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Intriguing players to watch in Falcons vs. Bucs

Who will be worth keeping an eye on in this divisional rematch?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Every week, I strive to name five captivating Atlanta Falcons players for their upcoming matchup. Many consider it an impossible task, but alas, I must endure.

This week’s quintet features those who must pick up their play if the team hopes to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Desmond Ridder

That begins with quarterback Desmond Ridder doing more heavy lifting on offense on Sunday. With the Falcons down several starters due to injury, it’ll be on the quarterback to pick up as much slack as possible.

That could start with the passing game being a bigger part of the team’s game plan against the Bucs this time around compared to their Week 7 win. Then, Ridder threw just 25 passes and handed the ball off 32 times. Can the Falcons expect winning play from Ridder if he has to do more of the heavy lifting?

Bijan Robinson

Rookie running back Bijan Robinson is another intriguing player in this matchup because he was mostly absent from the last meeting between the Falcons and Bucs. It would be easy to assume that Robinson’s presence will only enhance the team’s ability to run the ball after a 156-yard outing in Week 7. T

hat is possible, especially given the injuries the Bucs are dealing with at the linebacker position. Exploiting that weakness should allow Robinson to become a major “X factor” bolstering the Falcons offense this weekend.

Matthew Bergeron

If the Falcons’ run game is going to improve upon its previous success against the Bucs, fellow rookie left guard Matthew Bergeron will likely be a major reason why. He needs to pick up his play after a rough outing this past week against Quinnen Williams and the New York Jets that came on the heels of his best game a week before against the New Orleans Saints.

Proving that Saints performance was not a fluke will be important for Bergeron this week. The Falcons may be forced to lean on the left side of their offensive line to spearhead their rushing attack with right tackle Kaleb McGary out of the lineup with a knee injury.

Arnold Ebiketie

Second-year pass-rusher Arnold Ebiketie is on a bit of a hot streak as of late, tallying a sack in five of the team’s last seven games. Yet, hopefully, he can do even more against the Bucs due to the absence of defensive tackle David Onyemata, the team’s most reliable pass-rusher.

Ebiketie will have to step up against one of the league’s better tackle duos if the Falcons’ pass rush is going to be impactful, and make the most of what continue to be limited snaps.

DeMarcco Hellams

Seventh-round rookie safety DeMarcco Hellams could also have an important role this week. With injuries at both cornerback and linebacker, the Falcons’ safety position must pick up the slack in coverage. Hellams has seen an increased role in recent games as a dime safety. Hellams is a natural box safety who could help fill the void left by linebacker Nate Landman.

However, in recent games, fellow safety Richie Grant has seen the largest share of snaps closer to the line of scrimmage, which leaves Hellams spending the bulk of his reps playing deep. But that skillset will also matter a lot due to the injuries at cornerback to potential starters A.J. Terrell and Jeff OKudah. If either one misses Sunday’s game, their replacements will be more reliant on safety help from Hellams and Jessie Bates to prevent explosive plays from the dynamic Bucs receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Can you name other Atlanta Falcons that need to carve out a bigger role this coming Sunday?