By Tom Krasniqi
The 0-3 Buccaneers are desperate for a win as they host the 1-2 Arizona Cardinals at Raymond James Stadium at 1pm today (620am WDAE, 95.3FM, 103.5FM). The Bucs are coming off a 23-3 loss at New England last week and have dropped 8 of their last 9 games dating back to last season.
The struggles on offense led to a quarterback change this week as head coach Greg Schiano decided to bench Josh Freeman in favor of Mike Glennon. Freeman was the lowest rated starting QB through three weeks and the Bucs were next to last in passing offense. Freeman threw two touchdowns and three interceptions this season and the team scored just 10 points offensively over the last two weeks.
Glennon is a 3rd round pick out of N.C. State and he’ll make his first NFL start today against a talented Cardinals defense. Arizona’s defensive line features two very good players in Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell. The secondary is led by CB Patrick Peterson, regarded by many NFL scouts as one of the best cover corners in the league.
Glennon needs to have his top weapons available to him if he’s to have a chance. WRs Vincent Jackson (rib) and WR Mike Williams (hamstring) didn’t practice on Wednesday and Thursday but did practice on Friday and should play today. Expect Glennon to lean on Doug Martin and the running game today. The Cardinals’ rush defense has been stout in allowing just 73 yards per game so far.
The Bucs defense has played very well so far. The team has racked up 12 sacks through three games and is bringing pressure from everywhere. That could come in handy against a shaky Arizona offensive line. First round pick Jonathan Cooper was lost for the season with a broken leg during the preseason. The Cardinals have allowed 9 sacks so far this season. Six of the 12 sacks have come by the Bucs linebackers with LaVonte David leading the way with three.
The Bucs will face Carson Palmer and head coach Bruce Arian’s vertical passing game. Palmer was almost acquired by the Bucs during the offseason. Bucs CB Darrelle Revis says Palmer appears “rejuvenated” with the Cardinals. Palmer has thrown for 762 yards and 3 TDs with 4 INTs. One of the great matchups to watch will be Revis against Cards WR Larry Fitzgerald. Schiano declined to say if Revis would cover Fitz for the entire game. The Bucs will play zone coverage from time to time but expect to see Revis on Fitzgerald for much of the game.
If he has time to throw, Palmer will sling it down the field to Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd. Running back Rashard Mendenhall has been slowed by a toe injury but he’s expected to play today. Mendenhall is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. The Bucs rush defense is 16th in the NFL in allowing 107 yards per game.
Peterson is an all-around weapon. The Cardinals will use him on offense, defense and special teams. Peterson has two receptions so far and he returns punts as well as being a lockdown corner. Keep an eye on rookie CB Tyrann Mathieu, the rookie out of LSU. He has impressed so far and has one interception.
Prediction: Nobody wants to be 0-4. The Bucs are feeling a sense of urgency with the bye week coming up after today’s game. Look for offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan to simplify the game plan for Glennon. That means leaning on Martin and the running game as well as some easy throws to VJax and Williams. The Bucs defense will harass Palmer and force a couple of turnovers. Martin becomes a workhorse. Bucs get their first win 20-17.