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2016 Regular Season
Preview: Tampa Bay@ Cards

Setting the Stage:
TB won their first opening day road win since 2005.
They beat the Falcones on the road 31 - 24 on the road and have to be feeling pretty good about themselves.

All the talk about the Cards bettering last year's 13 - 3 record has been significantly muted, in the aftermath of our narrow loss to New England when a 47-yard FG attempt was aborted by the inability of our holder and punter to adjust to a poor snap from our rookie center.

Bucs and their young qB have to feel pretty good about themselves. Cards have a lot to prove. (You never know how a team will react to adversity. (The good ones get mad, put their heads down and take it out on next week's opponent. Others talk a good game & curl up in a fetal position). We don't know what to expect next Sunday.

TB added speed to the backfield by signing Jacquiz Rodgers and earlier in the week picked up receiver Cecil Shorts

Opponent's Last Game
TB posted erased a 10 - 3 Atlanta 4Q lead, put up 28 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters and held the Falcones to three 4Q points to beat Atlanta 31 - 24. Jamal Winston threw an early interception but rebounded by throwing four TD passes to give TB its first opening day win since 2012. Winston - who went 23 for 33, 281 yds and 4 TD's spread the ball around, throwing two TD passes to his TE's (Sefarian-Jenkins and Myers) and one each to a WR (Evans) and RB (C Simms III).

Scoring:

First Quarter:

Atlanta - 43 Yard FG: Atl 3 - TB 0

TB - 34 Yard FG: Atl3 - TB 3

Atl - 5 yard TD Pass, Ryan to Sanu: Atl 10 - TB 3

Second Quarter

TB - 4-yard TD Pass, Winston to Myers: Atl 10 - TB 10

Atl - 34-yard FG: Atl 13 - TB 10.

TB - 23-yard pass, Winston to C Sims: TB 17 - Atl 13

Third Quarter

TB - 30-yard pass, Winston to Seferian-Jenkins: TB 24 - Atl 13

TB 45-yard pass, Winston to Evans: TB 31 - Atl 13

Atl - 25-yard pass, Ryan to Jones. 2-Pt Good: TB 31 - Atl 21

Fourth Quarter

Atl - 29-yard FG: TB 31 - Atl 24

Key Stats

Passing: Winston - 23/33 281 yds, 4 TD's, 1 Int. (Ryan - 27/39 344 yds 2 TD's 0 Int

Receiving: Evans - 5 catches, 99 yards. Martin - 5 catches 34 yards

Running: Martin - 18 carries for 62 yards. Atlanta 22 carries for 52 yards

Rushing YPC - TB: 3.2. Atl: 2.4

Tackles - Alexander: 17, Conte: 10, David 8, McDougald 5

Third Down Eff: TB: 3/10 (30%). Atl: 3/13 (23%)

Sacked - TB: 0. Atl: 3

Net Punting Avg - TB: 45.0. Atl: 38.6

Red Zone Eff - TB: 1/2 50%. Atl: 1/4 25%

Time of Pos - TB: 27:37. Atl: 32:23

Rosters/Match-ups

Buc Offense

WR.......83 V Jackson..........11 Humphries
TE.........84 Brate..................87 Sefarian-Jenkins           
LT..........51 D Smith..............66 Wester                    
LG.........64 Pamphile...........62 E Smith      
C ..........68 Hawley...............62 E Smith      
RG........74 Marpet...............77 .Benenoch      
RT.........69 Dotson...............78 Cherilus            
WR.......13 Evans.................89 Shepard.......... 10 Shorts                                 
TE.........88 Stocker..............82 B Myers                      
QB........03 Winston.............08 Glennon...........04 R Griffin
RB........22 D Martin............34 Sims.................43 Barber.......xx J Rodgers

Cardinal Defense

DE        93 Campbell.....72 Stinson
NT        98 Peters..........69 X Williams...72 Pierre                
DT        95 Gunter..........92 Rucker........97 Mauro.....,,90 Nkemdiche                   
SLB     55 C Jones........57 Okafor               
ILB       20 Bucannon....50 G Martin           
ILB       51 Minter...........59 Fua..                   
WLB    44 Golden.........96 K Martin     
LCB     21 Peterson......41 M Cooper, 29 Simon                   
RCB    26 B Williams....28 Bethel              
SS       36 Swearinger...27 Branch........25 Christian                 
FS       32 Mathieu........22 T Jefferso
  

