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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Bucs to Watch Against the Falcons in Week 7

The Buccaneers will face the Falcons in a high-stakes divisional matchup in Week Seven and here are five players to watch


With first place in the NFC South open for the taking, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons will battle in Week Seven to sit atop the standings. In the overall series between the two clubs, Tampa Bay has won five-of-six meetings against Atlanta dating back to the start of the 2020 slate, outscoring the Falcons 191-141 during that span. Both teams will field revamped squads this season, most notably the Falcons' overhaul of free agent defenders during the offseason including defensive linemen Calais Campbell and David Onyemata, edge rusher Bud Dupree, safety Jessie Bates III, inside linebacker Kaden Elliss and cornerback Jeff Okudah – all of which are in the starting lineup. Bates has logged three interceptions – tied for first in the NFL – while Okudah has only allowed a passer rating of 53.4 on 107 coverage snaps (3 receptions allowed). Dupree leads the team in sacks with 2.0 and the infusion of talent has elevated the defense, from 23rd in points allowed last season to 14th in 2023 (20.0). 

2022 third-round draft pick Desmond Ridder took the reins of the Falcons' offense this season and has had an up and down campaign through the first six games. He has thrown six touchdown passes to six interceptions, including three against the Commanders in Week Six, for a passer rating of 81.3. In their offensive design, Head Coach Arthur Smith aims to create mismatches through personnel advantages with position-less playmakers at running back, tight end and receiver, including Kyle Pitts, Bijan Robinson, Drake London, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jonnu Smith and Tyler Allgeier. In a run-based system that utilizes play-action to open horizontal and vertical windows, Atlanta drafted Texas phenom, Robinson, who has already produced a highlight reel on the field with his vision, speed, power and elusiveness. He has accumulated 401 rushing yards (10th in the NFL) with the majority coming around the tackles. Drake London has emerged as the team's top receiver in 2023, posting 26 receptions for 329 yards and two scores. The Falcons' offensive line dictates the flow and is anchored by guard Chris Lindstrom. 

Tampa Bay is coming off a 20-6 loss to the visiting Detroit Lions and will strive for redemption in Week Seven. Here is a breakdown of five Buccaneers to watch on Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium: 

Calijah Kancey 

Atlanta has invested resources in the offensive line in recent years, including former first-round pick of the 2019 draft, Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom earned his first Pro Bowl nod following the 2022 season and he also received second-team All-Pro honors. Back in March, Lindstrom was rewarded and signed a $105 million contract-extension that made him the highest-paid guard in NFL history in both total money and average-per-year salary. With initial quickness and above-average athleticism, Lindstrom thrives as a move blocker and in making second-level cut-offs. He has enhanced his overall craft with development in pass protection. Calijah Kancey, the Bucs' top draft pick in 2023, does not have an experience advantage but proved his worth on Sunday afternoon. The budding star accumulated six pressures on 28 pass-rush snaps against Detroit in his first game back from a calf injury and notched a sack on Jared Goff. The former Pittsburgh defensive catalyst showcased his first-step quickness, twitchy feet, relentless motor and contact balance. Although he has only put up a small sample size, Kancey terrorized the pocket in Week Six and will look to do the same against a divisional foe. 

Lavonte David 

Kyle Pitts, affectionately known as the football 'unicorn,' is a tight end with the hands of a skilled receiver. The 6-foot-6 target with 4.4-level speed has amassed 22 receptions for 251 yards in 2023 and is averaging 11.4 yards per reception. The Falcons utilize a heavy dose of multiple personnel groupings to cultivate mismatches to exploit and Pitts is often the beneficiary. Pitts has a unique combination of size, athleticism, catch radius and alteration of route speed. His size alone makes it a challenge for a nickel to play against him, linebackers can struggle in one-on-ones against him and safeties are forced to leave a vacated gap. However, on Sunday, Pitts will face one of the best cover linebackers in the league, Lavonte David. Against the Lions, David was paired with Sam LaPorta most of the afternoon and limited his effectiveness. Davidfinished the Week Six matchup with a team-high 12 tackles (two for loss), 1.0 sack, one quarterback hit and one pass defensed. He became the first player in the NFL to reach that stat line (or better) since Arizona's Budda Baker in Week 16 of the 2021 season accomplished the feat against the Indianapolis Colts. David is adept at covering tight ends in man coverage and has the natural hip fluidity to turn and match the opposition from zone coverage. David is a textbook tackler, and his play recognition is elite.

