During the course of every season, the New York Giants play several teams they know really well, and others they -- and their fan base -- may not know quite as well, This week's opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, falls into the latter category. Let's turn to Sander Philipse of SB Nation's Bucs Nation to learn more about the Bucs in this week's "Five Questions" segment.
Ed: We have to start with Jameis Winston. How much progress has he made and what are your thoughts about him so far? Is he the long-term answer at QB for the Bucs?
Sander: Jameis Winston has, overall, looked like he was definitely worth the number one pick. There have been some ups and downs, as there always are with rookies, but he's looked surprisingly NFL-ready -- outside of his very first game, which was a complete disaster. It's safe to chalk that up to rookie nerves by now, though, as those issues haven't recurred. Winston's making a couple of very high-level NFL throws in every game, looks comfortable in the pocket, is generally accurate (though he has some mechanics and footwork issues he has to work on) and has done a very good job of making the right reads and decisions -- especially the last three weeks. He hasn't even turned over the ball since week four, which is really surprising given the issues he had with throwing into underneath coverage in college. It certainly looks like he's on track to be the Bucs' franchise quarterback.
Ed: Ali Marpet is a local kid and a guy Giants' fans were interested in during the draft. I understand he's playing well. What can you tell us about him?
Sander: He's done very well, and had his best game last week. He seems to be getting better every week and is especially good on the move in the running game. His athleticism makes him a very tough out for any defensive lineman, and his pass protection is as stout as anyone's on the roster. He had a few adjustment problems to start the season, which is to be expected of any Division III rookie, but he's been very good the last few weeks.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants roster NOT NAMED ODELL BECKHAM and put him in the Bucs' lineup, who would it be? Why?
Sander: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. I mean, from what I can tell he's having a good year despite the disaster that looks like the Giants secondary so far. He has three interceptions and quarterbacks have a 46.8 passer rating throwing into his coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, the Bucs cornerbacks have been a complete and unmitigated catastrophe this year. So yeah, I'll take any cornerback. Getting a good one is just a bonus.
Ed: Tell us about some under-the-radar Tampa Bay players we might not be familiar with, but who we should watch for on Sunday.
Sander: Charles Sims is a name you want to watch. He's the third-down back to Doug Martin's first and second downs, and Sims has put up 440 yards from scrimmage in a part-time role. He's especially dangerous on screen passes, and has repeatedly gotten the Bucs out of third-and-log situations. Another player you want to keep an eye on is defensive end Howard Jones, who spent most of the year on the Bucs' practice squad before being promoted three games ago. Since then, he has three sacks, a forced fumble and a touchdown. He isn't actually all that good at beating offensive linemen, but he seems to have a knack for making the big play.
Ed: You are game-planning for the Giants. How do you attack the Bucs, both offensively and defensively?
Sander: On defense, I'd blitz Jameis Winston. A lot. He can still be overly reactive to pressure, and has a tendency to hold on to the ball a little too long which obviously is not good against the blitz. His mechanics tend to break down when he has to speed up his motion, leading to inaccurate throws. If the Giants can do take advantage of that, they should be able to get some turnovers off him.
On offense, I'd just throw the ball every down, and rely primarily on quick throws. The Bucs haven't been able to stop a slant all season long, which is surprising: slants aren't exactly wonders of modern evolution. The Bucs' secondary is just bad, so any game plan that targets wide receivers a lot is going to work, especially if you mix in some play-action (the linebackers are far too reactive, especially when they see a pulling guard) and get rid of the ball quickly.
Thanks to Sander for the time and the insight. My answers to Sander's questions are already posted over at BN.