Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense loses two stars for Jets game
Just this past February, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl 55. A major reason for that was their dominant front seven led by outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. So far in 2021, the star edge duo has combined for 12.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and 99 total pressures.
On Sunday, the Buccaneers will take on the New York Jets, but both Barrett and Pierre-Paul will be sidelined due to injury.
Pierre-Paul will miss the game with a shoulder injury and Barrett will miss it because of a knee injury.
As for the Jets, keeping all five starters of the offensive line on the field has been a struggle recently.
Since Week 14, left tackle George Fant, left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif have all missed time. Luckily, Fant returned last week against the Jaguars, and this week, both Vera-Tucker and Duvernay-Tardif were activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Unfortunately, for a unit that was nearly back to full strength, an MCL injury suffered by center Connor McGovern in last week’s game against the Jaguars will force him to miss the last two weeks of the season.
As of Friday, the Jets offensive line should consist of left tackle George Fant, left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, center Dan Feeney, right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and right tackle Morgan Moses against the Buccaneers.
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Despite losing McGovern on the interior, having both Fant and Moses in the lineup against backups is a distinct advantage for the Jets.
In line to play outside linebacker for the Buccaneers on Sunday is Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Cam Gill, and Anthony Nelson. Combined, the trio has six starts in the NFL.
Though inexperienced, they have all flashed in small sample sizes in 2021, most notably Tryon-Shoyinka, who was a first-round pick this past April. Even while being stashed behind the likes of Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, he has four sacks and five tackles for loss this season.
Not many people expect the Jets to compete against the powerhouse Buccaneers. For reference, ESPN’s Football Power Index gives New York an 11.5% chance to win on Sunday.
But for a team that has struggled to compete in some games this season, the Jets need to take advantage of every weakness a team like Tampa Bay has. The Buccaneers missing their top two edge defenders presents an opportunity that no other team has had while facing them this season.