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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Bucs to Watch Against the Texans in Week 9 

The Buccaneers will hit the road to take on the Texans in Week Nine and here are five players to watch


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hit the road again in Week Nine, this time to Houston. The Bucs will face off against the Texans on Sunday, November 5, at NRG Stadium. The matchup will pit two 3-4 teams against one another, both of which are coming off losses. Tampa Bay is 0-3 since its Week Five bye after an initial 3-1 start. On Sunday, the club will strive for reinvigoration against the Texans. Houston handed the Panthers their first win of the 2023 NFL slate on Sunday as Eddy Pineiro drilled a walk-off field goal. Texans' sensational rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has commanded the offense with poise and their defense has allowed 18.3 points per game in 2023 (tied-for-sixth-fewest) under the direction of Head Coach DeMeco Ryans. The Bucs will look to start faster offensively and increase efficiency on third down as a defensive unit on the road. Here is a breakdown of five Buccaneers to watch on Sunday:

Luke Goedeke

Houston landed Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Although the rookie does not have a myriad of sacks on his resumé thus far, Anderson produced a 21% pass-rush win rate in three of his first four games per PFF. He has accumulated 27 tackles, three tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits and a blocked field goal in seven game starts. With an explosive get-off and elite play recognition, Anderson has tallied 26 pressures through eight weeks. He is a threat off the edge with an arsenal of tricks and pairs textbook handwork with hip fluidity to disrupt in the trenches. The Texans tend to leave Anderson on the left side, which means he will be over Bucs' right tackle, Luke Goedeke, for much of the afternoon. Goedeke has been a bright spot on the offensive line for the Bucs, reverting back to the position he played in college at Central Michigan. He has only allowed one sack in 2023 according to PFF and makes his presence felt with a fiery disposition. Goedeke keeps his feet active to mirror pass rushers and possesses the strength to sustain blocks. He moves defenders off their point of contact with leg drive and has above-average movement skills in space as a second-level blocker.

Chris Godwin

Chris Godwin, the Bucs' consistent YAC-threat, has become Baker Mayfield's go-to target. With physicality, Godwin picked up 54 yards on five receptions, including a touchdown in the second quarter against the Bills. He took advantage of Buffalo's two-high shell coverage on speed out routes. With the way defenses have been playing the Tampa Bay offense, opportunities have manifested for Godwin to exploit.

"Yeah, especially with the two-high safety defenses that we're getting right now," said Baker Mayfield on eye discipline. "There are more zone defenders, zone droppers underneath, so yeah, you definitely have to manipulate a little bit. You have to trust your reads and eyes and go through it. It comes down to delivering the ball on time, and if it's not there, move on to the next progression."

Mayfield has found the connection with Godwin in facing a two-high defense. In Cover Two, there are two deep safeties that divide the field in half. The five underneath zone defenders have to pattern match the routes of the offensive players to take pressure off the safeties. By rushing four and dropping seven into coverage, the defense aims to take away vertical shots downfield while forcing the ball underneath to the flat area or checkdowns. Whether it is a deep dig, seam hook or out, Godwin may have increased opportunities in Week Nine. The Penn State product has a knack for making himself available to the quarterback and is adept at using his frame to box out defenders. Godwin is proficient at winning at the catch point to secure contested grabs. The Buccaneers have struggled to run the football, placing a heavier emphasis on the aerial attack and supplemental ground game through diverse screens. How well the Texans are able to limit Godwin's production could be a pivotal factor in the game.

Vita Vea

Houston is undergoing a shuffle along the offensive line as injuries have piled up. The Texans drafted Penn State's Juice Scruggs in April and he was expected to battle veteran Scott Quessenberry for the starting center role. Quessenberry suffered a season-ending knee injury early in training camp and subsequently, Scruggs suffered his own hamstring injury four weeks later, landing Scruggs on injured reserve. That move thrust sixth-round pick Jarrett Patterson into action, as he transitioned from guard to center, where he had been practicing in camp. However, as fate would have it, Patterson was placed on injured reserve earlier this week after he suffered an ankle injury against the Carolina Panthers in Week Eight. Now the Panthers are expected to go with Michael Dieter, who started 23 games at guard/center for the Dolphins between 2019-21. On the opposing side, the Bucs are hopeful that menacing nose tackle Vita Vea will be back after he missed last Thursday's game with a groin injury. He was a full participant on Wednesday and if he returns, the Bucs' defensive front will be solidified. Vea has a rare combination of size and quick feet, which often overwhelms centers and guards. He routinely commands double teams and possesses the power to press blockers off his frame. Vea currently leads the Bucs with 3.5 sacks and anchors the unit. With elite pursuit skills, he will be one to keep an eye on come Sunday.

Tristan Wirfs

The Texans often place Jonathan Greenard over the left tackle, meaning Bucs' Tristan Wirfs will see a heavy dose of Houston's sack leader. Greenard logged six tackles and 2.5 sacks during Houston's 15-13 loss to Carolina and is on pace for a career-high in both tackles and sacks in 2023. He is stout at the point of attack and plays with consistent leverage. The savvy pass-rusher thrives in DeMeco Ryans' penetrating, swarm-styled defense. The Bucs' Pro Bowl tackle, Tristan Wirfs - who underwent the transition from right to left tackle during the offseason - has continued his reign of terror manning Baker Mayfield's blindside. Wirfs is quick out of his stance and possesses the lateral agility for move-blocking responsibilities. He is a technician and sets the tone up front for Tampa Bay. This will be a key matchup on Sunday.

Antoine Winfield Jr.

Texans' quarterback C.J. Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick in April, has lived up to the draft hype. In his sensational rookie campaign, Stroud has commanded the pocket with poise. He has posted nine touchdowns to just one interception and has thrown for 1,800 yards through seven games. Stroud has showcased his ability to manipulate coverage and layer the football to all three levels of the field with ease. The first-year player has a 56.3 completion percentage and a 140.6 passer rating on deep passes (20-plus air yards) in 2023 – both highest in the NFL per Next Gen Stats. Stroud has been strategic on deep overs and posts, delivering the ball with precision. When facing pressure, Stroud has had less success on the gridiron. In those instances, under duress, he has had a 70.0 passer rating and a sack rate of 16.5% (94.9, 5.7% in normal instances). Todd Bowles dials up blitzes and disguises to keep offenses on their heels and although Antoine Winfield Jr. resumed his role at free safety in 2023, the coaching staff is still utilizing him in the box on occasion for blitzes and run support. Winfield, the Bucs' most consistent defender, has posted 46 tackles two tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, three quarterback hits, three six passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 2023. A voracious student of the game, Winfield plays like his hair is on fire, making plays each week sideline-to-sideline. His play recognition and angles to the ball against both the run and pass will come into play against Houston. Whether he is coming downhill on a blitz or taking cues from the quarterback to locate the ball, Winfield will play a critical role in igniting the defense on Sunday with infectious play.

"I know he's getting coached really hard in a system very similar to what they were doing in San Francisco," said Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales on C.J. Stroud. "They ask the quarterback to be very disciplined – read your first progression and then check it down. That's what you see from C.J. – he's playing smart football and he's taking care of it. On top of all of that, he's a really talented passer. He's taking advantage of some of the shots he has down field. I'm not surprised but you definitely don't see rookies come in with that kind of a maturity and discipline to come in and play like that. Brock Purdy did that in San Francisco and I see C.J. doing some of the same things."

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