TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers return home to play the Cleveland Browns Sunday at 1 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium. Both teams enter the game after undergoing dramatic changes.
The Bucs made a switch at defensive coordinator, replacing Mike Smith with linebackers coach Mark Duffner. The Browns made a personnel change, trading running back Carlos Hyde to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick.
At 2-3, the Bucs look to get more consistent on defense and help an offense that continues to score points, giving them a chance to win two of their last three games, which wound up being consecutive losses. Here are some of the storylines for today’s game:
Be rough under Duff
New Bucs defensive coordinator Mark Duffner promised an aggressive approach, even if the tactical appearance does not seem much different to fans. What will we see? The reveal happens today against Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, a rookie who has shown poise under pressure and is working with an unsettled core of wide receivers due to injuries.
The Bucs will not be the first defense to focus on harassing Mayfield into making a mistake but the defensive line is missing two key pieces. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (calf) and defensive end Vinny Curry (ankle) are both out for today’s game, putting rookie Vita Vea into the spotlight. Vea will play in his third NFL game and will be joined by veteran Beau Allen. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will draw the most attention, sitting on five quarterback sacks, just two and a half behind the lead in the NFL.
While the young Bucs secondary looks to tighten up in coverage, the linebackers may see their roles tweak to fit the “aggressive” nature of Duffner. Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander have already established themselves as the top tacklers on the defense collecting 40 and 38 tackles respectively.
An even better Jameis
With the exception of two throws (both interceptions), Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston thought his performance against the Atlanta Falcons last week was a good one. He was right. Winston finished the day with 395 yards and four touchdowns, nearly completing a fourth-quarter comeback in a 34-29 loss.
The questions around Winston continue to involve chemistry, particularly with wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who could not get to a pair of poorly-thrown deep passes, one of which resulted in an interception at the Atlanta one-yard line.
The Browns secondary was dealt a blow this week with the loss of cornerback E.J. Gaines to a concussion. If Winston is comfortable in the pocket, he could be in for another big game. Anything careless could add to a league-high 16 takeaways by the Browns defense.