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Game Day: Cardinals at Buccaneers

Posted Sep 28, 2013

Prepare for Sunday’s game with our preview, including injury reports, key matchups, series history, players to watch and more

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rookie QB Mike Glennon’s first NFL start will come against a Cardinals team that has struggled to defend the pass
  • S Dashon Goldson remembers some good battles against Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald during Goldson’s NFC West days
  • WR Mike Williams could move up several spots on the team’s all-time receiving charts
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  The Buccaneers bring an 0-3 record into the game while the Cardinals are 1-2.

Naturally, all eyes will be on new starting quarterback Mike Glennon when the Bucs’ offense takes the field on Sunday. The third-round pick out of North Carolina State will make his first-ever NFL start at the helm of an offensive unit that has struggled to find much consistency this season.

However, Head Coach Greg Schiano says he’s confident in his young passer – it’s the reason he’s handing Glennon the reins.

“Mike’s a smart, tough football player who loves the game,” Schiano said. “I think he works extremely hard, I think he will go out and try to do what we’re coaching him to do. He’s not going to be perfect, no one is. But I think he’s going to try to execute to the best of his abilities what we’re asking him to do in the game plan. I think he’ll be accurate [and] I think he’ll go out and do it.”

Defensively, the Bucs will look to continue improving on a strong start to the season. Although the Patriots came away with a decisive 23-3 victory last weekend, the Bucs were still able to sack Tom Brady three times and intercept him once.

That pick, by safety Mark Barron, came with the Patriots lined up at the Bucs’ six-yard line, and was just the latest critical stop the Tampa Bay defense has been able to come up with in the red zone.

In fact, the Bucs have emerged as one of the stingiest red zone defenses in the entire league, allowing the third-lowest red zone touchdown percentage (27.3 percent) and the second-fewest points per red zone trip (3.27).

Those stats put the Bucs atop the NFC in each category, and with an Arizona offense on tap that has struggled to score points in the red zone (currently ranked 30th in the league with a touchdown percentage of just 37.5 percent), it could prove to be a turning point.

-- S Dashon Goldson will get reacquainted with Cards WR Larry Fitzgerald Sunday

“I think [our red zone success] is just us taking a lot of pride in what we’re doing,” said Barron. “As a defense, we want to be known as a strong defense in every aspect of the game. I think that just comes down to pride and being willing to bow up down in the red zone.”

Despite its red zone struggles, the Arizona offense – with veteran quarterback Carson Palmer and elite wideout Larry Fitzgerald – is still a force to be reckoned with.

Fitzgerald, in particular, will draw plenty of attention from the Bucs defense, as the future Hall of Famer has the freakish physical skills to turn a game on its head with a single acrobatic catch.

“He’s as good as any of them,” said Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan. “Obviously he’s got great size – he’s just a very big presence out there. As tight of coverage as you can possibly get on him, he still has the ability to just [gain] body position and out-jump guys and come down with guys draped all over him. Maybe the bigger challenge is the fact that they have other outstanding receivers. That’s the best part of their skill, the three wide receivers, that’s why they’re in so much three wide receivers groupings. But Larry, yeah, he’s as good as anybody, now for sure. He’ll be one of the best ever.”

On the other side of the football, Arizona brings a defensive unit to Tampa that is quite stout against the run – one of the few strong points for the Bucs’ offense so far in 2013.

The Cardinals currently rank third in the league against the run, allowing an average of just over 73 yards per game on the ground, while Bucs running back Doug Martin is currently the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 297 yards through three games.

Something’s going to have to give on Sunday, and Head Coach Greg Schiano credits the Cardinals’ starting defensive line – end Calais Campbell and tackles Dan Williams and Darnell Dockett – as a key concern.

“I think their front three is a tremendous challenge,” Schiano said. “They’re three very good football players, physically impressive football players. We have an impressive physical [offensive] line. I think it’s going to be a great matchup, one that is going to be, I think, critical in determining who wins the game.”

**

SERIES HISTORY

The Buccaneers lead their all-time series with the Cardinals, 9-8, dating back to a first meeting in 1977 that holds some importance in Tampa Bay’s franchise history.  After getting their first-ever regular-season victory in New Orleans on Dec. 11, the Buccaneers followed that up with a 17-7 decision against the then-St. Louis Cardinals that stands as the organization’s first win at home.

The Bucs are 6-4 against Arizona in home games and have won six of the last eight meetings overall. Tampa Bay won the most recent meeting in the series with a 38-35 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium in 2010. The Buccaneers also won, 17-10, in the last game played at Raymond James Stadium, in 2007.

**

INJURY REPORT

Buccaneers

Player

Injury

Game Status

CB Michael Adams

Knee

Out

S Mark Barron

Hamstring

Probable

T Gabe Carimi

Illness

Out

TE Tom Crabtree

Ankle

Out

DT Gary Gibson

Back

Probable

WR Vincent Jackson

Ribs

Questionable

DT Derek Landri

Knee

Out

DT Gerald McCoy

Ankle

Probable

CB Rashaan Melvin

Hamstring

Questionable

WR Mike Williams

Hamstring

Questionable

Cardinals

Player

Injury

Game Status

WR Larry Fitzgerald

Hamstring

Probable

S Rashad Johnson

Finger

Questionable

RB Rashard Mendenhall

Toe

Probable

LB Kevin Minter

Hamstring

Out

DE Ronald Talley

Wrist

Probable

DT Dan Williams

NJI*

Out

* Not injury related

**

BUCCANEER PLAYER TO WATCH: S DASHON GOLDSON

Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson’s hard-hitting ways very nearly earned him a stay on the sidelines recently, although a successful appeal of his suspension prevented him from missing any time.

