Tom Brady and the Buccaneers will take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Sunday's home opener at Raymond James Stadium. Let the battle of the bays commence. Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET on September 25. Both clubs are contenders in the NFC and will aim to remain atop the pecking order in the Week Three clash. Sunday will mark the first time the two franchises have met since the Divisional Round Game in 2020, where Tampa Bay usurped the Packers in the Frozen Tundra on their way to winning Super Bowl LV. This time around, both teams have undergone roster changes. There are many highly-anticipated matchups and individual performances that could weigh heavily on the final score. Here is a closer look at five Buccaneers to observe on Sunday.
Through two games in 2022, Shaquil Barrett already has 11 pressures, in addition to two sacks and a forced fumble tallied during the Bucs' Week Two victory over the Saints. He has established himself as one of the league's best pass rushers, utilizing creative pass rush moves to bypass offensive tackles. Barrett has a vast array of moves in his arsenal, including a lethal spin and cross-chop to out-leverage the opposition. He is relentless in pursuit of the football and on Sunday, he will see a lot of Packers' tackle Elgton Jenkins. Jenkins missed half of Green Bay's 2021 season due to a torn ACL but returned in Week Two against the Bears, playing every snap at right tackle. Although Jenkins allowed several pressures and a sack last week, he comes with an impressive resume and versatile skillset. With length (34" arms), Jenkins can effectively counter speed and power. Thus far in 2022, Barrett has proved to be as dominant as ever and will be one to monitor at Raymond James Stadium.
In April, the Buccaneers selected Logan Hall with the first pick of the second round (number 33 overall) after trading down from their initial spot at 27 in the first round. At 6'6, 283 pounds, Hall brings desired length and athleticism to the Bucs' interior. He was a versatile defender at Houston, lining up all across their front, but has worked predominately at the three-technique spot since arriving in Tampa Bay. Against the Saints, starting defensive lineman Akiem Hicks exited the game with a foot injury and did not return. On Monday, Head Coach Todd Bowles commented on the severity of the injury, stating Hicks is "banged-up pretty good." He will miss time, ushering in an opportunity for Hall to contribute. With impressive leg drive, relentless motor and violent first punch, Hall can bolster the interior. As he continues to acclimate to the NFL level, his ceiling will rise. Co-Defensive Coordinator Kacy Rodgers spoke on Hall's progression. "The thing with him is he just keeps growing. The veterans keep commenting and we think it's really getting close to starting to click for him. We can see his rep count going up and he's really hungry, you know what I'm saying. Especially now with Akiem [Hicks] down, his jump has got to come faster."
"Next man up" may be an overused saying in the football world but the sentiment rings true. Just three weeks into the 2022 NFL season, the Buccaneers find themselves with a depleted receiving corps. Mike Evans is suspended for this weekend's NFC battle and neither Chris Godwin nor Julio Jones have practiced this week. Breshad Perriman will be called upon to step up. Against New Orleans in Week Two, Perriman showed his craftmanship by catching a 28-yard touchdown pass that broke a 3-3 tie at Caesars Superdome. With the capability of lining up across the formation, Perriman presents a big target for Tom Brady, one that can box out defenders. With top-end speed and change-of-direction agility, Perriman can elevate the Bucs' passing game. He will have the challenging task of going up against one of the league's elite cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander. In 2020, opposing No. 1 receivers combined for just 14 receptions and 143 yards against Alexander – a noteworthy feat. Although injuries derailed his productive career in 2021, Alexander remains a constant threat at taking the ball away. He can mirror-and-match receivers on routes, preventing separation. Perriman will be tested on Sunday, garnering attention.
Robert Hainsey will draw a unique challenge on Sunday, going up against Packers' nose tackle Kenny Clark. Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen went down with a knee injury on the second day of Bucs' training camp, inviting speculation on the strength of Tampa Bay's interior in his absence. Through the first two games of the season, second-year man Hainsey has held his own and more. Clark, a 6-3, 314-pound menace, stuns blockers off the snap with speed and hand-strength. He is impressive in one-on-one matchups, causing offensive coordinators fits up the middle. Clark can take over a game and Hainsey faces a steep task in Sunday's home opener. "This week it's a very different front, but great pass-rushers, one of the best inside players we'll face all year, Kenny Clark; Preston Smith and Rashan Gary are great rushers," Brady stated. "Again, it's another big challenge but we've got to meet it. Every week it's something different. In the NFL, it's tough. Every week you're going against somebody's best and, yeah, you've just got to try to figure out a way."
For the Packers, running back Aaron Jones has powered their offensive attack. He has rushed for 181 yards and has averaged a jaw-dropping 9.1 yards per carry through two games. Jones also presents an upside as a pass-catcher, tying for the team lead in receptions. With elusiveness in the open field, Jones finds hidden yardage. He possesses stellar vision at the line of scrimmage and out in space. With the Packers' revamped receiving corps. as Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs work to engender the trust of Aaron Rodgers, Jones will be the focal point of their offense. Lavonte David along with fellow linebacker teammate, Devin White, will take center stage is containing Jones. David has established himself as one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL, in addition to his sideline-to-sideline range. He is a textbook tackler, wrapping up ball carriers and is stout in man against running backs – a resume that will serve him well on Sunday. Green Bay has utilized Jones in a variety of ways to complement his shiftiness including edge runs and screens, with blockers paving the way via crack backs and pulls. David will play a crucial role on Sunday for Tampa Bay.