Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Bucs to Watch Against Chicago

There are some key matchups you’re going to want to watch as the league’s best offense takes on one of the league’s top-ranked defenses when the Buccaneers visit Chicago on Sunday.

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1. T Demar Dotson

You had to know this one was coming. Chicago's defense, their front seven in particular, has been reminiscent of those famed 1980's Bears teams as of late. Currently, their strength lies heavily with the linebackers, and of course one outside linebacker in particular: Khalil Mack. He's one of those 'game-wrecking' players coaches talk about and Dot will presumably be the one tapped to contain him for most of the game. Mack usually lines up on the left side of the defense, meaning right side of the offensive line, making the right tackle the one primarily responsible for stopping him in his quest for the quarterback. Dot is a seasoned veteran in his 10th year and there isn't a lot he hasn't seen. Still, combatting an edge rusher like Mack will be a challenge and Dot will have to use his size to prevent Mack from bending around to get to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bucs may also get Dot some help in the form of tight ends O.J. Howard or Cameron Brate in certain max protection situations. Either way, it will be a key matchup for the success of the Bucs' offense.

2. WR Chris Godwin

The second-year receiver has caught touchdown passes in each of his last four games, tying the franchise record for most consecutive games with such a play. He could break the record with one more in Chicago and he may have a good opportunity to do that. The Bears' secondary is hurting with injuries. They have two cornerbacks that have missed practice the past two days, including starting corner Prince Amukamara. With less experienced help to go around, even if Chicago's secondary manages to get a handle on receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, the odds that they'll also be able to account for Godwin are slim. It could mean the first breakout game of the season for him if the Tampa Bay offense can stay as hot as they've been through the past three games.

3. LB Lavonte David

While the Bears have a relatively inexperienced passer under center in Mitch Trubisky, they have a running back tandem that more than complements him. Not only that, but Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard complement each other. Howard is more your run-up-the-middle guy, while Cohen is dangerous if you let him get to the outside and is one of those hybrid backs, often be seen lining up in the slot. It'll be up to the Bucs' linebackers to help contain them, especially Cohen and Lavonte David should lead the charge. David has nine combined tackles in each game so far this season for the Bucs. He hasn't made any splash plays necessarily, but he's the guy that flies (literally) under the radar and is always there when you need him. Come Sunday, the Bucs will need him to help continue the Bucs' run-stopping efforts that have been pretty effective thus far.

4. S Jordan Whitehead

Safety Chris Conte was placed on IR after Monday night's in which he departed early. It was rookie safety Jordan Whitehead that helped fill the void in a second half where the Buccaneers shut out the league's second-best offense in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whitehead had gotten a few snaps here and there through the first couple of games but expect him to be a major contributor on Sunday in Chicago. He'll join fellow draft classmates Carlton Davis III and M.J. Stewart in the Bucs' secondary rotation that includes second-year safety Justin Evans and veteran cornerback Brent Grimes. The good news is that Chicago's passing attack ranks 28th in the league behind the inexperienced Mitchell Trubisky. While seeing your first major action on the road in a tough environment is never easy, it might end up being a chance for Whitehead to really shine.  

5. C Ryan Jensen

The Khalil Mack domino effect is perhaps even more dangerous than Mack himself. That's where Jensen and the rest of the offensive line comes in. If you worry too much about Mack, you'll miss the likes of linebackers Leonard Floyd or Danny Trevathan. Focus too much on that middle level and defensive end Akiem Hicks is already through your line and into your quarterback. Both Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick acknowledged on Thursday that the Bears' defense was good before Mack and is very sound schematically. Chicago runs a 3-4 base defense, marking the second 3-4 team the Bucs will face in consecutive weeks. As such, it requires a little bit more communication among the offensive line, according to Coach Monken. Up front, Jensen will have to deal with any combination of Chicago's three linemen or blitzing linebackers when protecting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bears may be a challenge up front for Jensen, but what's a 'Monster of the Midway' to Tampa Bay nasty?

View photos from the Buccaneers' practice Thursday at AdventHealth Training Center.

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