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6 Key Matchups for Bucs vs. Bears

Posted Sep 14, 2017

Will the Bucs be able to slow down Bears rookie sensation Tarik Cohen, and how well will Chicago CB Marcus Cooper fare against Pro Bowl WR Mike Evans?

Buccaneers G J.R. Sweezy vs. Bears DE Akiem Hicks
Sweezy will be making his Buccaneers regular-season debut, 18 months after he originally came to Tampa as a high-profile unrestricted free agent. The former Seattle starter missed the 2016 season with a back ailment but is ready to step in at his familiar right guard position, where he is considered a dominant run-blocker. In this case, he will get a challenge from the pass-rush of another free agent who got a big four-year deal from the Bears in 2016, Akiem Hicks. Hicks is listed as a defensive end by Chicago but in the Bears' 3-4 front he will most often be matched up against Sweezy instead of a tackle. In the Bears' opener, Hicks accounted for both of Chicago's sacks of Matt Ryan.

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. Bears CB Marcus Cooper
Evans is quite simply one of the biggest challenges any NFL cornerback can face right now. The 6-5, 230-pound receiver has an amazing ability to pull down contested passes, but Cooper does have rare height (6-foot-2) for a cornerback and will probably draw that tough assignment frequently on Sunday, particularly if Prince Amukamara (ankle) is still out. Evans is trying to build on a 96-1,321-12 season in 2016 that put him in the Pro Bowl and a deeper corps of Buccaneer pass-catchers should give him more open looks. The Bears have largely remade their secondary in 2017, including the import of Cooper, who had a good season in Arizona in 2016 with four interceptions and 69 tackles.

Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate vs. Bears S Quintin Demps
Demps is another new starter in the Chicago secondary, signing as a free agent after having a career year in Houston at the age of 31. In the opener against Atlanta, Chicago's defense gave up an 88-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper down the right seam when the safety was drawn over to help with Julio Jones near the left sideline. Demps has 108 games and 42 starts under his battle, so he's not likely to be prone to mistakes, and that particular Hooper play came after a heady scramble by Matt Ryan. Still, the Buccaneers have a receiver who draws extra attention in Evans and several tight ends who could exploit an open seam. One is Brate, a former undrafted free agent who is now a bona fide NFL weapon, tying for the league lead in touchdowns among tight ends last year.

Bears RB Tarik Cohen vs. Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith
Cohen, a fourth-round draft pick out of an FCS school (North Carolina A&T), was one of the most impressive rookies to introduce himself in Week One. Cohen had 113 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown plus 45 more yards on three punt returns. So, who's responsibility will he be in the Bucs' defense? Take your pick. The Bears lined Cohen up in the backfield, in the slot and split out wide, and he made big plays from all those spots, alternately matching up against corners, safeties and linebackers. So it will be a full-team effort to slow down the Bears' "Human Joystick," and the Bucs will surely prepare for him throughout the week. It's the Bucs' D-Coordinator, Smith, who will design and direct those efforts to stop Cohen.

Bears QB Mike Glennon vs. Buccaneers LB Lavonte David
Glennon had a fine debut for Chicago, completing 26 of 40 passes for 213 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in a narrow loss to the Falcons. Glennon came to the Bears after four years in Tampa, and if any Buccaneer remembers his game well it's David, who was drafted by Tampa Bay one year before the former N.C. State passer. The two were fellow starters in 2013 and 2014, when Glennon opened a total of 18 games for Tampa Bay. Glennon absorbed 56 sacks in that span, and he was dropped four more times in the opener. The Buccaneers could choose to use David more as a pass-rusher this year after he had five sacks last year. Glennon also relieved heavily on passes to backs and tight ends in the opener, which will surely draw David into coverage frequently.

Bears T Charles Leno vs. Buccaneers DE Noah Spence
Tampa Bay teammates have been predicting a breakout season for Spence, a 2016 second-round pick, for months and now he'll get his chance to begin proving them right. Spence had 5.5 sacks as a rookie and will be part of a deep end rotation, likely playing on most obvious passing downs. That will match him up at times with Leno, who was the only Bears lineman to stay on the field for every offensive snap last season. He took a big step forward in 2016 after struggling somewhat the year before, and that resulted in a contract extension from Chicago before this season. He will need to be quick on his feet to contain Spence, who is adept at quickly bending past slower blockers.