Matchup: Buc Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
PFF rates Winston "High Quaiity", Evans "Above Average"....Stocker, V Jaclson, Pamphile "Poor."...Brate "Below Average." (All others rated "Average")

PFF rates Jefferson "High Quaiity"...Campbell, Minter, Peterson "Above Average"... X Williams "N/A", Bethel N/A...Bucannon "Poor." (All others rated "Average")

Winston threw 4 TD's last week - he spread the ball around with scoring passes to two TE's (S-Jenkins and Myers), a RB (Sims) and a WR (Evans). When he watches tape, he'll be licking his chops as he gazes over the Brandon Williams side of the field. If Williams stays true to form and targets his TE's, look for the Cardinal safeties to play a more immediate and active role defensively.

Both Evans and V Jackson are big, rangy receivers with speed. While Peterson figures to take care of one of them in coverage, the other corner- probably B Williams or J Bethel will have to cover the other, making for a potentially problematic matchup. (Cards added former Seahawk SImon and Marcus Cooper more big corners; but how much action they see remains a big question).

When you scan across the TB starting OL, you don't see anyone who jumps out and scares you. Last week, the Cards, early on, mixed the lethal combination of (1) 4-man rush and (2) man corner. With B Williams vulnerable opposite Peterson, it was easy pickins' for Jimmy Garoppolo. But adjustments were made and the Cards combined (1) more exotic pass rush schemes and (2) more zone coverage. This seemed to work better vs. the Patriots. It seems fairly obvious that Jim Bettcher and BA would like to build their base defense around man-coverage; and it's our guess that they will do so if and when B William grows into that role. Till then, it will be difficult to figure out precisely what the Cards plan to do defensively.

Key Matchups: Peterson vs. V Jackson. B Williams vs.Evans. Mathieu, Swearinger or T Jefferson vs. Various "sung" and unsung TB TE's. Bucannon vs. D Martin and Sims. C Jones vs. D Smith. Nkemdiche vs. Marpet.

Matchup: Buc Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Last week, the Cards had trouble stopping the hard between-the-tackles running of Blount (Our defenders were being rocked back on their heels and moved backward by 2-yard gains turned into 7-yard first down pickups. The problem seemed to have more to do with technique-flaws than it did "want-to" on the part of the Cardinal run defense. Look for Buc runners and blockers to test the Cardinal run defense early and often.

Not that the 3.2 YPC TB run-game was a juggernaught last Sunday; more that our run defenders got pushed around last week, so why stop now? It comes down to whether and to what extent, the Cardinal run defense fixes their tackling technique issues and can prevail over TB ballcarriers and blockers

Key Matchup: Gunter and Minter vs. Martin and SIms. Cardinal Front Seven vs. Buc run blockers. B Williams vs. Buc WR's one on one in the open field.


Cardinal Offense

WR1    11 Fitzgerald..........13 Jaron Brown
LT        68 Veldheer............73 Wetzel                       
LG       76 Iupati                   
C         53 Shipley..............78 Watford...........70 Boehm                    
RG       69 Mathis..............61 Toner                   
RT........74 Humphries
TE       .85 Fells.................87 Niklas            
WR2    15 M. Floyd..........12 John Brown.....14 JJ Nelson           
QB       03 Palmer.............05 Stanton     
RB       31 D Johnson.......23 C Johnson.......38 Ellington.......30 Taylor
TE        84 Gresham

Buc Defense

DE........91 Ayers...............57 N Spence...........95 H Jones  
DT........93 McCoy.............75 Lambert           
DT    ...98 McDonald........97 A Spence        
DE.......92 Gholston..........56 J Smith...............71 .Ward      
SLB.....76 D Smith............59 Bond..................50 Keyes           
MLB....58 Alexander                 
WLB....54 David...............53 Gianton       
CB.......21 Verner..............28 Hargreaves.........26 Robinson     
CB.......24 Grimes.............38 Adjel-Barlmah....27 Banks        
S..........23 Conte..............37 Tandy             
S..........30 McDougald.....29 R Smith

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Bucs Pass Defense

PFF rates David, Alexander, McCoy and Grimes "Above Average", but rates McDonald, Gholston, Hargreave, Conte and McDougald "Poor."

PFF rates Fitz "High Quality and D Johnson "Above Average"...Humphries, Fells and J Brown "Poor."

