1. The Secondary
Injuries have necessitated a shakeup of the Buccaneers’ secondary, each week seemingly bringing a different challenge. This week, both safeties Justin Evans and Isaiah Johnson have been ruled out, leaving rookie Jordan Whitehead and either newcomers Josh Shaw and Andrew Adams to hold down the safety positions. There is a little more depth at the corner position and the Bucs could see rookie corner Carlton Davis back in action, though he’s officially listed as doubtful. M.J. Stewart’s return looks a little more probable and he’ll look to help out at nickel corner. He’ll get help from veteran Brent Grimes, Ryan Smith and Javien Elliott on the outside but there will definitely be some different looks come Sunday in nickel and dime packages and it’ll be something to keep an eye on as they try to contain the Saints’ offense.
2. DT Gerald McCoy
The Bucs will honor their Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee on Sunday. This year, it’s defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, just as he launched his Patricia Diane Foundation, named for his mother, that benefits single-parent households this week. McCoy has been a fixture in the Tampa Bay community since he was drafted to the team in 2010. He helped start the D-line Delivers Christmas annual event that is coming up in just a couple weeks. He gives to countless charities and participates in even more events. The award is given to players that excel both on the field and off of it, and McCoy continues to do both. He’s recorded a sack in the last three games and should he record one against New Orleans, will set a new career-record sack streak.
McCoy is always vying for Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees, especially. The two are close friends and train together in the offseason. McCoy has registered just 2.5 sacks against Brees in the 14 games they’ve played each other. Although, it isn’t just McCoy that has difficulty. Brees is among the least-sacked quarterbacks in the league. New Orleans has given up the fewest sacks this season, allowing opposing defenses to get to Brees just 13.0 times in 12 games. But it doesn’t mean McCoy, and his line-mates, aren’t going to try.
3. WR Mike Evans
Wide receiver Mike Evans will be once again challenged by Saints’ cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The back-and-forth of the pair has become one of the must-see matchups in the division. This season, Evans got the better of him in Week One, going off for 147 yards on all seven of his targets. It was good for a 21-yard-per-reception average. Since then, Evans has posted a 16.98 yard-per-reception average and is well over the 1,000-yard mark this season, a.k.a. he isn’t showing signs of slowing down. New Orleans, while they may excel against the runs, allowing a league-low 75.4 yards per game, are struggling against the pass this season. Their defense ranks 30th, giving up 279.3 yards per game and Evans is hoping to get his fair share of that come Sunday. Should he get 76 or more yards in the game, he will own the franchise record for most receiving yards through 13 games in team history.
4. WR Chris Godwin
Another receiver that will be looking to get a fair share of that yardage is Chris Godwin. He had his second 100-yard game of the season against Carolina last Sunday, catching five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came in the second quarter as Winston hit him in the back of the end zone after scrambling to his right. It put the Bucs up 17-7 before the half, a lead they never relinquished. Godwin already has more yards this season than he did in his rookie year in 2017. He has 676 yards through 12 games and five touchdowns.
5. LB Lavonte David
One of the more dynamic pieces of the Saints’ offense is ‘running back’ Alvin Kamara, and the Saints work to get him in space. That’s where linebacker Lavonte David comes in. He’ll likely be charged with containing Kamara, along with his other linebackers should Kamara get into that space. That’s if he’s not getting pressure on the quarterback, which he was able to do last game. David registered his first sack since 2015 against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. It was one of four sacks the Bucs defense had on Cam Newton and one of two by linebackers. David also had a season-high 12 combined tackles in the game. The last time the Saints and Bucs met, David had nine tackles and he’ll look to get those on Kamara this Sunday.