Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowls spoke candidly about his defensive game plan for Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears in Week 2.
“It’s tough. Fast as he is, he’s faster than most of our guys so [we’ve] gotta rally to the ball and try to hustle,” Bowles said on September 15, via BucsGameday on September 15. “Obviously containing the quarterback. They got a great running game, they can throw the ball down the field. So it’s a little bit of everything. We just gotta play smart, sound football.”
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Justin Fields to be More Aggressive vs. Buccaneers
Fields was admittedly “a bit too conservative” in the season opener against the Green Bay Packers.
He has vowed to take more shots down the field, particularly to wide receivers Chase Claypool and DJ Moore. The pass-catching dup combined for 25 yards on two receptions – all by Moore – garnering just four total targets.
Fields initially said the game plan called for short passes but head Matt Eberflus hedged.
“I don’t think it’s a schematic thing,” Eberflus said on Wednesday. “I just think it’s when you’re taking your shots down the field on a 50/50-ball, you gotta let it ride. If the guy’s really high on top of the guy – which I think was the case a couple times – so then it’s just the discernment of the quarterback. If he’s really high on him, then you just go head and go to your next read.”
The Bears will face a similar zone blitzing scheme as the one they saw from the Packers in Week 1, which could present some challenges for the offensive line and Fields.
Fields finished the game with 219 yards on 64.8% completion with one touchdown and one interception. He also led the ground attack with 59 yards on nine carries. However, he took four sacks, fumbling on one of them, and the interception was returned for a touchdown.
But he could have an easier time in Week 2 than initially thought.
Bears Catch Break As Bucs Set to be Without Multiple Defenders
When the Bears take on the Buccaneers on Sunday, they could do so against a short-handed secondary. Davis led the Bucs’ defense in snaps in their Week 1 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
“Carlton’s probably going to be out this game,” Bowles said. “He’s gotta pass a few tests, so we’ll see.”
The 6-foot, sixth-year veteran has not practiced this week after suffering a toe injury in the season-opener, according to Bowles. His status appears to be doubtful at best heading into a big matchup for the Bears. Second-year corner Zyon McCollum would be the next in line if Davis is indeed unable to suit up on Sunday.
McCollum is a long, rangy corner at 6-foot-4. A former fifth-round pick in the 2022 draft, Bowles noted that they have liked what they’ve seen out of the youngster going back to OTAs.
It’s still a potentially significant blow to a tough defense.
— Clocker Sports (@ClockerSports) September 15, 2023
Rookie first-round pick Calijah Kancey is also out after not practcing this week after just 11 snaps in Week 1 against the Vikings.
“He’s ready to play,” Bowles said about McCollum. “We got all the confidence in the world in him. He had a great summer, had a great spring, he’s practicing good. We don’t have a problem playing him.”
The Bears will be without cornerback Kyler Gordon who is on injured reserve for at least the next four weeks with a hand injury.
Compounding matters for the Bears, Gordon’s projected fill-in, Josh Blackwell, missed practice on Thursday and Friday with a hamstring injury leaving his status in doubt. There was a chance that rookie Tyrique Stevenson could slide inside to the nickel if Blackwell cannot go, but Eberflus said on Friday that it would be Greg Stroman in the slot in that event.
They called Stroman up from the practice squad this on Thursday.