Dave Choate: Obviously this is shaping up as a bit of a lost season for the Buccaneers. Who are the bright spots and future building blocks we should be looking for Sunday?
Sander Philipse: The Buccaneers really only have big issues at two positions right now. Unfortunately, those positions are kind of crucial: quarterback and defensive end. At every other position they appear to have very talented players, either early in their career (like Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy, Mark Barron and Mike Williams) or truly in their prime (like Vincent Jackson, Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis). Despite being 0-5, this team has the talent to be very good. And yet, they keep losing games.
DC: What do you make of Mike Glennon? Does he have the tools necessary to become a franchise guy for the Buccaneers, or is he a stopgap?
SP: At this point I would say he is mostly a stopgap, but he does show some positives. If he can develop those quickly, the Bucs could build around him. He would need to show a lot for the Bucs to pass up a quarterback with what looks to be a top five draft pick.
To me, he looks a little like an early-career Matt Ryan with slightly worse mechanics. He's a pocket quarterback who needs some functional space to work, and he's at his best when throwing to the middle of the field in the intermediate passing game. He's generally accurate, but not perfectly so. He really needs to work on his deep ball and could stand to quicken up his dropback and release, and his anticipation needs to be better. Part of the problem is that the offense doesn't really play to his strengths. He may be at his best in a more timing-based offense, rather than the downfield passing game the Bucs employ.
If we judge him by the standards of rookie quarterbacks in general, he doesn't look all that bad. If we judge him by the standards of "future franchise quarterback", though, I'm a lot less hopeful.
DC: I've seen a lot of frustration with the way Greg Schiano and his coaching staff are deploying Darrelle Revis. With the Falcons down their top receivers, how can we expect the coverage to line up on Sunday?
SP: Expect a lot of zone coverage. The Bucs would likely play that way even if Julio Jones and Roddy White are healthy, because that is effectively what they've done throughout the year. It's a little ironic after they got continually burned in man coverage last year when they didn't have cornerbacks. Now they have the cornerbacks to play man, and they play zone.
Greg Schiano does claim that Revis often plays man when the rest is in zone, but looking at the tape that's just a half-truth. The Bucs play a lot of matchup zone coverage where Revis is responsible for any vertical routes run by the number one receiver, but he passes him off if the receiver runs toward the middle of the field.
DC: If you were going to attack the Bucs on both sides of the ball as a depleted Falcons team, how would you do it? You know, if.
I'd start by trying to motion my best receiver away from Darrelle Revis, as he generally doesn't follow that player across the field. He only did that against Larry Fitzgerald, and even then he wasn't often in man coverage. Once I've done that, I'd start running a ton of vertical routes with that top receiver against Johnthan Banks, who can be beaten deep. He's often responsible for vertical routes run to his side.
I'd stay away from the running game, mostly, because the Bucs' run defense is very good. Instead, I'd look to sustain drives with intermediate throws to tight ends and in-breaking routes to wide receivers. If you can pick up the blitz you'll find holes in the Bucs' zone coverage. The Patriots and Cardinals had quite a bit of success running crossing routes through zones that way.
SP: Prediction for the game, and what you'd like to see the Buccaneers looking like in 2014.
I think the Falcons win a close game on a late field goal, because that's the Bucs' favorite way to lose. Mostly I'd expect this to be a low-scoring affair. I don't think the Falcons have the weapons to do much damage against a stout Tampa Bay defense, but the Buccaneers have been dysfunctional on offense throughout the year, too. 20-17 Falcons sounds about right.
I'd like the Bucs to look like Super Bowl champions in 2014, of course. I actually think they have a decent chance of being contenders, provided they get a franchise quarterback (either in the draft or a developed Mike Glennon), and probably a new coaching staff.