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Matchup breakdown: Rams-Buccaneers
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- A closer look at three important individual matchups in Sunday's game between the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Rams right guard Rodger Saffold vs. Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy
Since moving inside to guard, Saffold has been the team's best and most productive lineman. He's pushed around opponents in the run game and kept them at bay in pass protection.
But Saffold has yet to face a challenge the likes of what he'll see across from him Sunday against Tampa Bay. McCoy is enjoying a second straight big season and living up to his status as a former No. 3 overall pick in 2010.
Through 14 games, McCoy has 42 tackles, eight sacks and a fumble recovery. He's been, perhaps, the best interior pass rusher in the league and he's done it with a varied skill set that's drawing praise from all over the place.
"One of the best interior defensive linemen in the league, playing at a high level," Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "(He's) just so disruptive, he's so quick off the ball, so strong and powerful. His counter moves, when you get him in a certain situation he's able to counter it and come back inside. Again, they do a good job of moving him around. He's a force to be reckoned with."
McCoy's primary weapon is his quickness off the ball but as Schottenheimer points out, he also comes equipped with strength and a variety of moves. In theory, Saffold's track record working in space against similar styles of rushers should help him in condensed space against a player like McCoy.
The Bucs like to move McCoy all over the line to create matchup problems so he won't exclusively be lined up against Saffold.
Still, Saffold will be tested in ways he hasn't yet inside and we'll have a much better idea of where he stands as a potential elite guard in this league after this one.
Rams running back Zac Stacy vs. Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David
Speaking of dominant defenders on the Tampa side, David has emerged as the game's most productive linebacker in 2013, though you may not hear much about him.
With two games to play, David is posting some historic numbers. He has 125 tackles, five interceptions and six sacks this season and his sack and interception numbers make him the first linebacker in league history to hit those numbers according to the team's weekly release.
"They do a good job with him in their pressure packages," Schottenheimer said. "He's real involved in some of the things that they do from a pressure package standpoint. But, obviously, a great athlete. Runs sideline-to-sideline, plays really hard. He's truly one of the best young linebackers in the league."
In other words, David is all over the field wreaking havoc for Tampa Bay's defense. It's no secret that the Rams have their greatest offensive success when Stacy is rolling and he got back on track last week after a couple of rough outings.
The Bucs run defense as a whole has been average for the season and struggled in recent weeks, leaving hope for the Rams to get Stacy going. Of course, this matchup comes down to more than just one guy running and the other guy chasing.
David's use in pressure packages will also test Stacy's still-developing blitz pickup skills.
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn vs. Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn
This is the one that has probably drawn the most attention this week after Quinn's dominant performance landed Saints left tackle Charles Brown a seat on the bench. Penn has been much better this season than Brown but has also had his share of struggles against some of the better rushers in the league.
For what it's worth, Pro Football Focus gives Penn a grade of 7.3 for the season, a solid if unspectacular number. But Penn's work as a pass blocker has been less than stellar according to PFF. His grade there is -1.4 and he's allowed eight sacks, four hits and 27 hurries.
Slowing down Quinn is clearly on the mind of Bucs coach Greg Schiano.
"Robert's playing at an elite level, there's no doubt about it," Schiano said. "You better know where he is. Donald Penn will be matching up with him. We'll help him out some, but you can't help a guy all the time. Donald's a veteran offensive tackle. I know he's looking forward to the challenge, so we're going to have to do a bunch of things. You're not going to stop him the way he's playing right now, but certainly we'd like to make sure he doesn't take over the game."
Perhaps Quinn won't have another game like last week but even if he doesn't, don't be surprised if the extra attention thrown his way allows for Chris Long and the rest of the defensive line to get more one-on-one matchups.
Re: Matchup breakdown: Rams-Buccaneers
Didn't the Bucs also draft another DT in round 2 that year? Some guy from UCLA? Do they still have him? Gerald McCoy is definitely someone to keep an eye on though.
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