Devin White 

Bijan Robinson, the sensational Texas running back, had offensive coordinators salivating during the 2023 draft due to his smorgasbord of traits. The Falcons selected Robinson with the eighth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Since he arrived in Atlanta, Robinson has become a focal point of the offense, demonstrating his elusiveness, contact balance, sudden jump-cuts and pass-catching prowess. Robinson is currently eighth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 590 (nearly 100 per game) and leads the Falcons in rushing yards. In addition, Robinson is tied with Drake London for the team lead with 26 catches. The authoritative runner has shown the ability to stack moves in order to optimize results. Robinson has made an impact along the perimeter – taking roughly 85% of his carries outside the tackles through six games – so for the Buccaneers, being disciplined in run fits and taking the proper leverage/angles in space will be key to limit Robinson. With rare play speed in pursuit, change-of-direction skills and sudden trigger to close, Bucs' inside linebacker Devin White will play a critical role in tracking Robinson throughout the game. White is often the focal point of Todd Bowles' pressure packages with his downhill burst and Robinson may be tasked with chipping the Bucs' stout defender. No. 45 has the capability of flowing from gap to gap to mirror rushers when bouncing outside, which will be vital against the Falcons' run-first attack. 

Jamel Dean 

Drake London, the Falcons' No. 8 overall pick in 2022, set a franchise record for receptions as a rookie. He has continued the stellar trend in 2023, notching 329 yards on 26 receptions through six weeks. London is a big-bodied receiver, who uses his size for leverage in high-point situations on 50/50 balls. He takes tight angles off route cuts to generate separation and can get north in a hurry. London is efficient at extending his body to haul in catches and finding soft spots in zone coverage. Bucs' Jamel Dean will be tasked with following London during the matchup. Despite a difficult cap situation, Dean signed a contract extension with the Bucs in March, after producing his best season. Dean allowed the fifth-fewest yards (386) as the nearest defender among all NFL cornerbacks (minimum 60 targets) in 2022, per Next Gen Stats. Since he entered the league as a third-round draft pick out of Auburn in 2019, Dean has allowed the fewest yards per target (5.7) among all NFL defensive backs (minimum 150 targets). Dean is able to quickly accelerate to top-end speed and carries it with him. He possesses outstanding change-of-direction skills and the lateral quickness to stay in prime position from press. 

Robert Hainsey 

With Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen sidelined for the second-straight season due to complications from a significant knee injury, Robert Hainsey has anchored the Bucs' line in 2023. Last season, Hainsey started 17 games in place of Jensen and set the tone up front. Hainsey plays with toughness and quality hand usage to keep defenders at bay. On Sunday, he will face a two-headed monster in the Falcons' interior – Grady Jerrett and David Onyemata. Jarrett, the Falcons' longtime stellar defensive tackle, wreaks havoc at the line of scrimmage. In 2022, Jarrett posted 6.0 sacks, 61 tackles and 12 for loss. Jarrett is quick off the ball and consistently demands double teams and additional protection slides to his side of the formation. His 17.5% pass rush win rate since 2017 ranks third among interior defenders. With a lethal speed-to-power conversion, Jarrett spearheads Atlanta's attack. Onyemata, the free agent acquisition from New Orleans, is a violent bulldozer. Over the course of his seven seasons in New Orleans, Onyemata accumulated 23 sacks, 244 total tackles (28 for a loss) and 63 quarterback hits. The 6-4, 300-pound Onyemata is coming off a season in which he tallied five sacks, five tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hits across 17 starts. Onyemata runs through offensive linemen with power and strength. With active hands and a fiery demeanor, Onyemata has developed into one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.

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