-We've talked a lot about the challenges a short week presents, going from playing a game on Sunday to just a four-day turnaround to play again on Thursday. But let's talk a little bit more about the opponent. The Philadelphia Eagles have had their share of ups and downs already this season but they seem to be figuring themselves out under new head coach Nick Sirianni. They present problems on both sides of the ball for the Bucs, which isn't lost on Tampa Bay Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich.
"You see players everywhere," he said of the Eagles defense. "You see a physical defense. You see them getting after the quarterback. You see all the guys with their hands in the ground collapsing the pocket. You see them tackling the football in front of them. They have great defensive backs. They have great players on every level. Veteran guys that know how to play. Some of the guys we played against. Savvy guys on defense that know how to make plays – they have made a lot of plays in this league. When you put the tape on, it doesn't take long to see the athleticism that they have out there and the physicality that they bring to every football game."
What does that mean for the Bucs' skill players?
"I mean we've just got to be smart in our route running," said wide receiver Mike Evans. "We've got to find the spots in the zone defense, we have to be where the quarterback expects us to be and then probably make grimy catches. When you play a team that plays a lot of man coverage, you've got to be a little quicker, a little more twitchy, more physical. In zone, you've got to be smarter."
-It isn't just the Philadelphia defense that will present problems: so will quarterback Jalen Hurts and the Philly offense. It'll be the first time the Bucs will face a true dual-threat quarterback, who is armed with a couple really good running backs that know how to catch the ball out of the backfield.
"They're a very well-coached team in all three phases," said inside linebacker Kevin Minter, who will be starting in place of the injured Lavonte David. "Jalen Hurts, he's doing well with that offense. It seems like they're still trying to figure some things out, but for the most part they do what they do very well. We're going to have to, obviously, be prepared for the RPOs and the zone reads and try to shut a very talented team down. It's going to be a task this week, especially on a short week. We're definitely going to have to prepare well this week and just try to home in and be as focused as possible."
"I think any time you get a running quarterback, you've just got to do what is best – just rush the passer," outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul continued. "You beat guys by rushing the passer and keeping him in the pocket. As you can see, we did that last year in the final game, so we don't really have too [many] concerns. We just know that he's a running quarterback and he will extend plays, but we can do a good job of holding him in the pocket hopefully."
Though actually rushing on this Bucs' defense, which is allowing a league-low 45.8 rushing yards per game this season, is ill-advised, that doesn't mean Tampa Bay doesn't still work on it or even expect it from opponents.
"We always prepare for it every week," nose tackle Vita Vea said of the running game. "That's something you really can't neglect from your gameplan. That's one thing we still focus on is teams still running on us. We just have to stay prepared."
-Here in Tampa, the Bucs have enjoyed the fruits of a more productive ground game themselves. It's been a point of emphasis the past few weeks and it's showing. The Bucs have gone over 120 yards on the ground in each of their last two contests.
"I think it's just guys being on the same page, like having all 11 guys know where the MIKE point is and what our combinations are with the tight ends and where our receivers are going," said right tackle Tristan Wirfs. "We've been meeting with Tom [Brady] on Fridays with the offense and he'll put up the run for the week and we'll just kind of go through it together because we'll go out and practice, but we're all meeting individually at the end of the day with position groups. Just having a time where we can all be together and know what [everybody] is doing is what I think is very beneficial – just making sure everybody is on the same page."
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