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5 Bucs to Watch Against the Panthers in Week 13

The Buccaneers will take on the Panthers in Week 13, kicking off the docket of divisional foes on the 2023 slate. Here are five players to watch

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on a divisional foe in the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in Week 13. Kickoff is slated for 4:05 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS. The Bucs are one game behind the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints, and they will vie to ignite a surge at Raymond James Stadium en route to securing their third-straight division title. Tampa Bay has lost six of its seven previous games and will strive to mitigate self-inflicted wounds against the 1-10 Panthers. Carolina underwent a significant coaching change and interim head coach Chris Tabor will command the unit against the Bucs with a rookie under center in Bryce Young. Here are five Buccaneers to watch on Sunday:

Rachaad White

On Sunday, Bucs' Rachaad White and Panthers' Frankie Luvu will go head-to-head. Luvu's pass-rush win rate of 22.6% is ninth among all NFL players who have had at least 50 pass-rush snaps. He has stepped up in Shaq Thompson's absence, manning the Mike linebacker role for Carolina, donning the green dot. Luvu plays with a relentless motor and has the instinctual awareness to mirror running backs' movements. With fluid footwork and physicality, Luvu elevates Carolina's defense. He leads the Panthers in tackles with 83 and will be matched up with Rachaad White on Sunday. White has established himself as one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL and is explosive in the open field. He stack cuts to maneuver around linebackers and can quickly accelerate to get north-south, transitioning from reactive to aggression/finish mode. Through Week 12, White ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards by a running back (364), trailing only Christian McCaffrey (389). He also ranks third among running backs in receptions with 43. The Bucs were able to kickstart the ground game between the tackles against the Colts as White rushed for 100 yards and the unit will look to continue the progression against the Panthers.

Luke Goedeke

Luke Goedeke will draw one of the Buccaneers' most challenging tasks on Sunday in facing Panthers' cornerstone defender Brian Burns. Through the first seven games of the 2023 season, Goedeke had allowed the ninth-lowest pressure rate among right tackles in the NFL. He has the talent to root opponents off their spot in the run game. Goedeke plays with strength, quickness and good anticipation. He faces Burns on Sunday, the heart of the Panthers' defense. Burns play with a consistent get-off and bend around the corner that is second to none. He accelerates to the quarterback quickly and can dip under offensive linemen to gain leverage. Burns has accumulated a team-high 6.0 sacks in 2023 and combines speed around the rush arc with lower-body flexibility. He has a powerful spin move in his pass-rush repertoire and is a player the Bucs have to account for on Sunday.

Christian Izien

The Panthers utilize Adam Thielen out of the slot frequently, so he will likely be paired with Christian Izien during the battle on Sunday. Thielen possesses crafty route running skills, outstanding body control and can adjust based on leverage. He has hip fluidity in-and-out of breaks to create cushion. The Bucs have struggled at times giving up yards-after-catch in off coverage, allowing the opposition to work the intermediate area of the field. Izien, the Bucs' nickel corner, is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He plays with quick-twitch athleticism and is a high-volume tackler, flying to the ball with top-end speed. Izien will play a key role in limiting Bryce Young's go-to target, Thielen.

Yaya Diaby

Bucs' rookies Yaya Diaby and Calijah Kancey have combined for 13 tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hits, 6.0 sacks, and 35 pressures this season. The duo has combined for 10 tackles for loss in the past three games alone. The 6'3," 260-pound Diaby, certainly has a size advantage over Carolina quarterback Bryce Young, especially in the red area where the space is condensed, and the vision is limited. Diaby is a power rusher with short-area burst and rare lateral agility. He is quick out of his stance and possesses a violent punch to generate separation from blockers at the point of attack. Diaby elevates the Bucs' defensive front and adds another dimension to Todd Bowles' pressure/blitz packages.

Calijah Kancey

The Panthers rank in the bottom-five in the NFL in sacks allowed with 43 (29th) and conversely, the Bucs have nine players with at least 2.0 sacks this season (most by any team). Todd Bowles and the Bucs' defensive linemen have an insatiable appetite for getting after quarterbacks and this week, the unit will look to impose their will at Raymond James Stadium. In the interior, Calijah Kancey and Vita Vea have set the tone in 2023. Kancey, the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for November, bolsters the unit with first-step quickness, leverage and high motor. His contact balance stands out, as does his closing kick. Kancey's forward-charging assault terrorizes the backfield, and he will be looking to continue his hot streak against a rookie signal-caller on Sunday.

Kancey is the first interior defensive lineman in team history to win Rookie of the Month honors, and the first Tampa Bay rookie to win the award since Antoine Winfield Jr. in September of the 2020 season. In four games during the month of November, Kancey posted 10 tackles, including nine solo tackles and seven that went for a loss, adding four quarterback hits, 2.0 sacks and one pass defensed. His seven tackles for loss tied for the NFL lead among all players this month, alongside teammate Lavonte David. In addition, Kancey ranked second among all rookies with 14 pressures, tied for second in quarterback hits (four) and tied for fourth in sacks (2.0). Despite missing three games this season due to a calf injury, Kancey still shares the lead among rookies in tackles for loss (eight) and is tied for third in quarterback hits (eight), fifth in pressures (25) and is tied for eighth in sacks (3.0). Kancey is the only rookie this season with 25-or-more pressures on fewer than 350 defensive snaps, according to TruMedia data. If he continues the stellar trend, Kancey's name will begin to monopolize the Defensive Rookie of the Year chatter. His production already warrants a spot in the conversation.

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