Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer 70d

Cameron Brate has been great, so Pats can expect 2-TE set from Bucs



TAMPA, Fla. -- What do the New England Patriots (2-2) have in store tonight when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)?

As ESPN Nation reporter Jenna Laine detailed throughout the week, the Bucs will welcome back running back Doug Martin, but they have a potential situation to monitor with receiver DeSean Jackson's production.

For more insight, longtime Buccaneers reporter and Pro Football Hall of Fame voter Ira Kaufman offers his perspective.

In past weeks, the following NFL experts have also provided unique insight on Patriots foes: Trent Green (on the Chiefs), Bobby Hebert (on the Saints), Ted Johnson (on the Texans) and Steve Israel (on the Panthers).

Here's Kaufman on the Bucs:

What are the Buccaneers' strengths? "Tampa Bay approached the offseason determined to provide quarterback Jameis Winston with more weapons for an offense that couldn't generate enough big plays in 2016. The Bucs targeted DeSean Jackson in free agency and added O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin in the draft. On an undersized defense, the Bucs rely on speedy linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David to create takeaways and veteran corner Brent Grimes to provide stability in the secondary."

What are the weaknesses? "A pass rush which was mediocre last season has regressed, registering only one sack and minimal pressure despite facing relatively immobile QBs Mike Glennon, Case Keenum and Eli Manning. The run game, outstanding in 2015 when [Bucs head coach] Dirk Koetter served as Lovie Smith's offensive coordinator, continues to struggle. Perhaps the return of Doug Martin will provide some energy."

Injury situations of note: "Alexander will miss his third consecutive game while David and safety T.J. Ward are doubtful. David's skills as a blitzer would be a plus, given Tampa Bay's lack of heat up front."

A player that Patriots fans might not know who deserves more recognition: "Tight end Cameron Brate, undrafted out of Harvard, catches everything thrown his way and has a nose for the end zone. With Brate and Howard, the Bucs feature a lot of two-TE formations, creating mismatches while dictating coverage."

Signature moment of the season: "Koetter showed a lot of trust in kicker Nick Folk during crunch time against the Giants last week, despite two missed field goals and an errant extra point that had some Bucs fans reaching for the Maalox. Folk rewarded that faith with the game winner as the Bucs extended their home winning streak to six games."

 

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