The close brush with a suspension means Goldson may have had to change how he plays ever so slightly, but finding that perfect balance of physical, aggressive – yet still legal – tackling is something he’s continuing to work on.

“It’s really tough,” Goldson said. “You’ve been trained a certain way for years and you feel that you’ve been doing it the correct way and everybody’s been praising you on how you do it right and then all of a sudden [it turns]. Everybody thinks you’re a dirty player all of a sudden. I guess you’ve just got to continue to get better as a player and try to be smart at the same time. It’s kind of tough, but you have to get it done.”

Playing hard-nosed football, making big hits and impacting the game with splash plays, all while staying within the narrow confines of the NFL rulebook, might not be any more crucial than when a big-name receiver like Larry Fitzgerald comes to town this weekend along with his Arizona Cardinals teammates.

Goldson and rest of the Bucs’ secondary will have their work cut out for them trying to contain Fitzgerald, a five-time Pro Bowler and holder of nearly every career receiving record in Cardinals franchise history.

“Larry is a phenomenal player,” Goldson said. “I was fortunate to play against him a few years back [with San Francisco]. Those were some good games, good challenges. I’m expecting the same game this week.

“He’s a smart football player, [he runs] good routes [and has] strong hands. He does a phenomenal job for their football team. He’s an elite wide receiver in this league. He’s physical, a big body guy, he knows how to use his body.”

Goldson will also be using his body on Sunday, albeit with a different purpose than Fitzgerald and with a dash more attention towards the legality of his big hits. Goldson said it was a point of emphasis prior to the New England game last weekend, and it’s something he’ll continue to focus on against Arizona and throughout the rest of the season.

“I was a little more careful,” Goldson said of his mindset against the Patriots. “Coach [Schiano] mentioned before the game, ‘Be a little cautious.’ I had to be careful, but at the same time I have to play football.”

**

KEY MATCHUP: BUCCANEERS CB DARRELLE REVIS VS. CARDINALS WR LARRY FITZGERALD

How can we resist this matchup?  Fitzgerald recruited Revis to the University of Pittsburgh almost a decade ago, and since then each has developed into one of the best – if not the best – at his position.  They’ve only met one other team since hitting the NFL, back in 2008 when Revis was a young player with the New York Jets, and both had big days in an eventual Jet victory.

Will the Buccaneers plaster Revis on Fitzgerald for the entire afternoon in an effort to take away Carson Palmer’s best target.  Actually, probably not, given that the Cardinals’ offense also features two other very good receivers in Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd.  Still, there are sure to be plenty of snaps in which Fitzgerald finds himself on Revis Island, and it would be a huge boon to the Buccaneers’ defense if Arizona’s all-pro receiver is held in check on the afternoon.

**

TEAM RANKINGS

The Buccaneers and Patriots have both done a good job of preventing their opponents from scoring this season, but have also had trouble lighting up their own halves of the scoreboard.  Both teams have also protected the passer well, but the Bucs’ pass-rush has been more productive.  New England’s pass defense has been very good, but Tampa Bay might be able to exploit the Patriots’ 28th-ranked run defense.

OFFENSE

BUCS RANK

CARDINALS RANK

Points Per Game

31

25

Yards Per Game

31

23

Rushing Yards Per Game

15

23

Average Per Rush

16

19

Passing Yards Per Game

31

19

Sacks Allowed

10t

20t

Interceptions Thrown

17t

22t

Third-Down Efficiency

16

23

Punt Return Average

10

24

Kickoff Return Average

3

14

 

 

 

 

DEFENSE

BUCS RANK

CARDINALS RANK

Points Per Game

11

22

Yards Per Game

15t

19t

Rushing Yards Per Game

17

3

Average Per Rush

14

4

Passing Yards Per Game

15

26

Sacks

3t

28t

Interceptions

7t

19t

Third-Down Efficiency

15t

19t

Punt Return Average

24

19

Kickoff Return Average

12

5

 

OTHER

BUCS RANK

SAINTS RANK

Turnover Differential

14t

19t

Gross Punting Average

21

28

Net Punting Average

8

29

Field Goal Percentage

29t

17t

 

**

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

• RB Doug Martin has 12 career rushing touchdowns and needs only two more to pass LeGarrette Blount (13 from 2010-12), and Doug Williams (13 from 1978-82) for 10th-most in franchise history.

• WR Mike Williams has 24 career touchdown catches and with one more he will surpass Dave Moore (24 touchdown catches from 1992-2001, 2004-06) for fifth-most in franchise history.

• Williams has 2,857 career receiving yards and needs 79 more to pass Michael Clayton (2,936 receiving yards from 2004-09) for ninth and 85 more to pass Bruce Hill (2,942 receiving yards from 1987-91).

• P Michael Koenen has 51 punts inside the 20 with the Buccaneers and needs five more to pass Tommy Barnhardt (55 from 1996-98) for sixth-most, six more to pass Tom Tupa (56 from 2002-03) for fifth-most and nine more to pass Dan Stryzinski (59 from 1992-94) for fourth-most punts inside the 20 in team history.

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