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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Scouting Report: Texans' Top Game Wreckers | Week 9

A look at the Texans’ top playmakers who could impact the outcome of Sunday’s matchup

Laremy Tunsil

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hit the road to take on another AFC opponent, the Houston Texans, in Week Nine. Both clubs sit at a 3-4 record and will vie for redemption on turf. The Bucs are coming off a 24-18 loss to the Bills, which marked the team's third-consecutive loss. The matchup came down to the final play, as Baker Mayfield heaved a 60-yard "Hail Mary" pass that bounced in the end zone, halting the Bucs' comeback bid.

The Texans are under the tutelage of new Head Coach DeMeco Ryans, a former linebacker for Houston who quickly ascended the coaching ladder in San Francisco. The defensive-minded guru, Ryans, is known for his aggressive 'swarm' approach and has directed a Texans' unit that has allowed only 18.3 points per game, the sixth-fewest in the NFL. In Houston's 4-3, attack-styled system, Jonathan Greenard has spearheaded the unit with 3.5 sacks and rookie Will Anderson Jr., along with veteran Maliek Collins, have thrived in Ryans' system. On the offensive side of the ball, C.J. Stroud has played with poise and rhythm in his first year, throwing nine touchdowns against one interception. His quick-processing and smart decision-making from the pocket have elevated the Texans' offense, boosting the production of Nico Collins, Dalton Schultz and journeyman Robert Woods. The Texans have outstanding playmakers on both sides of the football and here are five who could help swing the game in favor of Houston on Sunday afternoon: 

LT Laremy Tunsil

In 2022, Texans' left tackle Laremy Tunsil finished with a 91.7 pass-blocking grade (PFF) from 17 games, featuring 17 total pressures - only one of which was a sack. The three-time pro bowl veteran is one of the most polished and athletically gifted blockers in the NFL. Tunsil stonewalls rushers, playing with efficient footwork, hand placement and an uncompromised base to generate leverage in the trenches. He is consistent in his set and few tackles in the league stay on their blocks as long as the Texans' stalwart does. Tunsil maintains stout pad level and plays with above-average instincts. He is agile in the open field as a puller and anchors the Texans' line.

DE Will Anderson Jr.

First-round draft pick Will Anderson Jr. has showcased his disruption off the edge in 2023. He may not have a gauntlet of sacks in Year One, however, he produced a 21% pass-rush win rate in three of his first four games per PFF. Anderson has tallied 27 tackles, three tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits and a blocked field goal in seven game starts. He has elevated the Texans' front with explosive athleticism and strength. He is adept at rushing the passer and stopping the run with elite play recognition. Anderson fires like a cannon out of his stance and possesses rare closing burst. He plays with a competitive drive, becoming the first player in Alabama history to earn unanimous All-American honors twice. Anderson can maneuver in tight spaces due to his contact balance and flexibility. He comes with an advanced pass rush arsenal and textbook handwork. He will be on the Bucs' radar come Sunday, along with linemate Jonathan Greenard.

QB C.J. Stroud

Quarterback C.J. Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, has solidified himself as the Texans' signal-caller of the future. Stroud has lived up to his 'Face of the Offensive Rebuild' status. He has accumulated nine touchdowns to just one interception and has thrown for 1,800 yards through seven games. This season for Houston, Stroud has shown his ability to create outside of structure and manipulate coverage. His ball placement allows for pass-catchers to rack up YAC-yardage and Stroud has displayed surgical precision on posts, crossers and deep overs. Stroud is structurally sound and layers the football with an exceptional feel. Stroud is able to anticipate voids in coverage and has commanded the Texans' offense with poise as a rookie. As per usual, the Bucs' defenders will be licking their chops going up against a first-year quarterback on Sunday, but Stroud is no ordinary rookie.

DE Jonathan Greenard

Jonathan Greenard sits atop the Texans' sack leaderboard and spearheaded the unit's best outing in Week Eight against the Panthers. They sacked rookie quarterback Bryce Young six times and limited the Panthers to just 15 points. Greenard logged six tackles and 2.5 sacks during Houston's 15-13 loss to Carolina. He is on pace for a career-high in both tackles and sacks in 2023 and has fortified the Texans' front. Greenard plays with consistent leverage and a high motor. He is able to separate on the edge with upper body strength and has the lateral agility to make tackles on ball-carriers. The outside linebacker-turned defensive end has the ability to sink his shoulder to get around the corner and will be a primary focus for the Bucs' offensive line on Sunday.

DT Maliek Collins

Maliek Collins notched two sacks against the Panthers and has become a key fixture in the unit's ability to affect the quarterback. Collins' push in the interior sets the tone in the trenches. He has notched 11 quarterback hits and two tackles for loss in seven game starts in 2023. In Collins' first season with the Texans (2021), he reinvigorated his career after signing a one-year, prove-it deal after a quiet stint in Las Vegas. That season, Collins started 15 games and had a career-high 29 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one interception. His initial quickness and active hands opens the door for disruption. Collins has a lethal spin move in his repertoire and plays with relentless tenacity. He causes disruption in the backfield and can get underneath blockers to collapse the pocket with an effective bull rush.

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