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5 Bucs to Watch Against Detroit

Posted Dec 7, 2017

A good running back problem to have and a tight end-to-quarterback connection highlight a few players (and things) to watch for as the Bucs take on the Lions this Sunday

1. RBs Peyton Barber and Doug Martin
The big news this week is that running back Doug Martin has cleared concussion protocol and will be eligible to play in this Sunday’s contest against the Lions. Of course, this is coming off the tail end of two pretty significant performances for running back Peyton Barber, who led the team in both rushing and receiving last week at Lambeau. Barber registered 102 rushing yards and 41 receiving yards in the game for Tampa Bay’s first 100+ yard rushing performance of the year. The week prior, Barber scored two touchdowns against the Falcons. Coaches have praised his ability to get yards after contact, an advantage of being a bigger back. It will be interesting to see how Coach Koetter decides to utilize both he and Martin, as well as if the Bucs can continue improving their ground game on Sunday.

2. DE Will Clarke
Defensive end Will Clarke registered the first multi-sack game of his career in Green Bay this past week. This is Clarke’s first year with the Buccaneers after playing with the Cincinnati Bengals the past three seasons. He’s gotten increased opportunities with injuries to the defensive line and has seen production. Clarke has accounted for 2.5 of the Buccaneers’ 17.0 sacks this season. The opportunity for that number to go up is there this week. Detroit has allowed 39.0 sacks this season. Especially with defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. clearing concussion protocol this week, the Bucs’ defensive line will look to take advantage of a penetrable Lions’ offensive line and make quarterback Matthew Stafford uncomfortable.

3. S Justin Evans
Rookie safety Justin Evans has been a topic of conversation the past few weeks. The Texas A&M-product leads all rookies with three interceptions so far this season. He also leads the team. His third interception came against the Packers on Sunday as he picked off a deep pass from quarterback Brett Hundley. He continues to develop, with defensive coordinator Mike Smith asserting that ‘the sky is the limit’ for Evans. Detroit has a very pass-heavy offense with quarterback Matt Stafford at the helm, so the Bucs’ secondary will have to be on their A-game and the rookie defensive back will have to be on the lookout for more turnover opportunities.

4. TE Cameron Brate
Tight end Cameron Brate accounted for both of the Buccaneers’ touchdowns on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The bump in production came as quarterback Jameis Winston returned from injury, bringing back with him the connection between he and Brate. The quarterback and tight end are known to take extra reps after practice with one another, ensuring their timing is just right. When asked about what makes Brate so effective in the red zone, Head Coach Dirk Koetter explained that big-man receiver Mike Evans gets doubled by virtually every team the Bucs face inside the 10-yard line, which creates opportunities for receivers like Brate. That, coupled with the timing both he and Winston have down to a science, allows Brate to come down with the ball more often than not when he is targeted. The Bucs will look to see how much production the two can get against this Lions this Sunday.

5. QB Jameis Winston
In his first game back from injury against the Packers, quarterback Jameis Winston recorded a 112.8 passer rating, completing 21 of 32 passing attempts and throwing two touchdowns. Winston looked poised to start the game, despite not seeing game action in nearly a month, and led the Bucs to their first touchdown on an opening drive this season. However, the return was marred by two fumbles by the quarterback, one of which was lost and returned for a touchdown by Packers’ defensive lineman Dean Lowry. Maintaining his composure while protecting the ball will be a priority for Winston, who is focused on finishing the season strong.