1. DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Duh. We’ve spent the past week talking to and about defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and his return to New York. Pierre-Paul was a Giant for eight seasons, the entirety of his career until being traded to Tampa Bay this offseason. This will mark the first time he faces off against his former team and wasn’t shy about his desire to put on a good show on his old home turf. He gave fans and media outlets alike a good sound bite, saying he plans on bringing the house down. He also forewarned his former quarterback Eli Manning that he is ‘coming for him.’ Pierre-Paul has eight sacks on the season, leading the team, and needs to just two more to be the Bucs’ first double-digit sack player since Simeon Rice in 2005.
It’s very possible we could see two sacks on Sunday out of the veteran pass rusher, especially given the Giants’ struggles at offensive line. They’ve given up the third-most sacks in the league of Manning, tied at 32 with three other teams. Across nine games, that works out to 3.6 sacks per game and quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pierre-Paul gets all of those.
2. DT Beau Allen
What’s gotten a little lost in the Pierre-Paul hype is some of the connections other players have to the Giants, mostly as division rivals. Take defensive tackle Beau Allen, who was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles for four seasons before he signed with Tampa Bay this offseason himself. The Giants and Eagles have a healthy rivalry and Allen has an ingrained disdain for the men in blue. It actually marks the second former division-rival that Allen will face in consecutive weeks, as the Bucs work their way through
the entire NFC East this season.
This Giants team has one major difference from the ones Allen faced in years past: running back Saquon Barkley. Allen is known for his run-stopping capability up front and the Bucs are going to need it in case Barkley tries to charge anywhere near the middle. He’s a versatile back that is splitting rushing and receiving yards almost evenly on the year so it’ll be up to a few more players than just Allen to stop him. But Allen is the first line of defense (literally).
3. WR DeSean Jackson
Another player with that ingrained disdain for the Giants? DeSean Jackson, who’s collective 10 years of playing New York twice a season as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and then Washington Redskins has produced more than a few productive games for the notorious deep threat. In fact, he said this week how Giants fans are still mad at him for the first ‘walk-off punt return’ back during the 2011 season when he was with the Eagles. With 12 seconds left and the game tied, the Giants ended up punting to Jackson who was waiting deep to receive. In a game that was dubbed the third Miracle at the Meadowlands after the Eagles scored three unanswered touchdowns that were then capped off by the punt return, Jackson actually fumbled the ball initially but scooped it up and managed to find a lane as he cut to the outside. Helped by a major block by the Eagles’ Jason Avant, he took it all the way to the house and tiptoed along the goal line to make sure time ran all the way down before stepping into the end zone and handing the Eagles the win. The Eagles made the playoffs that year, solidified by that tenth win against the Giants.
Jackson has six receiving touchdowns against New York in his career and 1071 receiving yards. He has not gone a season without playing them and will look to add to that total on Sunday.
4. LB Adarius Taylor
Linebacker Adarius Taylor is now the leader of the linebacking corps for this game where Lavonte David is the latest player to fall victim to the injury bug. After losing Kwon Alexander for the season with a torn ACL earlier in the season, Lavonte David has been out all week battling a knee injury. He was ruled out for Sunday’s game this past Friday, which means Taylor will now be the one with the green-dot responsibilities. As in, he’ll be the one calling the defense on the field as well as the middle linebacker, presumably. Before the injuries to Alexander and David, Taylor fit in at strong side linebacker, though Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner expressed confidence in Taylor no matter which of the linebacker positions he is playing. That unit will certainly be put to the test with the aforementioned versatility of rookie phenom Saquon Barkley as they look to provide support on the outside and when, God forbid, Barkley gets a little bit of space. Duffner warned against giving Barkley any room to run because he will burn you pretty quickly with his ability to stop and start on a dime while evading tackles. It will be up to the linebackers to take heed of that warning.
5. T Donovan Smith
Left tackle Donovan Smith is another one with a connection to New York, although his comes with the city itself. Smith is from Hempstead, New York, though he also lived a good portion of his life in Maryland. Still, the Northeasterner and the rest of the offensive line will look to make sure quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who used to play in the very same stadium as a member of the New York Jets, feels right at home in the pocket. Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken called the pass protection “outstanding” this week, so they will want to keep that up in order to let explosive plays develop. They will also be wanting to open lanes for Tampa Bay’s own run game to get going behind running backs Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers, the latter of which actually had over 100 yards receiving last Sunday. If they can put that together along with another good defensive effort, the Bucs should come back from New York with a W.
View pictures of the Buccaneers leaving team facilities for their matchup against the Giants.