It took the better part of the first quarter last week for the the Cardinal offense to start clicking. (The best you could say was that, at least, Carson Palmer protected the ball, and this kept us within striking distance of the Pats).

Cardinal receivers, by and large, had a strong game across the board - catching just about everything thrown to them. JJ Nelson may be sidelined for a week or two, but Jaron Brown showed he can get the job done as #3 WR. Smokey Brown may still have fallout from his concussion issues in his his rear view mirror. With the exception of Gresham (sorta), the Cardinal TE's (for whatever reasons) were relatively invisible vs. NE.

TB pass rushers (Alexander, McCoy, Ayers) racked up 3 sacks vs. the Falcones. Card OL was pretty solid protecting C Palmer last week, but they typically have started out games having to square away pass blocking assignments/communicate better. They'd then be OK for the duration of the game. On paper, the strength of the TB defense would seem to be their LB's (Alexander, David, D Smith and safeties (McDougald and Conte) which means the most effective matchups for the Cards would figure to involve three or four wideouts vs. TB corners (Verner and Grimes). Three Edge Rushers (Ayers, N Spence and Gholston are ranked #35, #55 and #61 respectively by PFF. Biggest point of vulnerability for Cards figures to be McCoy's inside penetration vs. the youngster, Humphries.

Buc safeties (Conte and McDougald) were active on the tackling front last week - look to see how they match up with Cardinal RB's (D Johnson, C Johnson and Andre Ellington) and TE's (most notably Niklas). Cards figure to occupy TB corners with Fitz and Floyd and line up with two TE's and/or 2 RB's to occupy the TB linebackers and put exploit mismatches with their safeties.

Key Matchups: Fitz, Floyd, Jaron, vs. Verner, Grimes & 3rd corner. McCoy vs. Humphries. TB Front Seven vs. Cardinal OL and RB.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Bucs Run Defense
TB run defense held Atlanta runners to 2.4, so assume the Card runners and blockers will have their work cut out. Neverthless, look for BA to utilize the run to set up the pass (mostly thru play action) and also use the threat of the run to occupy the three TB linebackers and the two safeties.

Key Matchup: D Johnson vs. Alexander and David. Cardinal OL vs. TB Front Seven. Use Ellington's outside speed to occupy David and Alexander & keep them away from C Palmer.

Special Teams

Bucs

K          19 Aguayo                           
P          09 Anger                           
H          09 Anger       
LS        48 DePaola                                   
KR       29 R Smith                              
PR       11 Humphries

Cardinals

K          Catanzaro                            
P          02 Butler                                   
H          02 Butler                             
LS        86 Canaday                                  
KR       38 Ellington              
PR        38 Ellington

Matchup: Pats Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
The long snapper and, to some degree, the holder, cost us a win vs. NE. Cardinal special teams are the worst we can remember since BA came aboard. Opposing teams return kickoffs and punts for significantly more yardage than our return teams - Is it the return guy, blocking or coverage? We don't know - maybe all three.

What we do know is that, in all areas of play, we need to get better. (Note - When you have ST breakdowns, it diverts energy and attention from more traditional areas of play like pass blocking or defensive scheming).

Last week, TB's punter (Anger) averaged 45.0 net yards (vs. 38.6 for Atlanta). This means that whenever you paired a Atlanta punt with a TB punt, the Falcs were giving the Bucs an automatic 6.4 "free" yards.

We've got Butler (Just sayin').

Key matchups: Campbell and Bethel vs. NE blockers. Amendola and Edelman vs. Cardinal coverage team. Butler vs. Anger.

Coaching
AT: Bucs have to be feeling pretty good about themselves after winning their first opening game since 2011. DIrk Koetter, while relatively new to the Buccos is highly respected. Only assistant we know much about is Mike Smith (Think of it as: "If you want to emulate Atlanta's defense over the past several years, you've got it with Smith).

AZ: Coach Arians has a tricky challenge ahead of him: He has to keep Cardinal spirits high while simultaneously get them to focus on fixing what's broke - most notably: tackling, pass coverage and 3rd down defense.

Will the Cardinals rise to the occasion or will they just shake their heads and stumble on? Have a lovely day, Bruce.

Last Word
We need this game. That doesn't mean that we'll win it (too many outside variables). What's important is that we put our best product on the field, do the best we can and hope the odds play out in our favor.


 
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