Fri, 27 May 2022

5 Bucs to Watch Against Los Angeles

Buccaneers
23 Jan 2022, 18:26 GMT+10

Tampa Bay Buccaneers It’s the Divisional Round and the Bucs may have a few key faces available again. Carmen Vitali

1. RB Leonard Fournette

The team announced on Saturday that they were activating Lenny off injured reserve, making him available for the game on Sunday for the first time in weeks. Tampa Bay has made do with what they've had available on offense in Lenny's absence but I don't think there's any doubt that Fournette could have a big impact on the game this Sunday.

He is as reliable as they come these days in the passing game, nabbing those short, quick passes quarterback Tom Brady has integrated into this offensive scheme more and more. Let's not forget that Fournette first came on in last year's playoffs, earning himself the nickname of 'Playoff Lenny' thanks to his postseason production. He went over 100 scrimmage yards in three of four playoff games last season and scored four total touchdowns. So, llike the lyrics in Brady's pregame song go, "Allow me to reintroduce myself."

2. TE Rob Gronkowski

Gronkowski will be doing his own reintroduction to the Rams. He was having a good game the last time these two teams met until he suffered multiple rib injuries in the beginning of the second half. He came back in the game later in the third quarter to try and finish the game but the injuries would end up sidelining him for the better part of six games. He attempted a comeback against the Saints in Week Eight but ended up missing most of that game, too.

Now, Gronk is healthy and is back to his productive self. He had over 100 receiving yards in the Bucs last two games of the regular season and had a touchdown last week in the Wild Card Round. The Rams are down a safety and as big as Gronk is, he's also fast - making it hard for linebackers to keep up and cover him. He could be key in getting around this Rams' defense - even if he has to handle Von Miller a time or two.

3. The O-Line

This is obviously the biggest question mark for the Buccaneers. In a fluke game that saw not one, but two ankle injuries to starting offensive linemen, the durability of the otherwise brick wall that usually stands in front of Brady is now in jeopardy. Both Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen practiced in a very limited capacity on Friday, which was honestly astonishing, especially on Wirfs' part. Jensen finished the game last Sunday and actually never missed a snap. Wirfs attempted to come back in after the half but wouldn't last more than a series before he was pulled.

The Bucs have already been utilizing bigger personnel groupings, more tight ends, extra blockers, etc. I'd think that continues as the Bucs try to insulate Brady so he can do Brady things in a game where it'll undoubtedly be needed.

4. CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

Speaking of players returning from injury, Murphy-Bunting was a late scratch from last Sunday's Wild Card matchup as he dealt with a hamstring injury. He practiced in a limited capacity this week and is officially listed as questionable but with the offensive weapons the Rams have, Murphy-Bunting and the rest of the secondary's services will be needed.

Consider that Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp led the league in routes from the slot in the regular season. He also has the most touchdowns of any player from the slot. Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. filled in admirably at the nickel spot last week but the Bucs will need all hands on deck if they want to stop Kupp and especially prevent him from getting those yards after the catch he's so good at.

5. DT Vita Vea

I know everyone has been talking about the defensive tackle on the other team this week, but Vea's impact on this game won't be any less crucial. The Bucs are going to have to find ways to generate pressure with four given how good quarterback Matt Stafford has been against the blitz this season. He can be forced into mistakes when under duress and Vea will play a key role in creating that from the interior. If he can eat up a couple blockers inside, that will free up the outside linebackers, who should have a full rotation available, to hopefully beat one-on-one matchups and get to Stafford.

Vea will also go a long way in shutting down the run, which the Rams leaned on last week against Arizona. Whether that was just because they were trying to run more clock given that they had the Cardinals handled early or if that's a shift in their offensive strategy in the postseason, we'll see. But you don't want to let them get a run game going, which would in turn allow them to utilize their play action game that much more. That can provide a buffer for Stafford against the Bucs' pass rush and we don't want that, now do we?

Tl;dr: It starts with Vea.

More St Petersburg (Florida) News

Access More

Sign up for The St Petersburg News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!