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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Bucs to Watch Against the Bears in Week 2

The Buccaneers will face the Bears in their 2023 home opener and here are five players to watch

Cade Otton 5 BUcs Wk 2

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open their 2023 home gauntlet with a visit from the Chicago Bears. Rushing threat Justin Fields and company will visit Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, September 17, sparking a battle on the grass. Coming off a 20-17 victory over the Vikings in Week One, the Bucs will vie for their third-straight 2-0 start to a season. After a 3-14 season in 2022 and a loss to the Packers in Week One, the Bears will look for redemption on Sunday in Tampa Bay. The Bucs will strive to claim their first home win against their former NFC Central division foe and there are several matchups and individual performances that could weigh heavily on the outcome of the Bucs-Bears clash in Week 2. Here is an in-depth look at five Buccaneers to observe on Sunday afternoon.

Antoine Winfield Jr.

Justin Fields is an escape artist with shiftiness in space. For the Bucs' defense on Sunday, controlling rushes, effectively setting the edge and staying disciplined in run fits will be key in facing the Bears' dual-threat. Fields is one of the best dynamic rushing quarterbacks in the NFL. He is shifty in the open field and makes people miss. He accumulated 1,143 yards in 15 games last season, averaging 7.1 yards per tote - That was the second-highest rushing total by a quarterback in NFL history, ahead of Michael Vick's best season. His speed and improvisation is something you cannot simulate with the scout team. Fields' run ability keeps defensive coordinators up at night and the threat of the quarterback run, forces the defense to defend another gap. Who else has the capability of pump-faking, tucking he ball, running 20 miles per hour and evading tacklers left and right? Fields is an anomaly. He reached 20 miles per hour on nine different runs in 2022, only one fewer than the league leader in that category, Tyreek Hill. He keeps defenses honest and slowing Fields down will be a full-team effort, but Bucs' safety Antoine Winfield Jr. will likely play a pivotal role in containing Fields because of his burst downhill and understanding of pursuit leverage and angles in the open field. Winfield is a hard-hitter and possesses elite play recognition skills. He reverted back to his previous role at free safety in 2023, so he will have his eyes glued to the quarterback most of the time when he is lined up at centerfield. Because of his physicality and blitz prowess, Winfield will also likely be placed in the box during the game. Winfield had a sack and two quarterback hits against the Vikings and forced a fumble by Kirk Cousins. Fields will exploit an open lane created by over-pursuit, but Winfield could be a pivotal cog in limiting Fields' effectiveness on the ground in Week Two.

Cade Otton/Rachaad White

Tremaine Edmunds, the former Bill's linebacker, signed with the Bears in March, adding to their flurry of offseason moves. He is highly-touted for his coverage ability, allowing just 4.4 yards per target as the nearest defender in 2022 – the lowest mark among all NFL off-ball linebackers. Edmunds can mirror running backs and tight ends in man coverage and has the lateral quickness to scrape and flow to meet rushers in space. He is a textbook tackler and can take unconventional angles with high-level athleticism and Edmunds has the closing burst to disrupt the pocket as an edge rusher. The Bears allowed 50 yards on three catches to Packers' tight end Luke Musgrave in Week One, so Cade Otton could see some opportunities over the middle of the field if Chicago is in a two-high shell. Otton became a threat underneath in his rookie year, separating from coverage at the break point. He is a friendly target for Mayfield that can box out defenders and Rachaad White, the club's featured back, can run a complex route tree. White is underrated as a pass catcher and also has a great feel for blocking schemes whether it is mid-zone, outside or duo. He is able to stay on the field on third down with his blocking ability in pass protection and White could meet Edmunds in a one-on-one situation in the trenches. White can stack cuts when maneuvering around linebackers and on Sunday, that will be beneficial to generate a balanced attack.

Tristan Wirfs

As mentioned above, Tremaine Edmunds can fly sideline-to-sideline, so second-level blocking is going to be crucial for the Bucs' offensive line to create seams and elongate rush lanes. Tristan Wirfs mentioned that the Bears "pirate their ends quite a lot," which is essentially an inside slant. In that instance, the defensive end crashes inside in an effort to free up the defensive tackle who loops around. The defensive end then occupies the offensive tackle and guard, trying to keep them from being in position to pick up the defensive tackle who is wrapping around. Come Sunday, the Bucs' offensive line is going to have to pass off double teams and convert in those situations. There will be a lot of movement up front, but Wirfs is tailor made for it. Wirfs is an effortless mover in space with smooth agility and loose hips. He can slide with the best edge rushers and his short-area quickness will undoubtedly make an impact on Sunday. Wirfs sets the tone up front with quickness out of his stance and above-average technique at the line of scrimmage.

Devin White

Against the Vikings, Devin White spearheaded the charge with a team-high 12 tackles. He effectively limited Minnesota's bootlegs, screens and options out of the flat. He tackled with vigor in a vintage Week One performance. Not many linebackers can stick their foot in the ground, survey, pivot, flip the hips and flow to the opposite end of the field to drop a rusher in his tracks but White is one of the few. With the Bears' three-headed monster in the backfield including Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman and Roschon Johnson, plus Justin Fields on the ground, White will play a critical role.

"The biggest thing is all three of them can break tackles," Todd Bowles described. "They're not just bruiser runners, they have great agility. They all can block on third down and pass block, they can catch the ball out of the backfield and they're very stout in protection. Depending on which one is in there, it isn't going to make much of a difference – they keep all of them fresh. We've got to make sure we rally to the ball."

White's quick trigger, burst to close and ability to move from gap to gap to track rushers bouncing outside will come into focus on Sunday against the Bears' ground attack.

Chris Godwin

Chris Godwin iced the victory against the Vikings in Week One. The Bucs needed to gain a first down in order to kneel and run out the remainder of the clock. Baker Mayfield put his back foot in the ground and let it fly to Godwin, who was running an out-route. Godwin lunged for the ball and made a sensational catch with his fingertips. He got both feet in bounds for an 11-yard gain, securing the win. That play not only dictated the outcome of the contest but could potentially mark a turning point for Tampa Bay this season. Godwin made several contested grabs during the 2023 opener, contributing five receptions for 51 yards, extending his streak to 15 consecutive games with five-or-more receptions. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving marker in 2022 and hit a career-high 104 catches. Godwin displays tremendous body control and a knack for getting open. Last season, the Bears ranked 17th in the league in pass defense, allowing 218.6 yards per game on average. With rare contact balance, Godwin is a menace for defenses after the catch. If the ball lands in Godwin's vicinity, generally, it is his. On Sunday, Godwin will look to put on a show in front of the Bucs' faithful at Raymond James Stadium.

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