Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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5 Bucs to Watch Against Miami

The Buccaneers will welcome the Dolphins to town for the first time since 2013 but there are a few players on Tampa Bay's roster that are more than familiar with the Bucs' in-state rivals.

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The Miami Dolphins come to town to take on the Buccaneers and their top-ranked passing attack on Sunday. Tampa Bay is also scoring the fifth-most points this year, averaging 30.5 per game. Contrast that with the Dolphins, who have the 30th ranked passing offense and are averaging just 15.5 points a game, which is the second-fewest in the league. It will also be quarterback Jacoby Brissett leading the way for Miami. He's in for the injured Tua Tagovailoa. He's come a long way from being a rookie in New England, backing up current Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.

That isn't the only familiar face Brady will see on the opposite sideline. And Brady isn't the only familiar face some of the Dolphins will see on the Buccaneers' side.

Here are a few players to watch as the Buccaneers return home on Sunday for their matchup with the Miami Dolphins at 1 p.m. ET.

1. DT Ndamukong Suh

Not only did Suh spend three seasons in Miami, in the twice he's played them as a member of another team, he's been extremely productive.

Suh has 2.0 sacks, four quarterback hits, four tackles for loss and a forced fumble against his former team. When the Dolphins come to town it will actually be the second time in three weeks Suh will have played a team he was once a member of – Suh was also with the Rams for a year in Los Angeles. More than just coincidence or a fun fact, that means Suh will have some familiarity with the Bucs' opponent, though said familiarity is waning when it comes to Miami. Head Coach Brian Flores didn't arrive until after Suh was already gone so it's not likely he'll be the one with any insight for the Bucs there.

This season though, Suh has been relatively quiet on the sack front. He has just one through four games and it came against the Falcons the last time the Bucs were at home. Here's to hoping he can do that again in front of the home crowd.

2. QB Tom Brady

Someone who likely will be able to provide some insight into the Dolphins this week is once again quarterback Tom Brady. Not only has he played the Dolphins a total of 35 times thanks to sharing a division with Miami for 20 years, Flores was formerly with the Patriots as both an assistant coach and defensive play caller.

On Thursday, Brady estimated he had gone against Flores and his defense in practice as many as 1,500 times when the pair were in New England. That means for the second week in a row, Brady will have a really good idea what the opposing defense is going to try to do against him. It seemed to pay off in the chess match that was last week.

So far this season, the Dolphins are blitzing the most of any team at a 40.9% clip. Though Brady seems to be unaffected by it. Since 2019, he's been pressured by a Dolphins' blitz exactly zero times, according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats. Overall this season, Brady is actually the least-pressured quarterback when facing the blitz at all, getting pressured at a rate of just 13.6% when facing five or more rushers.

And though Brady owns a winning record over the Dolphins – as he does against every NFL franchise – he has also lost to them double the amount of times he's lost to anyone else. In fact, the last time Brady faced the Dolphins in 2019, he lost by a field goal in Week 17. It was his last regular-season game as a Patriot.

All that being said, he has a 23-12 record against Miami. Not to mention, he has good team juju on his side. The Dolphins haven't won in Tampa since 1988. That bodes well for the Buccaneers' chances I'd say.

3. CB Richard Sherman

Arians said Friday that he isn't much concerned with how many passing yards the defense lets up so long as they don't let up points. That was the case in last Sunday's win over the Patriots where the Bucs may have let up 320 passing yards but they only yielded a total of 17 points.

That's pretty darn good when you have an offense as potent as Tampa Bay's.

But there's still room for improvement in the aspect of pass defense and a guy who is by default tasked with leading that improvement given his veteran status is Sherman – despite the fact he only got here a week ago. Sherman played all but one defensive snap against the Pats after participating in just three practices with the team. With a couple weeks of practice and that game under his belt – it'll be interesting to see how much he improves week to week. He certainly has the study habits already judging from the scouting report he gave on Miami Wednesday.

"We'll communicate and go over the indicators and the keys and find spots where we can find success with this offense," said Sherman of the Dolphins this past Wednesday. "They're doing things a little different with [Jacoby] Brissett under center than they were with Tua [Tagovailoa]. They were running a little more RPO (run-pass option) and they still try to do some of the RPO stuff with Brissett, but not as much. It's really about just being detailed, understanding your indicators and trusting them."

The Dolphins have actually struggled overall to advance the ball through the air this season. They're averaging just 173.8 passing yards per game, which ranks 30th in the league.

View some of the top photos from Buccaneers practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

4. OLB Jason Pierre-Paul

And that's if quarterback Jacoby Brissett, in for the injured Tua Tagovailoa, can even get the ball out. Miami has allowed 13.0 sacks through four games this season, which is the third-most in the league. On top of that, they'll be coming into Tampa to face a Buccaneer pass rush that is returning Pierre-Paul, according to Arians on Friday. After missing the last two games with injury, Pierre-Paul practiced in a limited capacity all week and Arians said he'll be 'ready to roll' on Sunday.

This comes as the Bucs seemed to find their groove again last Sunday against the Patriots. Pierre-Paul's fill-in and fellow hyphenated last-namer, rookie Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, managed not only his first NFL sack, but his second, as well. Tampa Bay had a total of four sacks in the game and hit New England quarterback Mac Jones 12 times.

The Bucs were also their most aggressive blitz-wise against the Patriots last week, bringing five or more rushers on over 40% of opponent dropbacks. The increased commitment to the run on offense last week afforded the defense a little more rest, making it easier for them to stay aggressive even with the rash of injuries they had on all different levels. Returning Pierre-Paul will also allow the Bucs to stay more aggressive thanks to a bolstered edge rotation that includes him, Tryon-Shoyinka, Shaq Barrett and Anthony Nelson.

That bodes very well for Tampa Bay regardless of how much they decide to run the ball – and decidedly less so for Brissett and the Miami offense.

5. RB Leonard Fournette

Speaking of the Buccaneers' ground game, keep an eye on how involved Fournette is on Sunday. He rushed for a season-high 91 yards on 20 carries against the Patriots as the Bucs tallied 119 total rushing yards in the 19-17 win. Fournette also added three catches for 47 yards on the night in an absolute workhorse performance.

We'll see if he can do it again against a Miami defense that ranks 27th against the run, letting up an average of 136.8 rushing yards per game.

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