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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

6 Key Matchups for Bucs vs. Cardinals

Key Matchups: Second-year T Donovan Smith will have his hands full on Sunday with the Cardinals' new edge-rusher, former Patriot Chandler Jones.


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) will try to remain undefeated when they take on the 0-1 Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on Sunday. Here are a few individual matchups that could play a key role in determining the outcome of this Week Two contest:

Cardinals G Earl Watford vs. Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy
Arizona's starting right guard Evan Mathis, a 12-year veteran with two Pro Bowl trips and an All-Pro selection under his belt, was injured in the season opener against the New England Patriots. It was Earl Watford who took his place and he'll be facing a very tough task in Gerald McCoy if he gets the start in this one. Mathis has been limited in practice during the week. McCoy is often double-teamed along the line but he was still able to disrupt the offense last week in Atlanta, registering a sack and two deflected passes.


Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Buccaneers CB Vernon Hargreaves **After a Week One battle with Falcons All-Pro Julio Jones, Hargreaves will line up across from another NFL star this week. In Week One, Fitzgerald caught his 99th and 100th career touchdown passes, making him one of seven players all-time to have 1,000+ catches and 100+ touchdowns in his career. However, Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter had this to say about Hargreaves after his first NFL game last week: "For his first game in the NFL, going against a guy like Julio Jones, Vernon did a nice job. First game in the NFL, road game, loud crowd, Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, playing nickel and playing outside, he had a lot on his plate. He had a couple plays that got away from him, but we're really encouraged with Vernon and glad we've got him."

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson vs. Cardinals CB Brandon WilliamsIt remains to be seen whether or not Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson will shadow WR Mike Evans throughout the game, but it wouldn't be surprising after Evans's big game in Week One. If that is the case, then Vincent Jackson will see a lot of snaps against Brandon Williams, a rookie third-round draft pick. Jackson had just two grabs for 18 yards in the first week of the season. Both numbers could go up considerably if the 12-year veteran (with six 1,000+-yard seasons) sees some one-on-one looks against the rookie.


Buccaneers LT Donovan Smith vs. Cardinals LB Chandler Jones **Chandler Jones enjoyed his first game in a Cardinals uniform, putting up five tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery against his former Patriots team. Jones had 12.5 sacks last season and was selected to his first Pro Bowl. This week, he'll likely be going up most often against second-year LT Donovan Smith. Smith and the Buccaneers' offensive line did not give up a sack in Week One, but face a much more accomplished defensive front this week.

Cardinals RB David Johnson vs. Buccaneers LB Kwon AlexanderKwon Alexander burst onto the scene in Week One and drew national attention as one to watch in 2016. Alexander had one sack and added 17 total tackles, tied for the most in the NFL on opening weekend. The Buccaneers defense held the Falcons' rushing attack to just 52 yards last week, the second fewest of any team. David Johnson had 89 rushing yards and a score against the Patriots, and added four receptions for 43 yards.

Buccaneers RB Doug Martin vs. Cardinals S Tony JeffersonTony Jefferson led his team with 10 total tackles last week and, according to Pro Football Focus, led all NFL defenders in their Run Defense Grade statistic. He'll lead the attack in stopping Doug Martin, who had the second-most rushing yards in the league last year. While Doug Martin didn't light up the stat sheets, he did have an outstanding performance in the season opener. The Cardinals allowed 102 yards and a touchdown on the ground in Week One.

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