EOSB: View from the Other Side
When New Orleans hosts Tampa Bay for Sunday’s game, you’ve likely read as much about the Saints as you possibly can.
But what about the Buccaneers?
That’s where A View From the Other Side comes in. Every Friday during the Saints’ season, WWL-TV.com will ask five questions to at least one beat writer covering the Saints’ opponent that week.
This week, we welcome in Jenna Laine, who was kind enough to help us out once more this season.
Laine has covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for four seasons, including three for NFL.com, Sports Fan Live, and Yahoo’s ThePostGame. She also covered the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. She hosts a Tampa Bay sports talk radio show called “The Sports Mob” on 1010 CBS.
WWLTV.com: “In the previous game against New Orleans, Earnest Graham earned big, tough yards all day. But now he's injured. LeGarrette Blount, though, will return. Is he going to be healthy enough to produce like Graham did in the first game?”
Jenna Laine: “LeGarrette Blount’s been out for four weeks, really the bare minimum time to heal a torn MCL. I’m not sure he’s going to have a Graham-type performance, and I do have my concerns about him rushing out there too early and reinjuring it. I haven’t been out at practice this week but I spoke to a few of his teammates and they believe he’ll be fine. I don’t think we see him hurdle anybody, and I don’t think we see a 100-yard rushing performance though.”
WWLTV.com: “The Bucs intercepted Saints quarterback Drew Brees three times in the first game, including one in the end zone. What are the Tampa Bay players saying about that first performance in regard to Brees' numbers?”
Laine: “This is a team that has a lot of respect for Drew Brees and the way he commands a huddle, the way he fires the ball off so quickly to any one of his receivers, his pinpoint accuracy and Jimmy Graham, who is having a monster year. Josh Freeman looks up to Brees a lot, too, which is why the two of them spent some offseason time training together after Josh’s rookie year.
“But Raheem Morris said that when his team was preparing to play the Saints the first time – ‘Brees is going to throw for over 300 yards’ – … that the key would be producing turnovers. It was definitely a victory for the defense, but they recognize that the Saints were in it right up until the end of the game. I mean, it was fourth-and-two at the goal line when Quincy Black made that pick.”
WWLTV.com: “Both teams will be coming off a loss, though Tampa Bay's was two weeks ago in London. Will Tampa Bay's resolve to come back from that loss be tempered at all because of the bye week?”
Laine: “This is a team that is notorious for slow starts and based on what I’ve seen from the teams around the league coming off a bye (going into Week 7, a combined 3-9, and now 8-10) I think they may come out a bit flat, especially on offense with some of the accuracy issues Josh Freeman and his receivers have been experiencing.
“So much of it boils down to what the defense does. The Bucs’ D had one of their best performances of the season already against the Saints a few weeks ago because they read their keys, trusted their instincts, and executed.”
WWLTV.com: “Bucs coach Raheem Morris has been using the phrase "young team" for a bit now. Is this the game where they mature, proving they can win a divisional game on the road in a hostile environment?”
Laine: “We saw signs of it last year but I still think they’re a work in progress. I think they will be for awhile and I think the losses in San Francisco and in London reflect that. Especially London. That was a winnable game. And I anticipate this environment to be extra hostile because of the fact that the Saints are coming off a loss to the Rams and because this Bucs team has beaten them two years in a row at home.”
WWLTV.com: “The M.O. of the Bucs for the past decade or so has been stout defense. But Tampa is ranked No. 29 in the NFL in total defense. Is there frustration in the Bucs' locker room over how much the defense has fallen off?”
Laine: “I wouldn’t call it frustration because there’s really only one guy who was here when Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Simeon Rice played that dominant Tampa-2-style of defense and that was Ronde Barber, the ageless wonder! The team has changed so much since those guys all played together. In fact, they’ve deviated away from Monte Kiffin’s cover-two quite a bit!
“But it’s a very positive, upbeat locker room and I think a lot of that stems from Morris. He’s one of the most energetic coaches I’ve ever come across and guys like Geno Hayes, Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn, Dekoda Watson – they really feed off it. They recognize that there’s a certain standard of play on defense within this organization, and that standard hasn’t been met yet. They’re eager to get there though. I think ‘eagerness’ describes that bunch to a T.”