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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Winston/Smith praise Panthers LB Luke Kuechly

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
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In advance of the NFL releasing its “Top 100” players for 2019 later this month, the Bucs rivalry with the Panthers came to the forefront in a promo released by the league on Friday.

In that online promo, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and left tackle Donovan Smith are both seen praising the skill, instincts and overall disruption that Panthers All-Pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly causes for them twice a year, year after year.

Kuechly a former 9th overall pick by Carolina in the 2012 draft is a five-time All-Pro, including each of the last two seasons, and he’s therefore widely regarded as one of the best inside linebackers in all of the NFL

And as Winston and Smith detailed, his film study and instincts serve him well, especially on being able to predict what plays are coming next. In fact Winston said in promo, “about 60% of the time,” you can count on Kuechly knowing the play that you’re about to run and being somewhere in the vicinity of trying to break up the pass over the middle or clobber the back out of the backfield.

The Panthers overall have enjoyed some recent success against the Bucs, including winning 7 of the last 10 games in the series. Now, Kuechly hasn’t played in all of those, primarily due to concussion issues that he’s had throughout the last few seasons.

And, it should be pointed out that Winston and the Bucs swept the Panthers in 2016. And, they also pulled off a December win a year ago, where the Bucs QB helped lead them to a 24 – 17 win at Raymond James Stadium that kept their faint playoff hopes alive, at that time. (Kuechly had 5 tackles and a fumble recovery in the loss).

Further adding to the intrigue of this rivalry is: Kuechly is now being joined by former Buccaneers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was released by Tampa Bay in May and signed by the Panthers the following week.

And, it’s further interesting on the NFL schedule, the two Rivals of the NFC South will meet on Thursday night of week 2 in Charlotte. They will also play later of the year in October in a stand-alone Sunday morning National Television game from London.

It’s almost assured that Panthers QB Cam Newton will also be part of the NFL’s 2019 “Top 100” list voted on by the players.

However, the real question is: will Winston, Mike Evans or any of the Buccaneers make a list this season? Coming off back to back losing seasons, the Bucs have been shutout in the “Top 100” in each of the last two years.

The full list reveal will begin, in descending order, on NFL Network on July 22nd.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs pass rusher Barrett named NFC Defensive Player of Week

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Off their impressive Road win last Thursday night against division rival Carolina, the Buccaneers also got an individual accolades on Wednesday morning.

That’s when the NFL announced that edge pass-rusher Shaq Barrett had been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week:

Barrett had a tremendous game, or should we say third quarter specificall,  in the win over the Panthers. This as, he registered not one, but three quarterback sacks, in the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 20 – 14 victory.

Barrett became the first Buccaneer since Simeon Rice in their Super Bowl season of 2002 to have that many sacks in a single 15 minute period. He’s also the first Bucs pass rusher to get three sacks in a single game since the 2015 season.

Barrett also had a sack in Tampa Bay’s week one loss against San Francisco and obviously, leads them now with four of them through the first two games. The four sacks in two games has matched the best start in sacking the QB in Buccaneers franchise history.

The last time the Bucs had a defensive player win player of the week honors, was also 2015. That’s when linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander each took home the honor in separate weeks.

The six year veteran came to Tampa Bay after having spent his first five years with the Denver Broncos. This included his being part of the Broncos Super Bowl 50 winning season of 2014.

Barrett had 14 career sacks coming into this season and is already thriving early in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense. The Bucs are pairing him on the outside with Carl Nassib in Bowles’ 3-4 scheme.

He is also the former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year at Colorado State, where he had 12 sacks and three forced fumbles in his senior season and was eventually signed with Denver, as an undrafted free agent.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Arians rightfully fearing Giants RB Saquon Barkley

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of the Giants starting rookie Daniel Jones at quarterback on Sunday, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians knows the real key for New York resides deeper in their backfield.

That’s where second-year running back Saquon Barkley is expected to be busy, especially early in the game. And, he may very well be the reason or not that New York has a chance to get their first win of the season Sunday in Tampa.

Arians made it clear right away at his Tuesday press conference that Barkley will be a challenge for a Buccaneer defense that has been stingy so far this year against the run:

“He’s got more 50-yard runs than anybody I’ve seen in a long time,” Arians said.  “He’s hard to bring down. He doesn’t run over many people – he runs around them and runs past them. The size and the speed combination are extremely rare.”

The Bucs held the 49ers in check for just 77 yards on the ground in their opening loss two weekends ago, but then, played even better against Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers running attack last Thursday night. They held McCaffrey to only 37 yards on 16 carries, including the biggest moment of the game. That’s when DB Vernon Hargreaves stopped McCaffrey one-on-one from getting the one needed yard to keep Carolina’s final drive alive and hopes of winning the game.

As for Barkley, he comes off a tremendous debut season with a 1,300 yards rushing and another 700 receiving. He’s arguably the best dual threat back in football.

And, with a 120 yd rush game on just 11 carries in the opening week game at Dallas, Barkley followed up with another 100 yard game last week against Buffalo registering 107 yards on 18 carries. Still, the Giants dropped both games and at 0- 2 and have decided to shake it up at QB.

Giants second-year coach Pat Shurmur will try to establish the run early on in the game to take the pressure off his rookie quarterback making his debut.

The Bucs know that as well and looked at stuff to run with Pro Bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh and former first-round pick Vita Vea. Both guys have been big keys in clogging up the middle and helping the Buccaneers stop the 49er and Panther backs.

And if they do so Sunday at home, it will be a big key for a second straight win.

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