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Antoine Winfield Jr.'s  Pass Rush Prowess, Breaking Down Justin Fields' Mobility & More | Brianna's Blitz 

With a rearview glance at the previous contest and a look at the looming Week Two matchup with the Bears, here are key topics

Bri's Blitz Sept. 14

Antoine Winfield Jr. Blitz Aficionado

Antoine Winfield Jr. has reverted back to his previous position at free safety in 2023 after playing a hybrid role in nickel packages last season, but the coaching staff continues to feature Winfield down in the box to maximize his physicality and burst downhill at the line of scrimmage. In Week One against the Vikings, Winfield set the tone. In the first quarter from third-and-six, Todd Bowles dialed up an exotic blitz package. He sent multiple rushers, including rookie Calijah Kancey, who occupied two blockers which freed up an opportunity. Inside linebacker Devein White shot through the B-gap and quickly bypassed Vikings' fullback C.J. Ham. However, as he closed, White was a second behind Winfield, who fired unblocked through the C-gap. Winfield brought down Kirk Cousins for the sack, knocked the ball out and recovered it at the Minnesota 18. That strip sack by Winfield set up a Chase McLaughlin field goal for the Bucs' first points of the afternoon. 

"He has a knack," Todd Bowles described on Winfield's blitz ability. "He can set up blockers and go under, go around – he knows when they're off balance, when to go over top of them. He has a good feel. I think he does a lot of film study on who's blocking and how they're trying to block him. You've got to have a feel for that. There's a lot of people that blitz and run right into the guy. He does not – he has a knack for getting free every time."

Winfield takes a methodical approach to blitzing and rushes with purpose. He has the most sacks (10.0) by a safety in team history, and the most by an NFL defensive back in the last four seasons. The quick-twitch athlete is instinctive, and Winfield's recognition of play designs puts him in prime positioning to make plays on the ball. Winfield's understanding of pursuit leverage and angles is elite. He strikes with intensity, striving to punch out the football and it manifested against Minnesota.

Justin Fields' Mobility

Justin Fields is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL from a pure rushing standpoint. Fields averaged 76.2 rush yards per game in 2022 (most among quarterbacks, sixth-most in the NFL) and had the second-most rushing yards by a quarterback in league history last year (1,143). His improvisation skills and speed make it difficult for scout teams to simulate and the threat of Fields' rushing ability adds another gap that defenses must defend. Fields is slippery in the open field and lethal on scrambles. The Bears do not utilize a system shaped around his mobility with designed runs and RPO's – like the Eagles do with Jalen Hurts and the Ravens do with Lamar Jackson – which makes Fields' numbers even more impressive. He forces missed tackles and for the Buccaneers' defense, disciplined run fits and effectively setting the edge will be key in facing Fields. 

"He's probably faster than everybody we have in the front seven," Bowles described on Fields. "It's going to be a team effort – we're going to have to rally to him. They have other guys he can get the ball to. You say you want to keep him in the pocket and contain him, but if your D-Line runs a 4.9 [40-yard dash] and he runs a 4.4, there's going to be a problem at some point. We've just got to make sure we have enough eyes on him that we can go get him."

Mayfield Moxie

The Bucs' offense got off to a slow start, accumulating only 95 yards from scrimmage in the first half. Brian Flores dialed up creative pressures/disguised coverages and Tampa Bay's offense gained just 34 yards on its first six possessions; however, a successful two-minute drill tied the game 10-10 at halftime. With just over a minute to play in the second quarter, Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans connected, which shifted the momentum. Evans hit a double move on a corner post for the score, igniting the team's attack. 

The Bucs opened the third quarter with a methodical, 16-play, 75-yard drive. A defensive offside penalty by the Vikings made the touchdown play possible, putting Mayfield back on the field to extend the promising drive. Several sensational plays encompassed the scoring drive, including off-platform theatrics. Mayfield rolled to the left on a boot-action, got both feet off the ground in order to flip his hips around and threw a dart to Cade Otton for a critical first down. Mayfield had six-consecutive completions on the drive, including three-straight first downs. The nine-minute possession culminated in a side-arm pass to rookie Trey Palmer for a touchdown, making it a 17-10 ballgame. Mayfield completed 21 of 34 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns in Week One. Whether lowering his shoulder on third down to gain the first or imposing his will with a nasty stiff-arm, Mayfield showcased his 'moxie.' The theme for the Buccaneers in Week Two as they gear up for the Chicago Bears is "resiliency." 

"I mean, the motto for us is resilience right now," Mayfield stated. "[We] just didn't start pretty at all. We left so much on the bone. Just being able to adapt, be resilient and not hitting the panic button by any means. Continuing with the plan, staying with it, not shying away from the run game at all. It wasn't going well early, but we ended the game with the ball in our hands and that was very important. That's a mentality. That's a mindset. A resilient, tough mentality is what I learned about this group. Hopefully we can continue growing and just be better through four quarters."

Practice Squad Expansion

​The National Football League has announced the expansion of the practice squad for all 32 clubs, which will begin in 2024. Each will include one international player, helping to cultivate more opportunities and inclusiveness for talented athletes from around the world to be identified and developed in the game of football.

Since 2017, select divisions have been allocated international players as part of the NFL's International Player Pathway (IPP) program. Between the program's inaugural launch in 2017 and 2022, one division participated each year. This year, two divisions – the AFC West and the NFC North – are participating in the initiative, with eight players from the program being allocated to NFL clubs. 

"As interest and participation in our game continues to grow and thrive globally, the talent pool of players who have the potential to impact our game on and off the field keeps expanding as well," saidJoel Glazer, Owner/Co-Chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chair of the NFL International Committee. "The opportunity for all 32 clubs to utilize an additional practice squad roster spot for an international player is a significant step forward in helping to identify, develop and enable more exciting talent from around the world to play in the NFL. Our clubs will embrace this new opportunity to develop the pipeline of international players as we grow our game."

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