1. DL Will Gholston
Let's start this off with a bang. Saints' quarterback Taysom Hill hasn't ever had more than 300 passing yards or more than three passing touchdowns in a game. New Orleans has the 29th-ranked passing offense, averaging just 197.9 yards through the air per game. Last week, they had a season-high 203 rushing yards in their win against Jacksonville.
Long story, short: these guys are going to try to run the ball. They have to. This is just the second game all season where both Hill and running back Alvin Kamara will play at the same time and guess what? Kamara is going to have to shoulder a lot of the load. That means it will be up to the Bucs' run defense to live up to their reputation. They have a little extra incentive to do so after allowing Bills quarterback Josh Allen to rush for over 100 yards on the ground. Cornerback Richard Sherman, who is doubtful headed into Sunday's game, said on Wednesday that there is an understanding throughout the defense they can't let something like that happen again. They'll get an opportunity to prove that right away this week and Gholston, though more effective at getting to the quarterback than you might think, is a cornerstone of the Bucs' run defense. Therefore the onus falls on him and the entire defensive interior to make sure the Saints don't get a ground game going. If they do that, the likelihood that Hill can outscore the league's top-scoring offense with his arm is very slim.
2. ILB Devin White
What makes Kamara so dangerous is his ability to get the ball in space and get to the outside. So while the defensive interior is taking care of just that, it'll likely fall on White and perhaps Lavonte David to keep Kamara in check on the outside.
That works out because White does well against his hometown team. He's never had less than 10 tackles when playing the Saints. In Week 8, White had 10 combined tackles, six of which were solo and added a quarterback hit. Another performance on par with the others would be welcomed against Kamara.
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
3. WR Mike Evans
Evans is always a player to watch against New Orleans for the sheer fact he is matched up with Marshon Lattimore every time. It's an ongoing battle between the two and after getting the better of Evans in 2020, Evans finally got the better of him in Week Eight, even if the Bucs didn't ultimately end up with the win.
It isn't a secret that this is how the Saints attack Evans. Lattimore covered him on 65.1% of coverage snaps in their last meeting. In the Divisional Round of the 2020 playoffs, Lattimore was on Evans for 75% of coverage snaps. In three games in 2020, Evans had just three receiving yards and a touchdown when being covered by Lattimore. But the last meeting, Evans had 48 receiving yards and one of his most impressive touchdowns of the year on Lattimore. It's interesting – Lattimore has the best forced incompletion rate when in press coverage, letting receivers catch just 35.7% of targets when he's in press. That being said, his 4-0 touchdown to interception ratio in press coverage ranks last in the league. That last performance by Evans fits that almost to a T. Evans was targeted just four times and caught just two of those targets. But he scored a 41-yard touchdown on one of those catches.
I don't know that Evans will get a lot of work, but apparently that doesn't prevent him from having scoring production. I wouldn't think he gets the 115 yards he needs to get to 1,000 on the season this game – but the good news is he has three more games after Sunday to get there.
3a. WR Chris Godwin
A guy who might see more of the work but less of the scoring production is Godwin – who is quietly having one of the best seasons of any wide receiver in the league right now. Godwin has already surpassed 1,000 yards on the season, sits at second in receptions with 92 and fourth in receiving yards with 1,054 league-wide. Perhaps more people aren't talking about him because he has only five touchdowns. But his impact on the Bucs' offense can't be overstated.
Last time the Bucs played the Saints, Godwin had eight receptions for 140 yards and did actually get in the end zone there. Coming into this game, Godwin has had double-digit receptions in the last two games, going over 100 receiving yards in each. And he's as reliable as they come. He has a 76.7% catch rate this season – the second best of his career. So while the Saints are worried about Evans, that may leave Godwin free to go up and down the field and get the Bucs' offense in some favorable scoring positions, whether Godwin gets to finish the job or not. If that isn't the definition of unselfish, I don't know what is.
5. OLBs Shaq Barrett, JPP & Joe Tryon
Friday brought the news that both the Saints' starting tackles, Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, were ruled out for Sunday's game so… yeah…
Also, Barrett is 1.0 sack away from double digits on the season. Methinks he's got a pretty good shot at that now.