To record their first win of the season, the Buccaneers will have to overcome an Eagles squad that has featured one of the NFL's most prolific offenses through the first four weeks of the season but has also surrendered more points than all but two other teams. Here's a closer look at the challenges the Buccaneers will face on Sunday from the visiting Philadelphia Eagles.
HEAD COACH: Former University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly in his first year at the helm in Philadelphia, and he has clearly had an immediate impact on the Eagles' offensive attack. The Eagles are scoring 27 points per game despite having a time-of-possession disadvantage of more than seven minutes a game against their opponents. At Oregon, Kelly compiled a 46-7 record over four seasons as the head coach and led the Ducks to four BCS bowl appearances. Oregon became known for its prolific and fast-paced offenses, scoring 44.7 points per game and racking up an FBS-leading 330 plays of 25 yards or more during his tenure. Last year, Oregon ran 1,077 plays in 13 games more than all but six NFL teams did in 16 games in 2012. The Eagles named Kelly their head coach on January 16, 2013, marking his first exposure to the NFL after 23 years of coaching in the college ranks.
OFFENSE: The Eagles have already made offensive history under Kelly's guidance, becoming the first team in league history to record at least 1,300 net passing yards and at least 900 rushing yards over the first five games of a season. Specifically, Philly ranks fifth in the league with 1,341 yards through the air and first with 933 yards on the ground, which have combined to produce the NFL's second-ranked offense, behind only Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
QB Michael Vick has guided this attack through the first five games of the season but may not be available on Sunday against the Buccaneers due to a hamstring injury suffered last weekend against the New York Giants. Vick, who is actually the Eagles' career leader in both passer rating and completion percentage, has compiled a rating of 90.6 so far this season and is second only to Manning with an average of 8.98 yards per pass attempt. He has also rushed for 307 yards and thrown only two interceptions, though he has also lost two fumbles.
If Vick is unavailable, the Giants will go with second-year man Nick Foles, who was responsible for the last-second touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin that produced that aforementioned win at Raymond James Stadium last year. Foles also relieved Vick last Sunday and completed 16 of 25 passes for 197 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions to complete a 36-21 win over the Giants. The former University of Arizona star, a third-round pick in 2012, stands 6-6, has a strong arm and is obviously just as comfortable as Vick in Kelly's offense.
The Eagles are without Maclin's services this year due to a torn ACL suffered in training camp, but WR DeSean Jackson has been resurgent in Kelly's offense. The two-time Pro Bowler ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards with 525 and is averaging a whopping 18.8 yards per grab, which recall his big-play peak years in 2009 and 2010. Jackson ranks second among all active NFL receivers with a career mark of 17.6 yards per catch. Jackson is by far the favorite target of the Eagles quarterbacks; the next-leading pass-catcher among wideouts is Jason Avant, who has 15 catches for 179 yards. RB LeSean McCoy has carried the ground attack, leading the NFL with 514 yards and averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The Eagles' offensive line is anchored by five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters but has been somewhat susceptible to the pass-rush this season, giving up 15 sacks. Philly ranks 24th in the NFL sacks allowed per pass play.
Kelly's influence on the offense is obvious. The Eagles are eighth in the NFL in scoring despite the fact that their average time of possession mark of 26:24 per game is the second-lowest in the league. The Eagles average just 2:04 minutes per drive this year, fourth-lowest in the NFL, and yet are scoring 2.1 points per drive, ninth-best in the league. Tampa Bay's defense must be prepared to face an extreme up-tempo attack this weekend.
DEFENSE: Those same time-of-possession splits might be making things a bit more difficult on Philadelphia's defense, which has allowed 31.8 points per game so far to rank 30th in the NFL. (It should not be ignored, however, that 52 of their 159 points allowed came at the hands of the high-powered Denver Broncos in Week Three.) In terms of yardage, Philadelphia's defense ranks second-to-last in the NFL, faring somewhat better against the run (17th) than the pass (tied for 29th). Opposing passers are completing 64.5% of their attempts against the Eagles and have a combined passer rating of 95.1.
The Eagles' top defensive performer so far this year may be cornerback Cary Williams, who has two of the team's five interceptions and is the only defensive back in the league with two picks and a sack to this point. Philadelphia imported two new starting cornerbacks this year, getting Williams from the Super Bowl Champion Ravens, for whom he started every game and had four interceptions, and Bradley Fletcher from the St. Louis Rams. The free safety is a newcomer, too, as Patrick Chung comes over to Philly after four years in New England.
Like every other defense the Buccaneers have faced so far this year, the Eagles run a 3-4 front, with pass-rushing linebackers Connor Barwin and Trent Cole on the outside. Cole is the third-leading sack producer in Eagles history, behind Reggie White and Clyde Simmons, but he had only three in 2012 and is still looking for his first QB takedown this year. Barwin and defensive end Fletcher Cox share the team lead with two sacks each. Cox, a second-year player out of Mississippi State, has 6.5 sacks in his last 12 games played, including one last December in Tampa. LB Mychal Kendricks, a second-round pick in 2012 who had 88 tackles as a rookie, could be an ascending player this year; he has 40 tackles already plus an interception and three fumble recoveries. The Eagles' leading tackler is inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, the former Houston Texans star who has 59 stops and one sack so far in 2013.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Eagles found a fine replacement for long-time kicker David Akers in 2011 with then-rookie Alex Henery, a fourth-round pick out of Nebraska. Henery set an NFL record for rookies in '11 by hitting on 24 of 27 field goal attempts, an 88.9% success rate. Though he has missed three of 15 tries so far in 2013, his career mark of 86.3% is still impressive, and he's been perfect inside of 40 yards. Henery has been less effective on kickoffs, however, producing 16 touchbacks in 30 attempts to rank 25th in the NFL in that category. That is one reason why Eagles opponents have an average kickoff drive start of the 24.1-yard line, second worst in the NFL.
Philadelphia is the fifth team in punter Donnie Jones' 10-year NFL career; he arrived this year after playing for Houston in 2012. Jones' net punting average of 37.3 ranks 29th in the NFL. Second-year man Damaris Johnson has taken over the punt and kickoff return jobs, averaging 8.4 yards per on the former and 26.4 per on the latter. The Eagles' punt coverage players have done quite well, holding opponents to 4.3 yards per try, fifth-best in the NFL, but the kickoff coverage squad allowed a 105-yard touchdown return to Denver's Trindon Holliday.