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McCoy discusses the Eagles' game plan for the Bucs
Nick Foles completed 32 of 51 passes against the Bucs in 2012 for 381 yards, two touchdowns and his first win as a starting quarterback in the NFL. (USA Today Images)
The makeup of the Eagles’ offense didn’t change very much with Nick Foles at quarterback, but the play calling and execution did.
Foles came in cold against the Giants but immediately displayed a hot hand, especially as the Giants tested him early with pressure. He showed good timing and wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger against man coverage, leading his receivers with accurate passes, as he worked the middle and short stuff first before opening it up as the game progressed.
Foles helped the Eagles get their offensive mojo back, but there’s no comparing the struggling defense of the Giants to Tampa’s. If the Bucs had any semblance of an offense they certainly wouldn’t be seeking their first win, and they’d probably be a much more competitive team in their own division. Defensively, they’re eighth in scoring, 13th in total yards and tied for the seventh on third down. The average score of a Tampa Bay game this year is 18-11.
Tampa doesn’t have a great pass rush, but its defensive line is fast and athletic, and its linebackers play very downhill. This is probably the best front seven the Eagles have faced since Kansas City in Week 3.
It’s led by third-year defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, one of the game’s best three-techniques. McCoy has just two sacks, but he’s constantly double teamed and his presence opens up lanes for other linemen and linebackers. The Bucs lack elite pass rushing ends with Adrian Clayborn and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who have combined for just three sacks, but linebackers Lavonte David and Mason Foster have combined for five sacks.
McCoy moves around, so he’ll get matchups against left guard Evan Mathis and right guard Todd Herremans. There’s been steady improvement from Herremans since the Kansas City game, but look for the Bucs to line McCoy up against him and try to capitalize on that matchup in the pass rush.
The secondary, which really struggled last year, improved with an offseason trade for Darrelle Revis, the game’s best corner, and the signing of Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson to complement 2012 first-round pick Mark Barron. As usual, teams have avoided throwing Revis’ way. Opposing QBs have thrown at him just 22 times and have a 63.1 passer rating against him, according to Pro Football Focus.
Revis will see plenty of DeSean Jackson unless the coaches decide to put Jackson in the slot more, but that severely limits the Pro Bowl wideout’s vertical threat. It also means Jason Avant and either Riley Cooper or Jeff Maehl on the outside, which isn’t going to scare many defenses.
Figure that the Bucs paid close attention to the Giants’ stunting up front that overwhelmed center Jason Kelce and slowed down the Eagles’ inside zone run that had become the bread and butter of their rushing attack (see film study). Look for the Eagles to make some changes, leaning a little harder on the outside zone or using more slow-developing runs and misdirections designed to catch an aggressive defense off guard.
It would be nice if one of McCoy’s backups could get going. Bryce Brown is averaging 2.7 yards per carry and seems to bounce to the outside on every run instead of running between the tackles, where he excels but has also been fumble prone. Chris Polk managed just three yards last Sunday on two carries.
With the Bucs likely to have Jackson double covered and aggressive up front, the middle of the field should be open for Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. Celek looked much better against the Giants, catching all three passes intended for him, including a 25-yard touchdown from Foles. Ertz’s routes are the sharpest of any tight end on the roster. His snaps keep going up. One of these days, Ertz is going to catch five or six passes and go over 100 yards. He’s averaging 24.4 yards per reception, the highest on the team among all receivers.
For more on how the Eagles' defense mtaches up against the Buccaneers' offense, click here.