X's and O's: Three-DE counterpunch

We’ve talked throughout the week about the sheer size of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line, led by left tackle Donald Penn and left guard Carl Nicks, each of whom is a mountain of a man.

One of the considerations when facing a hulking offensive line is to dress four defensive tackles, which the New England Patriots did not do last week against the Jets after they had acquired Chris Jones just the day before.

At the same time, even if the Patriots do dress four defensive tackles to provide depth for starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, one intriguing changeup the team could turn to on Sunday would be an extended use of their three-defensive-end package, something we've seen during each of the first two games.

With Rob Ninkovich and rookie Michael Buchanan manning the edge, the Patriots have reduced Chandler Jones into a “3 technique” role that aligns him on the outside eye of a guard, rather than at the end of the line of scrimmage where he is normally accustomed to playing.

The results against the Jets were particularly impressive, as Chandler Jones and Buchanan totaled three sacks for the evening just four days after the Patriots were shut out as a team from a sack standpoint against Buffalo.

There isn’t a week where the Patriots rely on just a single front or scheme to generate pressure against an opposing offensive line, but when taking on a powerful group like the one the Bucs present, it’s important to attack their strength with a strength of your own.

It could be that the Patriots turn to their conventional pairing of Wilfork and Kelly on first and second downs in anticipation of a steady dose of Doug Martin. But if the team is able to generate a lead or deploy its sub packages, perhaps the three-defensive-end group will provide the right touch to work through – or around – the powerful Bucs line.