TAMPA – Were it not for the single quarterback hit he laid on Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers newcomer Chris Baker wouldn’t have made the stat sheet for the Bucs season opener last Sunday.
That doesn’t mean Baker didn’t make a dynamic, impactful debut.
As a nose tackle, Baker plays a position in which the player’s performance can seldom be measured accurately through statistics. That was definitely the case during the Bucs 29-7 victory over the Bears.
Baker, whom the Bucs signed to a three-year $15.75 million deal in free agency last March, didn’t record a single tackle in the game. Were it not for Baker, though, a lot of other tackles might not have been made.
“Chris did a nice job,’’ Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith explained on Wednesday. “There were times when both of our defensive tackles (Baker and Gerald McCoy) had four hands on them, meaning they were double-teamed.
“And when there’s four hands on the three technique (McCoy) and the one technique (Baker) that means our linebackers are going to have an opportunity to run free and that contributed to the number of minus-yard plays we had.’’
By minus-yard plays Smith means tackles for loss and the Bucs had six of them against the Bears, including two by rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith and one by linebacker Lavonte David.
The others were officially credited to McCoy, defensive end Will Gholston and safety T.J. Ward and Baker played a role in creating at least one of those by tying up a pair of blockers on the play.
“That’s the dirty work that guys have to do and people don’t realize that,’’ Smith said. “You look at a stat sheet and you say, ‘Well, he didn’t make the stat sheet so he probably didn’t have a very good game.
“But three or four of those losses we had were because (Baker) kept the guard and the center occupied or because he kept the tackle and the guard occupied and so our linebacker was able to run through there and make the play.’’
Baker’s dislike for practice has been well documented, but the Bucs have noted on several occasions that he really brings it on game days.
The stat sheet may not always reflect that, at least not directly, but indirectly, Baker’s impact can be noticed there, too. You just have to look a little deeper to find it.
Fantasy Football “Start/Sit” for Florida players Week 14
Everyone’s favorite time of year has arrived, that is if you had a good season. The fantasy playoffs are here, and if you made it, chances are some Florida players helped get there.
This week the Buccaneers will host the reeling Colts. The Jaguars will host the under-performing Chargers, and the Dolphins travel to play the ever-disappointing Jets.
The Buccaneers will entertain the Colts, who have the 13th overall defense. The Colts are 1-4 in their last five games and desperately need a win. Last week, they were torched on the ground by Titans RB Derick Henry. However, this was the first 100-yard rusher against the Colts this season.
The Bucs again surprised fantasy players last week, when Ronald Jones was benched in the first half for not picking up a blitz. This led to Peyton Barber scoring two touchdowns, while Jones had zero points. The Colts have surrendered two passing touchdowns in each of their last three games. Last week the Tampa Bay offense didn’t have to do nearly as much as usual.
This week, expect the Bucs vertical passing to be back throwing the ball at least 35 times. With a stout run defense, Jameis Winston will need to be at the top of his game in a big test for this Bucs team.
The Jaguars offense has been rough through the air with Nick Foles back. Now, Foles is back on the bench in favor of rookie, Gardner Minshew. The Chargers come into town with the 4th ranked pass defense, but let Drew Lock and Cortland Sutton connect for 74 yards and two touchdowns. The Chargers own the 18th ranked rush defense, and that is music to the ears of Leonard Fournette.
It has been a rough couple of weeks for the running back facing some stout run defenses. This weekend look for Fournette to get back on track. With the return of Minshew means the D.J. Chark becomes even more attractive. Chark was still the top guy with Foles in, but he and Minshew have a good connection.
The Dolphins are coming off one of the stunners of the year beating the Eagles in a 37-31 shootout. This week they set their sights on the Jets, who just gave the Bengals their first win. The Jets have the leagues’ best-run defense, which is usually significant. However, the Dolphins can’t run the ball effectively at all.
That means Ryan Fitzpatrick will be throwing a lot against the 19th ranked pass defense.
Last week Fitzpatrick and Devante Parker destroyed the Eagles secondary. This week they will have all the opportunities to do the same thing to the Jets. With the tight end position a mess, Mike Gesicki is an option again, who has scored in two straight games.
Colts Kicker Adam Vinateri out for Bucs game
The Colts are traveling to Tampa Bay but will likely take on the Bucs without their future Hall of Fame Kicker, Adam Vinatieri.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 5, 2019
Before the matchup last week against the Titans, Vinatieri had began to experience a bit of pain in his left knee, the leg he plants to kick with his right leg. He told reporters that the pain began to increase through the week which led him to be placed on the Colt’s injury report for the first time this season.
Later Friday afternoon, Indy made Vinatieri’s “out” status official:
Per Coach Reich, RB Marlon Mack and WR Parris Campbell are expected to play Sunday.
More on who's in and who's out for #INDvsTB:
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 6, 2019
Vinatieri who is currently the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, has struggled to be consistent this season and has made a career-low 68% of his field goal attempts. He’s cost the Colt’s a couple of games in his missed eight field goals and six extra points.
Colts head coach Frank Reich said Wednesday that Vinatieri saw some doctors and got scans to figure out the severity of the problem. From there, they’ll consult with doctors and make a decision, which could potentially end his career. He’s currently sitting at 599 made FGs in his 24 seasons, just one shy of the 600 mark.
Earlier this week, Indianapolis secured rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers and the 45 year old Pro Bowler had said on Thursday that if he got the go ahead from everyone, he’d take the field on Sunday.
“Docs and trainers and everybody will put their two cents in and we’ll see if we can go,” Vinatieri said. “If I can go, I’ll go.”
Obviously, he did not get good news, and that means the rookie McLaughlin is in to kick at Raymond James Stadium.
The Colts are looking to stay in the race for the AFC wild card spot, in a similar situation as the Bucs, so this Sunday (and really every Sunday from here on out) is a do or die for both teams.
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