Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Bucs to Watch Against Philadelphia

For a couple now-Buccaneers, this matchup is personal. Here's who to watch as the Bucs face the Philadelphia Eagles in their home opener.

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1. DE Vinny Curry

For obvious reasons, there will be a lot of attention on defensive end Vinny Curry, who was one of two former Philadelphia Eagles the Bucs signed in free agency this past offseason. Curry had been an Eagles' lifer, spending his entire six-year career with Philadelphia until this season. He's also a New Jersey native and grew up an Eagles fan, so you know this is personal. Last season, he started all 16 games on the Eagles' now-notorious defensive line and played an integral role in helping Philadelphia to their first Super Bowl championship. With his help in stopping the run, the New England Patriots' leading rusher had just 45 yards, effectively making the New England offense one dimensional. The Eagles in general gave up the least amount of rushing yards per game during the entire 2017 season. Now, as a member of the Buccaneers going against a Philadelphia offense that relies heavily on their ground game, it'll be part of his job to do the same thing this Sunday.

2. DT Beau Allen

And for very similar reasons, defensive tackle Beau Allen is another one to watch as the Eagles come to town. Allen was the other player signed from Philadelphia this offseason in free agency. The big knock on him was that he didn't start all 16 games. What people forget though is how the Philadelphia defensive line operates. They are on a constant rotation. They may only list four starters on the defensive line – but really, they have eight. Their front four is on a constant rotation. Both Curry and Allen have said every seven plays they rotate. This is to keep the line fresh and able to play fast. It's also what makes them so successful. Allen has been a tremendous addition to the Bucs' defensive line. Curry said just this past week that Allen would make a good coach or general manager one day given all he contributes in the meeting rooms. Allen was another one that had spent his entire career up until this season with Philadelphia, so you know he's going to want to beat them just as bad as Curry.

3. DE Jason Pierre-Paul

Speaking of guys who want to beat Philadelphia – defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has spent his whole career wanting to do that. As a member of the division-rival New York Giants for eight years, he's the next best thing to having those two aforementioned guys that were just on the team. He's spent hours studying Philadelphia film. He's registered 5.5 sacks and a whopping 53 combined tackles in the 14 games he's played against them. His status for Sunday is still questionable, but I have to imagine if there's even a shred of possibility he can play, he's going to do it. I also have to imagine the same goes for wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was a member of the Eagles for six years himself. Philadelphia drafted him in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft and they are who put Jackson on the map. He suffered a concussion in Sunday's win over the New Orleans Saints, along with a shoulder injury, but he practiced fully on Friday, leaving the door open for him to be active this Sunday when the birds come to town.

4. CBs Carlton Davis/Ryan Smith

It's no secret the Buccaneers are hurting injury-wise at the cornerback position. Starting corners Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes are both inactive for Sunday's home opener. Hargreaves was placed on IR this week after injuring his shoulder in New Orleans. The week prior, Grimes suffered a groin injury in practice and has yet to return. It's pretty plausible to think that the Philadelphia offense is going to try to exploit that. Young players will have to step up in a big way to keep the Eagles' receivers at bay. The good news is that Philadelphia is down their number one receiver in Alshon Jeffery, who was ruled out again this week as he is recovering from rotator cuff surgery this offseason. Smith at this point is more-or-less the leader of that corners group now. He started 10 games for the Buccaneers last season, which is more than rookie Carlton Davis can say. Davis got his first dose of NFL action in the Superdome against Drew Brees. Quite the welcome to the league. Now that he knows a little bit more of what to expect, the hope is that he settles in quickly. The good news for the corners group is that they have two well-established safeties in the mix. Chris Conte is an NFL veteran and second-year player Justin Evans might as well be with how well he's adapted to the Bucs' defensive scheme. Evans even had a scoop-and-score defensive touchdown last week against the Saints and should be of help to both the corners and linebackers as he flies around the field.

5. RG Caleb Benenoch and RT Demar Dotson

That notorious Eagles' defensive line is going to have to go through a Bucs' offensive line who has looked pretty darn good this preseason through Week One. They did not allow a sack of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick against the Saints' defense last week in New Orleans. That being said, the Eagles' defensive line is tougher. The left side of their line is especially imposing, with some combination of Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Chris Long lining up there. That will pose a challenge for the right side of Tampa Bay's offensive line, especially in the case of right guard Caleb Benenoch who was limited a little bit this week due to injury, but did practice fully at the end of the week. The right guard position has been on a little bit of a rotation for the Bucs, with offensive lineman and backup center Evan Smith playing the position, too. The good news here is, Tampa Bay has a very well-established veteran in Demar Dotson at right tackle. Dotson has been with the Bucs for nine seasons and at 6-foot-9, is more than capable of holding his own against an opposing defensive line. More than just not allowing the Eagles to get a sack on Fitzpatrick, they'll need to help get the ground game going more, which means opening up lanes for running back Peyton Barber. Barber had a healthy 69 yards in last Sunday's game against the Saints, but to beat Philadelphia's defense, the Bucs will have to have a balanced offensive attack. Having a 100-yard rusher in the game should help with that and Barber is more than capable if his offensive line gives him some room.

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