By Tom Krasniqi
It’s desperation time for the 0-4 Buccaneers as they host 2-3 Eagles at Raymond James Stadium today at 1pm (620 WDAE, 95.3FM, 103.5FM). The Bucs are coming off the bye week. Meanwhile, the Eagles come into town with a 2-3 record and beat the Giants 36-21 last week.
The Bucs dealt with more distractions this week with another MRSA outbreak. Guard Carl Nicks was diagnosed with the staph infection for a second time and rookie cornerback Jonhthan Banks also came down with MRSA. Doctors have cleared Banks to play in today's game. No word yet on Nicks' status.
Rookie Mike Glennon will get his 2nd NFL start for the Bucs today. Glennon was solid for three quarters in his first start against Arizona two weeks ago. And then came the fourth quarter. Glennon threw two interceptions to Patrick Peterson and lost a fumble as the Bucs blew a 10-0 lead and lost 13-10. Glennon finished the game completing 24 of 43 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown with two picks.
Glennon says the bye week really helped him in terms of learning from his mistakes while continuing to absorb offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s offense.
“Having the extra week to watch some film and just dissect what we did and then move forward to the Eagles--It just allowed me mentally to get ready for the rest of the season,” Glennon told me this week.
Glennon will face an Eagles defense that forced 4 turnovers last week in beating Eli Manning and the Giants. However, the Eagles have given up some big plays. They’re 30th in the NFL in pass defense (326ypg) and they’ve allowed 108 yards rushing per contest. That’s good news for a Bucs offense that has really struggled to put the ball in the end zone. Tampa Bay is next to last in the NFL in averaging just 11 points per game. Only Jacksonville is worse at 10ppg. You never want to be in the same category with the Jaguars.
The Bucs will try and crank up their running game today with Doug Martin, who has carried the ball 100 times through four games. Martin is on pace for an incredible 400 carries on the season. The Bucs will continue to ride him in an effort to take the pressure off Glennon.
Expect the Bucs to throw the football down the field more. Head coach Greg Schiano says that was a point of emphasis during the bye. That means wideouts Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams will get some opportunities against suspect Eagles corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. Jackson has yet to score a touchdown this season. Tight end Tom Crabtree is expected to make his season debut today. He missed the first four games with a high ankle sprain. That should be a boost to the passing game and running game. Crabtree is a good blocker as well as an adequate pass catcher.
The big matchup will take place between head coach Chip Kelly’s high powered Eagles offense and the Bucs improved defense. Philly’s fast-paced offense has been explosive. They lead the NFL with 38 plays of 20+ yards. Yes, even more big plays than Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Mike Vick (hamstring) is out for today so Nick Foles will get the start. The zone-read will take a hit with Vick out but Foles is a better pocket passer. Don’t forget, Foles beat the Bucs last December at Ray Jay on the game’s final play. The battle to watch is Eagles WR DeSean Jackson against Bucs CB Darrelle Revis. Jackson challenged Revis this week by saying he couldn’t run with him. Revis and Jackson met back in 2011 with Revis holding Jackson to two catches for 28 yards. According to Bucs defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, Revis will play man coverage on Jackson “at certain times.” But Sheridan adds the Bucs won’t play man-to-man all the time against the Eagles zone-read concept.
The Eagles are first in the NFL in rushing as they average 186 yards per game. LeSean McCoy leads the league with 514 yards rushing and is averaging more than 5 yards per carry. The Bucs front seven must be disciplined in order to prevent big rushing plays off the option. DT Gerald McCoy has been superb and LBs LaVonte David and Mason Foster are playing at a high level. Sheridan says the defensive backs will be needed in run support. Safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron will be asked to come up and make plays in run support. The Bucs need to guard against play-action. Philly likes to use their run game to set up the deep ball and the speedy Jackson is averaging nearly 19 yards per catch.
This game features two college coaches who have made the jump to the pros. Kelly almost took the Bucs job two years ago before it went to Schiano. The Eagles lead the all-time series 9-7 and won the last two games. The Bucs are 3-3 against the Eagles in Tampa. Philly is wrapping up a three-game road trip.
Prediction: With Vick out, the Eagles run game will take a hit. Foles can run the zone-read but he’s not as athletic as Vick and that will diminish Philly’s ground assault. With that being said, the Eagles can still put points on the board. Glennon and the Bucs will be hard pressed to keep up. Eagles win 24-13.