Beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense was going to be a tough task on its own, but the Las Vegas Raiders second opponent – COVID-19 – has made it even more daunting.
The Las Vegas Raiders already had a tough task with arguably the NFL’s best defense, and one of the game’s best-ever quarterbacks in Tom Brady, rolling into Allegiant Stadium for a big nationally-televised Sunday Night Football match. Now, Jon Gruden’s crew not only has to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, but they also must deal with another daunting opponent – COVID-19.
Trent Brown contracting the coronavirus virus during the bye week was a monumental blow to the Raiders and their chances to win their second-straight after their big win in Kansas City two weeks ago.
On Tuesday, the Raiders put Brown on the COVID-19/IR list. Wednesday, the entire starting offensive line being sent home for self-isolation, and additionally, Johnathan Abram was sent home. Thursday saw the NFL investigating the Raiders adherence to COVID protocols based on Damon Arnette produced a positive test elevating the level of protocols, as all five offensive linemen were officially added to the COVID list. The NFL also removed the Raiders and Buccaneers from the Sunday Night Football game of the week time-slot.
Kolton Miller, Denzelle Good, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, and Abram are all at home unable to practice and were deemed “high-risk” because of Brown removed his contact tracing device for unknown and unapproved reasons. Had Brown followed the rules, the Raiders wouldn’t be in the pickle they’re in. Currently, if they’re lucky, the offensive line will test negative and be eligible to play on Sunday. However, if any of them test positive, they will be taking on the Bucs daunting front with Sam Young, Patrick Omameh, Andre James, John Simpson, and Brandon Parker.
Either way, the Raiders find themselves having to face the Buccaneers defense without their offensive line at full strength yet again
The “D” in Tampa Bay
Todd Bowles is the Bucs defensive coordinator and has his unit playing their best football coming off a big home win against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Currently, the Tampa Bay defense is ranked 10th in points allowed, giving up an average of 20.3 points per game. Against the run, they are allowing a league-low 64.3 yards per game and 386 total rushing yards this season. Bowles squad is ranked 12th in passing yards allowed with 1306 and surrendering 217.7 yards per game. They’re a well-rounded group.
The Buccaneers like to crowd the line of scrimmage with seven and eight men in the box, putting constant pressure on the offense until it breaks. Linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David are sideline-to-sideline defenders possessing elite speed. White likes to rush from the EDGE, coming free and hard. Both White and David knife through offensive lines to blow up zone runs, stretches, and tosses.
Veteran Ndamukong Suh anchors the defensive line and figures to be a problem for Good and Hudson all game long. Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Steve McClendon are big bodies who type up lineman to allow the linebackers to cleanly navigate the box. With Vita Vea being lost to IR, the Raiders have their best shot at running the football and holding up in pass protection.
Elsewhere on the defensive line, Jason Pierre-Paul has five sacks on the season and William Gholston has contributed two. Shaquill Barrett is a hybrid linebacker/pass rusher with playmaking speed and the ability to blitz and drop in coverage. With three sacks and a pass defense to his credit on the season, Barrett is a major part of the problematic Bucs front.
The Back End
The secondary is the weakest part of the Buc’s defense but does have good, albeit young, talent. Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean, the Buc’s starting corners, give a ton of cushion to wide receivers and are greatly benefitted by the pass rush. Sean Murphy-Bunting is the slot corner and a pesky defender who sticks to his man and makes life difficult. Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead are the last lines of defense and great in run support. However, neither has really been tested over the top. Opposing offenses haven’t had much time to test the deep coverage and the rush complements the read and react style of the corners.
As a whole, this defense has few holes and plays together. While the Bucs are dealing with injuries of their own, playing against the Raiders second team should pad their stats. If the Raiders can get their offensive line back, sans Brown, they should still have an opportunity to put points on the board against Tampa Bay.