Tale Of The Tape: Buffalo Bills At Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- QuarterbackE.J. Manuel has given the Bills reasonable hope that he is the team’s quarterback of the future. While he has made some rookie mistakes, he has also made some big plays and he has the size, athleticism and arm strength to take advantage of any mistake the Tampa Bay defense makes. Manuel is making progress and seems to become a more vital part of the Buffalo offense each week.Mike Glennon may have gotten the starting quarterback position under unusual circumstances – the Bucs basically fired previous quarterback Josh Freeman – but he has made the most of his opportunity. While he had a poor game in Week 13 against the Carolina Panthers, Glennon has been an accurate passer who reads defenses well and can hit the deep pass with some consistency.
- OffenseThe Bills want to unleash a robust running attack every time they take the field because they know that Manuel needs help and he can’t do it by himself every game. Fred Jackson is a tough and hard-hitting running back, while C.J. Spiller is explosive and can break the long run. Stevie Johnson is a big-play receiver who lacks consistency. Tight end Scott Chandler is a decent third-down receiver.The Bucs have been hurt badly by injuries to running backs Doug Martin and Mike James, but unheralded Bobby Rainey has been a find for head coach Greg Schiano. He gets every inch he can out of every rushing attempt he gets. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson is a star receiver who can carry the team on his back. Tight end Timothy Underwood has good hands and is improving.
- DefenseThe Bills don’t have overwhelming talent or athleticism on the defensive side of the ball, but they are playing hard each week. Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso is the team’s best tackler and he is very good when the ball is in the air. Mario Williams can be a one-man wrecking crew on the defensive line when he is on his game. Free safety Aaron Williams has excellent range and he plays with intelligence.The Bucs have been surprisingly effective on defense much of the year. While they have been hurt by mistakes, the effort Schiano has gotten has been excellent. Lavonte David is the defense’s leader and its best player. He will range sideline to sideline to make tackles. The Bucs will be hurt if cornerback Darrelle Revis (groin, chest) can’t play or is not at his best.
- Special TeamsThe Bills have been disappointed with their play in the return game. They have given up a punt return for a touchdown, but they don’t make big plays themselves. If the game comes down to a field goal, Dan Carpenter has a strong leg and does not get overwhelmed in clutch situations.The Bucs have done a solid job in covering kickoffs and punts, and they have gotten a lift from Eric Page, who has the quickness to give them an advantage on kickoff returns. Rian Lindell has been decent but not spectacular this season, and he tends to struggle on long field goal attempts.
The Bucs have made progress in the second half of the season, but they were overpowered by a strong Carolina defense in Week 13 and they need to turn things around against a Buffalo team that has lost four of five road games. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor