I have a feeling picking players to watch each week isn't ever going to get any easier. There are so many playmakers that could go off at any moment, much like the cannons inside Raymond James Stadium, where the Bucs will be for the first time in 2020 on Sunday.
I'd like to make an honorable mention of wide receiver Mike Evans in addition to the below list. We don't know for certain, but with wide receiver Chris Godwin in concussion protocol, if he doesn't play, that should up Evans' role and responsibility considerably while giving other players some more work, as well. Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich say which players may step up for Godwin on Thursday, but there will definitely be more targets to distribute without Godwin on the field.
See below for some more Buccaneers to
keep an eye on as they take on the Carolina Panthers at home on Sunday at 1:00
p.m. on FOX.
1. ILB Devin White
White tied for the team lead in tackles on Sunday with Lavonte David. They each had 11 and it was White's third such game in just 14 career appearances. The Buccaneers faced a formidable dual-threat running back in Alvin Kamara and they'll get no reprieve with Christian McCaffrey and Carolina coming to town. And just like with Kamara, a lot of the responsibility for containing McCaffrey will fall on the inside linebackers. White said he even looks forward to being able to handle players like them and takes pride in the fact that as a linebacker, he's fast enough to cover them.
He used the example of the Las Vegas Raiders, who played Carolina in Week One. The Raiders put a safety on McCaffrey to try and keep up with him, therefore sacrificing some run support or perhaps even some help for their corners in the process. By having White (a linebacker) out there covering McCaffrey, it allows you more flexibility with your secondary and formation. You could stay in your base package keeping all three interior linemen up front or you have the entirety of your secondary available in sub packages to patrol the rest of the field and/or skill players. The Bucs were able to shut CMC down last season and they'll aim to do it again this year with White being one of the guys to lead the way.
2. RB Ronald Jones
On Sunday, we saw flashes of Jones' capability when he broke off a couple long runs, including a 21-yard scamper in the third quarter that got the Bucs comfortably into Saints' territory.
As a whole though, coaches following the game still wanted more out of the run game even if Jones had one of his best games as a Buc. Jones will be looking to expound on last week's performance and make the Bucs running game happen against a Panthers defense that let up a hat trick to Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs last week and 133 yards total on the ground.
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Week 2 practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
3. OLBs Shaq Barrett and JPP
Carolina may have a different quarterback under center this year with Teddy Bridgewater but he's still mobile and absolutely a running threat like his predecessor. Keeping him contained in the pocket and forcing him to throw the ball rather than use his legs will be key, and bookends Barrett and Pierre-Paul will be the ones tasked with doing that.
Pierre-Paul was the only one last week to register a sack. Granted, Saints quarterback Drew Brees is routinely among the least sacked in the league due to his ridiculous release time and competent offensive line. Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles specifically listed getting to the quarterback, both in pressure and in sacks, as an area he's looking for improvement in as the season goes on. Who better to do that than 2019's sack leader and an 11-year vet?
4. QB Tom Brady
I'll resist the urge to just say 'duh' on this and instead talk about the fact that Brady is so laser-focused on winning this week, it might actually be a little frightening. Not that he isn't focused every other week, but he's now finally taken the field with his new team and we know a little bit more of what to realistically expect as he and his receivers get to know each other. That will be on display every week but perhaps even more so as he attempts to bounce back from a loss and a maybe less than Brady-like performance.
This will also be the first time Brady dons a Buccaneer uniform inside Raymond James Stadium and although there won't be fans there to see it, the cannons will still be firing for this Brady-led offense. Here's to hoping fans hear them all the way at home.
5. ILB Lavonte David
I said last week in the quest for recognition of the league's best off-ball linebacker that I would put him on this list every week in order to keep him in the conversation. David led the Bucs in tackles with 11 and had two of Tampa Bay's nine tackles for loss, yet have we heard his name this week?
The answer is not really. The defense's performance overall has gotten largely overlooked in favor of offensive overreactions (and I mean that both ways). David led an effort that kept Kamara to a career-low 1.3 yard-per-carry average, kept the Saints under 100 yards on the ground and with the second-lowest yard-per-play average, gaining just 4.1 yards at a time overall. The secondary and cornerback Carlton Davis also shutdown Michael Thomas, who caught just three passes for 17 yards. But this is about David. Maybe him and White going against McCaffrey at home will raise more eyebrows should they shut him and another division offense down.