Let's learn a little bit about the Saints next opponent this week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, shall we? And what better way to do that than by talking with the blogger who covers the team. So we've got a Q&A with Nick Houllis from BucStop.com for all of you today.
I'd like to thank Nick for taking time to answer my questions. To read my answers to his questions, check out BucStop.com.
Dave Cariello: Is Bucs Nation in panic mode after that drubbing by the Niners? What is the overall fan sentiment right now?
Nick Houllis: As far as the team goes, they are not in panic mode. Even though they are a young team, they listen and subscribe to their coach. I'm pretty sure to a man they would never admit that the trip out west on a short week was an issue, but its obvious, it was. The entire team sucked, even the punter, Mike Koenen who grades out with an A each week, had issues. It was a 'one off' as my buddy in London likes to say, and any fan who doesn't see it as that doesnt know what they're talking about. If it happens again this week, I have a great recipe for crow.
Dave: Do you think Gerald McCoy and LeGarrette Blount are going to be healthy enough to play this weekend? How does that affect the Buccaneers?
Nick: It affects them poorly, and I dont think either one of them will be able to play their game this week, if at all. I haven't seen the injury report yet, we'll know more Thursday by seeing who practices.
At McCoy's position, there are options. No one will get the disruption and penetration like McCoy gets, but some guys are bigger, like Frank Okam, and will shut down the run better.
But Blount, that is not good at all. We have zero option at tailback, except unknown Kregg Lumpkin, who, when given a shot in preseason, impressed no one. Lumpkin joined the team last year at the same time as Blount, and I believe Lumpkin was hurt or they would have given him the snaps instead of Blount. Of course the rest is history. Earnest Graham may get the start if not Lumpkin, and as a tailback, that may be his best playable position. Third down back is not, as he scares no one.
Dave: How is the development of Josh Freeman going now that he's in his third year?
Nick: Josh Freeman is doing exactly what he should be doing in his third year. It's just that after his incredible second year, it appears like a let down. But many believe, myself included, that Freeman benefited last year from extensive time in the off-season put into his craft. That did not exist this year, and that may be why his play is suffering. Of course, he wasnt all that stellar last year in the first quarter, so this is nothing new. I still wouldn't want any other guy right now in the 4th quarter if I'm down by ten points or less. Regardless of how he's doing, Freeman is the guy in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future.
Dave: What do you think will be the most important matchup in this game?
Nick: New Orleans Saints tight ends vs. Ronde Barber. Weeks 1-4 Barber has been put in man coverage on opposing teams TEs, and had success. Visanthe Shiancoe, Tony Gonzalez, no one had any success, until Vernon Davis last week, who scored two touchdowns.
For the Saints, controlling the Bucs running game. Without a healthy Blount, the Bucs will run the ball with backups. Any semblance of a run game by back ups would play right into the hands of the Bucs, who love to play action fake deep balls from Freeman.
Dave: Complete this sentence: Every time the Bucs ______ I want to gouge my eyes out with a dull and rusty spoon.
Nick: "...line up in the shotgun on 3rd and 1 or 3rd and 2..." A close second would be "...get up after an incompletion and call for a flag with that hand flag jesture..."
Dave: Care to make a prediction?
Nick: Final score will be 27-24. Who wins? I have no clue. But it will be 27-24 and a very, very good game. If Blount can play, the Bucs can be the one with the 27. That will be predicated on turn overs. I know its cliche, but seriously, which ever one of these teams wins the turnover battle, should win the game