Arguably the Buccaneers' most dependable defensive player, Antoine Winfield Jr., is still in concussion protocol after he collided with running back Raheem Blaskshear on a tackle against the Panthers. The hybrid safety/nickel corner is a question mark for Sunday's clash against the Rams and several players could rotate in the role if Winfield is not able to suit up. "We mix the guys up a little bit depending on how we're going to play," Head Coach Todd Bowles described. "He's [Sean Murphy-Bunting] played it before, Dee [Delaney] has played it, Mike [Edwards] has played it, Zyon [McCollum] has even played it. We're going to continue to monitor during the week and see how everybody is feeling."
Whoever lines up as the slot corner for Tampa Bay will see a heavy dose of Cooper Kupp. The 2021 receiving triple-crown winner is a nuanced route-runner, adept at picking up yards-after-catch with savviness at the top of routes. Kupp successfully finds the voids in opposing defenses and takes advantage. Because of Kupp's proficiency on drag routes and working the intermediate area of the field, teams began utilizing more Cover 3 against the Rams in 2022 to try and mitigate L.A.'s efficiency. Kupp is also a stout blocker at the point of attack and possesses quick change-of-direction. The Rams' do-it-all phenom has established himself among the league's elite at the position, garnering praise from Bowles.
"He does everything well. He blocks, he runs routes, he's inside, he's outside, he's in the backfield, he's at the line of scrimmage, he's in motion, he throws passes, he catches the ball, he's a very intelligent player, he has a lot of savvy, he's a very athletic player as well, has good size – that goes unnoticed when he's blocking but he has good size to get on you. He's one of the rare players that comes around every couple [of] years but he's a great player."
Todd Bowles' Impression of Sean McVay
For the first time in Sean McVay's head coaching career, the Rams will sport an under .500 regular season record (3-4) in 2022. Despite the team's current status, the Rams have reached new heights under the tutelage of young offensive guru, McVay. The Rams are 55-27 in McVay's six seasons in Los Angeles, winning three NFC West titles, two NFC Championships and a Super Bowl title following the 2021 campaign. His innovative coaching has taken the NFL world by storm over the last few years, gaining recognition from his peers. Behind the podium, Bowles described his impression of a McVay-led offense.
"He's the head coach, it's his offense. They have a very good offense; he has a very good scheme that he runs. He's a very intelligent guy. They can do power running, they can do edge running, they can do boot-quick-game, they have deep game – they have a lot of guys that are very smart players. They do a very good job with the offensive line – they have some big guys down there [and] they protect each other very well. It makes it tough to play when you have a signal caller that tries to keep you off balance all the time."
Let the chess match begin.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell into troubling trends against the Ravens on Thursday Night Football, shattering disillusionment. The Buccaneers are currently at a crux two months into the 2022 NFL slate, having lost five of their last six contests. Tampa Bay holds a 3-5 record after their loss to Baltimore and currently rank second in the NFC South. This embattled period marks the first span since Tom Brady's arrival that the Bucs have lost three-consecutive games. Now, the Buccaneers will look to propel themselves forward against the Rams in Week Nine. The rivalry game stirs up unfinished business. The matchup will serve as a rematch of the 2021 Divisional Round contest. On the quest to winning Super Bowl LVI, the Rams had to go through several heavy-hitters to achieve the ultimate goal, including the defending champs and No. 2 seeded Buccaneers in that Divisional Round clash. Tom Brady led the Bucs on a second-half comeback, guiding the team to 21 unanswered points to tie the game at 27 with 40 seconds remaining on the clock. However, a Matthew Stafford connection with Cooper Kupp off a Bucs' all-out blitz set up the team's game-winning field goal, bringing the Bucs' storybook season to a crashing halt. Now, nine months later, the two franchises will meet once again.
"It may bring up some memories seeing them in the stadium again, so we definitely have a chip on our shoulder," cornerback Carlton Davis III stated. "Right now, we're just trying to get a win – stack the wins… I mean, we're just taking it one day at a time – trying to get back on track. Nobody's immune to obstacles and not having the season go your way. It's football. And we're going to battle through it."