Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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5 Bucs to Watch Against Los Angeles

You can probably guess two guys on this list pretty easily, but here are a few players to watch as the Bucs travel to LA to take on the Rams this Sunday.


1. DT Ndamukong Suh

Well, this is obvious. Suh was a member of the opposition just last year when the Rams went on their Super Bowl run and won the NFC Championship. He played right alongside Bucs Public Enemy No. 1 in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He also got familiar with the Rams' innovative offense under Head Coach Sean McVay. How much Suh can actually reveal about his old team is anyone's guess, but it affords him a lot of familiarity with the offensive line he'll be up against.

Suh has yet to register a sack this season, but he's been instrumental in opening up opportunities for guys like Shaq Barrett - more on him later. Suh has been close himself to bringing down the quarterback but he's eating up blockers at the line and commanding double teams, which is exactly what's needed of him. What better time to actually get to the quarterback than against your former team?

2. RB Ronald Jones

Speaking of familiarity, the second-year running back will be playing in familiar territory, too – as in, in his alma mater's stadium. While the Rams await the completion of their new stadium, they are playing at the Los Angeles Coliseum, home to the USC Trojans. Jones had a decorated career while with USC. He rushed for 1,550 yards during his junior season in 2017 and scored 19 touchdowns on the ground. He totaled 3,619 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns throughout his three-year Trojan career. Suffice it to say, Jones is used to success inside the Coliseum.

He's also enjoyed success so far this season. Jones is coming off his best game yet as a Buccaneer, getting 80 yards on 14 carries at home against the Giants. He also added 41 yards receiving on a screen pass from Winston that he carried most of the way for 121 total yards from scrimmage. The Bucs are committing to their ground game more and more, striking a balance with the passing game. In fact, Tampa Bay has the eighth-best rushing offense in the league, one spot behind Todd Gurley and the Rams. The Bucs, and Jones, will be looking for that same balance against the league's third-best defense on Sunday, as well.

3. TE O.J. Howard

Wide receiver Mike Evans may have taken over the game against the Giants, but Howard had the second-most receiving yards of the day, nabbing three receptions for 66 yards. It included a 30-yard catch in the second quarter that got the Bucs inside the red zone to the New York Giants 12-yard line. It ended up leading to three points for the Bucs.

With wide receiver Chris Godwin not practicing until Friday and his status for Sunday's game a 'game-time' decision, according to Coach Arians, I'd look for Howard to have a breakout game as he picks up some of the workload.

4. DT Vita Vea

Offensively, quarterback Jared Goff has a pretty good group of receivers, it's true. But the offense is heavily driven by running back Todd Gurley out of the backfield. Gurley has 203 rushing yards this season and the Bucs' defensive front will be relied on heavily to stop him from adding to that number too much. Vea is a guy that's done well in run defense so far this season. He's had six assisted tackles – the most of anyone on the front. He's also been a factor in the passing game, getting the second-most pressures of the quarterback on the team with 5.0. He's also got three quarterback hits and two hurries, which is the best of any interior lineman.

His impact is a little harder to qualify given the subjectivity of stats like run stuffs or even pressures like we mentioned here. The production of the outside guys like Barrett and even Nassib though can be directly attributed to the help of Vea and Suh taking on more than their fair share of blockers on the interior, leaving the outside guys with one-on-one matchups that they're taking advantage of. However, against a team that runs as much as the Rams, watch for Vea to have a big impact there against Gurley and Co.

5. OLB Shaq Barrett

Ok, yeah, about Barrett. After he followed up a three-sack performance with a four-sack, two forced fumble performance last week, I just want to see what he does next. That's all.

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