The Buccaneers are heading into the Los Angeles to play the Rams for the second time in two seasons yet amazingly, it will be quarterback Tom Brady's first time in his 22-year career playing an NFL game in Los Angeles. He told the media on Thursday that he'll have a lot of friends and family in attendance at the brand-new SoFi Stadium, and if he happens to attempt to show off a little bit, I'm not sure anyone would notice considering he's already on an offensive tear through the first two games of the season.
He's always a player to watch so I decided to name a few more players not named Brady that you also might want to keep an eye on as the Bucs take on the Rams at 4:25 p.m. ET.
1. WR Chris Godwin
The absence of Antonio Brown could mean more targets for guys like Godwin and Mike Evans, along with some younger receivers like Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson. Heck, Bruce Arians said Friday he was looking forward to rookie Jaelon Darden making his NFL debut. Whether he means in the kick return game with Jaydon Mickens' absence or on offense is unclear. But either way, with one less mouth to feed, it could open up an opportunity for Godwin, who has had what you may call success against the Rams the last two years.
In two career games against Los Angeles, Godwin has 19 catches, three of which are touchdowns and incredibly, 16 of which were first downs. He averages 112.5 yards per game and the Bucs, along with my fantasy team, will be looking for him to have that kind of production again.
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
2. TE Rob Gronkowski
I had the thought the other day in practice that we in Tampa really haven't seen the true capability of the Brady-Gronk connection until perhaps this year. Last season, with Gronk coming out of retirement and getting used to a brand-new system, he took a while to get acclimated. He was a 'blocking tight end' after all. This year, it's very apparent he's used to his environment and his stats show it.
He's had two touchdowns in each of his last three games dating back to last season's Super Bowl, tying a league record for tight ends. He could break it with two or more touchdowns against the Rams. It means, he already has four touchdowns this season. It took him until Week 10 to get there last year. Him and Brady are also inching closer to eclipsing Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison's all-time touchdown connections record. Manning and Harrison have 114 all-time touchdown connections, including playoffs. Brady and Gronk are currently at 102. And the way they're going, they need just six more games to get there. That continues in Los Angeles.
3. OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
Arians announced Friday that the Bucs would be without outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, who is battling hand and shoulder injuries. It means that the rookie will get significantly more work, along with third-year outside linebacker Anthony Nelson. Tryon-Shoyinka has been hovering right around a quarter of the team's defensive snaps through two games, added into specific defensive packages and rotating with JPP and Shaq Barrett. Now, he'll likely get the start opposite Barrett and perhaps, *crosses fingers*, get his first NFL sack on Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.
That'll be a tall order considering through two games, Stafford is one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the league. The Rams' offensive line has let up just two sacks so far. But Stafford has about a 50% completion rate under pressure, so getting him off his mark will be key for this Bucs team.
4. DT Ndamukong Suh
A guy who could potentially help a lot with that is Suh, who has a very unique understanding of the Rams as a whole – starting with Stafford, himself. Suh was in Detroit for five years with Stafford as his quarterback. Later in his career, he was then with the Rams on their defense that went all the way to the Super Bowl in 2018… only to get beat by Suh's current quarterback.
The NFL is a small world, isn't it?
Suh will likely know nuances of Stafford's play and it could give him an edge to get past this Rams' o-line to get to his former quarterback. Plus, Suh does well against his former team. The last time the Bucs visited the Rams, granted it was in The Coliseum, but Suh recovered a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown. That was fun. Let's do that again.
5. CB Carlton Davis
The Bucs' secondary will have a tall task in containing the Rams' passing attack and especially players like wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Los Angeles is averaging 291.0 yards per game through the air, giving them the seventh-best passing offense in the league. They are, however, fifth in points scored so far this season. So, they're efficient. Shutting down their receivers will be key for a pass-heavy team.
The good news is that the Bucs' back end has settled in a bit more after losing cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting to Injured Reserve after the season opener. The roles are more defined with cornerback Ross Cockrell coming in for Murphy-Bunting and a rotation of safeties and nickel corners. That should leave Davis able to do his job and he'll be looking to add to his interception total now that safety Mike Edwards surpassed him with two pick sixes last game.
Come to think of it, Edwards might be a good one to look out for, too this week. Just keep your eyes on the back level.