Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Bucs to Watch Against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 9

The Buccaneers begin their tour of the NFC West on Sunday with the defending Super Bowl Champions, and there are several players to monitor

5 Bucs to watch vs Rams 2022

In Week Nine, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Los Angeles Rams, at Raymond James Stadium. The Divisional Round rematch will take place on Nov. 6 at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS. Both powerhouses, touted as contenders in the NFC at the outset of the 2022 slate, are now at a crossroads midseason. Neither have yet to live up to lofty expectations, as the Buccaneers hold a 3-5 record after three-consecutive losses and the Rams sit at 3-4 after falling to the 49ers in Week Eight. Both franchises are in a precarious position, needing revitalization on Sunday afternoon to turn their respective seasons around. Tampa Bay has not played a consistent game for 60 minutes in all three phases this year and they will look to do so against a bitter rival with a talent-filled nucleus. The current theme circulating around the Buccaneers is "how will they respond to adversity," and Sunday afternoon will personify that declarative statement in one way or another. There are many matchups and individual performances that could weigh heavily on the outcome of the Bucs-Rams clash. Here is a closer look at five Buccaneers to observe on Sunday.

Mike Evans

Jalen Ramsey vs. Mike Evans is a marquee matchup that nearly garners the same level of attention as the Bucs-Rams headline, as two of the best in the league at their respective positions go head-to-head. Snag the popcorn. Like Lavonte David, historically, Evans has performed well against Los Angeles, accumulating 48 receptions, four touchdowns, an average of 14.6 yards per reception and an average of a sensational 100.1 yards per game in seven career games against the Rams. On Sunday, Evans will look to continue the stellar trend. The Buccaneers offense has failed to find cohesion and consistency in 2022, but Evans could be the key to unleashing the offensive onslaught fans have grown accustomed to in Tampa Bay since Tom Brady's arrival. Evans is an ideal possession receiver, excelling in jump-ball situations. He does a superb job of putting himself in prime position before the ball arrives, essentially boxing out the defender. Brady and Evans have not been able to create synergy for a complete game, but Sunday could be a transformative outing. Ramsey will align on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, known for his competitive streak, instincts and ball-tracking ability. His route-recognition positions him for success. Evans will have to be secure at the catch point because Ramsey will undoubtably run through to try and take the ball with a hard hit. Whether locking down a receiver in press-man or undercutting an out route in zone coverge, Ramsey can disrupt.

Lavonte David

Due to the Rams' inability to run the ball, Los Angles has had to manufacture a running game with screens, misdirection, jet sweeps and option reads. It has kept the Rams afloat against certain types of blitzes and coverages, allowing Matthew Stafford to dial up play-action. Whether Cooper Kupp, Darrell Henderson, Ronnie Rivers or Brandon Powell leads the charge in the aforementioned categories, Bucs inside linebacker Lavonte David will be a critical asset on Sunday. David is known for his play recognition and ability to stifle screens and swing passes. With movement skills, understanding of leverage and spacing, along with route recognition, David operates well in zone coverage. He will play a crucial role in limiting the Rams' yards-after-catch and perimeter attack. Angle of pursuit and eye discipline will be pivotal for the entirety of the Bucs' defense in countering the Rams' motion plays. Overall, Tampa Bay's squad has struggled in setting the edge against the run, maintaining gaps and finishing tackles. Sunday provides a litmus test and David will play an integral role in reinvigorating the Bucs' defense. Historically, David has played well against the Rams, totaling 76 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in nine career games vs. L.A. in the regular season and postseason. Tampa Bay needs another dominant performance by their tone-setter in Week Nine.

Nick Leverett

Second-year lineman Nick Leverett rotated with Luke Goedeke at left guard against Carolina in Week Seven, while Goedeke – who had started the first seven games in that spot - battled a foot injury. Leverett took over the starting role against the Ravens on Thursday Night Football and it seemingly appears he will assume the position once again versus the Rams. Leverett initially joined the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of Rice in 2020 and spent his rookie campaign on the practice squad. He made the active roster in 2021 and an impressive showing in training camp garnered a competition battle at left guard to replace the retired Ali Marpet. The coaching staff has raved about Leverett's feisty demeanor, work ethic and dedication to film study. The latter especially will come in handy going up against one of the greatest defenders to have ever played the game: Aaron Donald. Beating Donald to the punch will be key because if there is any hesitation by the Buccaneers offensive line, Donald will exploit it. The eight-consecutive Pro Bowl player and sure fire first-ballot Hall of Famer overwhelms centers and guards with a lethal repertoire of pass rush moves, including a jump chop-club, swim and cross-chop. Donald is touted as being un-blockable, consistently demanding double and triple teams. However, despite the attention that Donald garners from offensive coordinators week-after-week devising schemes around his ability, Donald continues his reign of terror – that is the ultimate testament of his capability. He is an anomaly using quick, violent hands to out-leverage his opponent. With rare agility for an interior defensive lineman, Donald explodes off the snap with a quick get-off. Donald fires through gaps attacking up field and can wreck a game. Leverett, along with the offensive line as a collective whole, will need a fundamentally sound, clean game. Otherwise, Donald will collapse the pocket around Tom Brady.

Rachaad White

Although the Rams have the seventh-ranked rush defense in the league, Christian McCaffrey imposed his will on the ground against Los Angeles twice, pre (Panthers) and post-trade (49ers). In Week Six for the Panthers, McCaffrey totaled 158 yards from scrimmage, including a 49-yard catch and run. With San Francisco, McCaffrey accounted for 183 of the team's total 368 yards in Week Eight. He was responsible for three of their four touchdowns, recording one passing, one rushing and one receiving. He had success on the perimeter off screens and zone reads, showcasing his elusiveness to dodge tacklers. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers rank dead last in the NFL in rushing, averaging 61.9 yards per game. With the strength of L.A.'s interior defensive line featuring Aaron Donald, dialing up outside zone runs, screens, fake handoffs, reverses and motions could be a way for the Buccaneers to ignite a rushing attack. Rookie Rachaad White thrives in that system with shiftiness in space as a slash-back. He is patient with his run tempo and has great balance when jump-cutting through contact. White possesses an upside as a receiver out of the backfield. His body control is displayed when adjusting for passes away from his body and resetting to pick up yards after the catch. The Buccaneers have not been able to create a consistent balanced attack in 2022; however, Sunday against the Rams could provide an opportunity with White as a spark, complementing Leonard Fournette.

Carlton Davis III

Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis III has missed two back-to-back games with a hip injury but is expected to return on Sunday for the Week Nine matchup against the Rams. He will be a welcomed sight against the Rams' talented receiving corps. Davis will be matched up with Van Jefferson for a good portion of the ballgame and will need a solid showing. Jefferson is a deep threat, stretching the field on posts and go-routes. He has impressive speed to sperate from corners and possesses fluidity on routes to make quick cuts and transitions. Jefferson elevates the Rams' downfield attack and Davis could be the only man keeping Jefferson out of the end zone if Stafford lobs a deep bomb to No. 12. The Rams activated Jefferson off injured reserve and Head Coach Sean McVay anticipates a normal workload for the star wideout. Davis is physical at the line of scrimmage and plays the ball well in the air. He is strong enough to press receivers off their traditional route path and will draw eyes in his debut off injury. The lockdown corner signed a three-year contract extension in March, a representation of his value. Davis will be a key reinforcement in the Bucs' secondary on Sunday going up against the team's non-division rival.

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