Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers create puzzle for Carolina Panthers

TAMPA — So, what will the Bucs defense look like? And what kind of offense will they run?

Few outside of the revamped coaching staff, headed by Greg Schiano, know those answers in detail. The Panthers, the opponent in Sunday's season opener, would love to know.

"You take what they do in the preseason and you try to study that," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "Then you take in what (the coaches) have done where they come from. Knowing what Coach Schiano has always been about at Rutgers, I would like to think we have an idea. But it's going to be hard. Honestly, I'd much rather open up with somebody we're familiar with. But that's the way it is, so the big thing is we just have to react. We have to be sure we're ready to make changes."

Part of the reason Schiano is reluctant to share intricate details of his schemes is to protect this advantage, one the Bucs could enjoy, to some extent, all season.

Rivera and his staff have looked for clues in watching film of Schiano's games at Rutgers, from which they gleaned some information. They've also taken into account what the Giants do on offense since new Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan — formerly of the Giants — has brought some elements with him.

Overall, Rivera expects the Bucs to mirror Schiano's personality.

"I expect them to try and play as physical as they have been," he said. "I think that's part of who Greg is. Greg's a tough-nosed, hard-nosed man. He's from the Northeast and there's a mentality they have."

Rivera predicted — accurately based on what we already know about the team — that the Bucs would feature a "power running game" on offense. Panthers QB Cam Newton thinks he has an idea of what to expect from the Bucs defense — an aggressive approach by the secondary and a lot of pressure from the front seven.

"The key to this game is execution," he said. "They play a lot of man to man, and they put their hands on the receivers — basically challenging the receivers to see whose guy is better. They expect the pressure to get to the quarterback before the receiver gets open."

Said Panthers C Ryan Kalil: "I thought they did a really good job in the preseason, especially in that third game where (the starters) really played a lot against the Patriots. We have our work cut out for us. … You saw how fast they were moving, and they'll turn it up a notch when we get into this game."

YOU AGAIN? LB Lavonte David has seen Newton before in a big game.

The two opposed each other in 2009 when their teams met for the junior college national championship. Newton's Blinn Junior College (Brenham, Texas) topped David's Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, and David made an impression on Newton.

David earned the game's defensive MVP award after a sack of Newton and 12 tackles. Newton threw for 111 yards but rushed 14 times for 110 yards and a touchdown.

"It was a challenge," David said. "He's a great football player. He did it at Auburn, too, Division I and all."

SHORTHANDED: Cornerback is likely to be an issue for the Bucs on Sunday. On Thursday, E.J. Biggers and Anthony Gaitor were limited again, both seeming unlikely to play. That leaves starters Aqib Talib and Eric Wright, followed by Myron Lewis, undrafted rookie Leonard Johnson and Brandon McDonald, who has been with the team just longer than two weeks.

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