Tale Of The Tape: Tampa Bay Buccaneers At St. Louis Rams
- QuarterbackMike Glennon has been one of the more pleasant surprises this year. He is a well-prepared quarterback who has the athleticism to get away from the pass rush and the resourcefulness to get away from the rush. While he has a strong arm and can hit the deep throw to favorite receiver Vincent Jackson, Glennon’s best attribute is his accuracy with the short pass.The Rams have struggled to play consistent and cohesive offense since Sam Bradford went down early in the year. Kellen Clemens is an intelligent and tough-minded backup, but he struggles to throw the ball consistently If the Rams can protect Clemens adequately, he can find the open receiver. However, he lacks the arm strength, quick release and overall talent to win consistently.
- OffenseThe Bucs got hit hard earlier in the season when they lost running backs Doug Martin and Mike James, but unheralded Bobby Rainey has responded well with the opportunity he has gotten to run with the ball. While he is not a burner, Rainey makes one cut and heads upfield with a purpose. Jackson is a stellar receiver while tight end Timothy Wright is becoming an adequate talent.The Rams have to get a big contribution from the running game because Clemens cannot handle the load if he has to do it on his own. Zac Stacy is a hard-working and productive back who has improved quite a bit since the start of the season. He is hungry and productive. Tavon Austin (leg) is a gamebreaker when he is healthy. Tight end Jared Cook can make the tough catch in traffic.
- DefenseIf Greg Schiano is going to survive this season and coach the Bucs again next year, he will have to thank his defense for coming through on a consistent basis. The Bucs have plenty of speed and desire, and the defense has exceeded expectations. If Tampa Bay was a playoff contender, middle linebacker Lavonte David would be getting All-Pro consideration.The Rams have a chance to be one of the better defenses in the league in 2014, and one of the primary reasons is their ability to rush the passer. Defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long give the Rams a pass-rushing duo that can make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is a smart player who is almost always in position to make the tackle.
- Special TeamsThe Bucs have been rather ordinary in their special teams coverage, and they will give up the occasional big play on the punt return. On the other hand, Eric Page is just ordinary returning punts and kickoffs. The combination of PK Rian Lindell and P Michael Koenen is just ordinary.The Rams should have a solid advantage over the Bucs because of their special-teams play. If Austin is healthy, he is explosive and a potential game-breaker. PK Greg Zuerlein has a strong leg and should be a difference maker in the league for years. Johnny Hekker is a very solid punter.
These teams are evenly matched, but the visiting Bucs appear to have the edge at the QB position, and that could spell the difference in this game between two teams that won’t be in the playoffs but have some legitimate talent. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor