going have to be aggressive downhill and take on the pulling guard to prevent these play from consistently going for good gains.

Overall

The Bucs offense is fantastic. The good news is, without Godwin and Brown, they are not as elite at the skill position as they were. But Evans and Gronk are matchup nightmares and Brady is playing at an absolutely insane level. Also, the running game is really, really good too.

Some DVOA numbers for you on the Bucs offense: 1st in total DVOA, 1st in weighted DVOA, 1st in passing DVOA, 4th in rushing DVOA. I think that is very, very good.

I really struggled to find many examples where blitzes or disguised worked against this offense. It is extremely boring, but you almost have to win with 4. For the Eagles to have any chance at all of slowing the Bucs offense down, the front 4 are going to have to play out of their mind. They will also need one member of the secondary to really step up as Darius Slay will not be enough this week. If we are being honest, I think the Bucs are going to score and put up big numbers this week, but if the Eagles can limit the big plays and force a few 3 and outs or maybe even get a turnover or two, then they will have a chance if the offense is great.

But... what about the Saints defense? Didn’t they shut out the Bucs?

I studied the Saints game hoping to see a blueprint that the Eagles can follow and I didn’t see. Firstly, this was an odd shoutout as the Bucs still had 300+ yards and had chances to score points. Secondly, Mike Evans and Godwin both got injured this game and Brown was already out. So the offense was pretty thin. Let’s quickly get to the Saints tape and you will see why I don’t think the Eagles are going to follow this blueprint (although I would love it if they somehow could).

The Saints played a ton of man coverage. Nearly every snap they jammed the Bucs receivers at the line and played physical press coverage. It was an elite defensive performance and they had the secondary to be able to do this. There was a good mix over middle field closed and middle field open but what never changed was the physicality at the line of scrimmage.

Even when they did play some more zone looks, they still had the outside corners follow the Bucs outside receivers and the corners made some insane plays. This is a hell of a play.

The Saints didn’t really even attempt to ‘confuse’ Brady or disguise their coverage. They frequently just lined up in press man coverage and rushed 4. The reason they had so much success was their front 4 beat the Bucs offensive line pretty well a few times. The one weakness with Brady is he cannot create on second reaction plays so you can play a lot of man against him without having to worry about him scrambling. You also don’t need to worry about containing him so your defensive line can really aggressively go after him if you can get them into 3rd and long. Cameron Jordan had an absolutely monster game.

Remember those pick plays we looked at earlier to beat man coverage? The Bucs obviously went to them to beat the Saints press man coverage. But the Saints used a lot of cover 1 robber and the robber was alert to these plays all day. The reason they could do this was they were not worried about Evans or Gronk being alone in man coverage on the outside. They were happy to leave Jenkins on Gronk and Lattimore on Evans. If the Eagles do something similar, I can see Slay on Evans being a decent matchup (although even that won’t be easy) but I just don’t see a defender who can man up on Gronk like Jenkins could in this game.

Sometimes, even great defenses get beat. The Saints got lucky here as the post from the outside receiver was open due to the deep safety prioritizing stopping Gronk. However, this is where the Saints pass rush managed to win again and stop a big play and touchdown from occurring.

Even when Jenkins got beat by Gronk, he seemed to always have help inside and the zone defenders (this time a linebacker and deep safety) were always alert to the Bucs crossing routes and did a great job taking away the Gronk seam/over routes.

In the second half, after Evans got injured, the Saints continued to funnel everything inside and were happy to leave their outside defenders in one on one without any safety help. The Bucs had decent opportunities like this one but just couldn’t make the play and the coverage was always tight.

Final thing... none of this great defense matters if you can’t stop the run. The Saints did give up some runs and the Bucs did have over 100 yards, but they managed to do just enough to stop the Bucs continually running it. It was a fantastic defensive performance.

As you can see, if the Eagles try and copy the Saints gameplan it will involve a lot of physical press man coverage and this is not something we have seen much of yet. I am fascinated to see how the Eagles go about this game after having a long time to prepare.

Phew. That was a long one. This was the first time I’ve done something like this and I’ll be back to review the game next week as normal. Let me know your thoughts and feedback is welcome as always. Fingers crossed the Birds pull out the victory... Fly Eagles Fly!