Comparing the Defenses
Defensive Line: Edge, Buccaneers
This is kind of a technicality because the Buccaneers run a 3/4 defense and have Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barret listed as outside linebackers, but for argument’s sake, I will include them here because they are really EDGE defenders more than anything else. This ultimately comes down to high-level production and experience.
Joey Bosa is probably the best player in this group, but the Buccaneers have two high-level EDGE defenders in Pierre-Paul and Barrett. Barrett notably led the league last year in sacks and has continued his high-level play so far this year. Pierre-Paul has been highly productive every year he’s been in the league, even after his firework incident.
At defensive tackle, the Chargers have a much-improved group but losing Justin Jones hurts the comparison here. Vita Vea is currently what Linval Joseph was in his prime: a playmaking nose tackle. Vea is a force in the run game and is also a factor in the pass rush.
Ndamukong Suh isn’t the same kind of player he was with the Lions back in the day, but he’s also still very productive as well. The emergence of Jerry Tillery has been a great story so far, but he needs to prove it more before his presence could sway this argument in the Chargers’ favor. If Melvin Ingram were healthy, maybe this would be a different story too.
Linebackers: Edge, Buccaneers
Kenneth Murray is going to be a special player one day, and Kyzir White has played extremely well since being elevated to the starting WILL role as well. But I’m not sure this is particularly close right now.
There’s a video of David White being mic’d up from a couple of weeks ago where Christian McCaffrey says he thinks White is the best linebacker in the league, and he might not even be the best linebacker in his team. Lavonte David is one of the most underrated players in the league.
He entered the league in 2012 and has been a tackling machine every single year. This is his ninth season and he has six seasons of 110 tackles or more. I don’t know if this qualifies for a hot take, but I think the Buccaneers have the best linebacker duo in the league.
The most important thing for the Chargers offense this weekend, in my opinion is to get into positive down and distance. The Buccaneers blitzed the Broncos on almost every obvious passing down I've seen, and it really made life hell for Jeff Driskel. pic.twitter.com/Wx9U8HHXT0
— Guilty As Charged Podcast (@GACPodcast17) September 30, 2020
Cornerbacks: Edge, Chargers
Even without Chris Harris, I’ll give the edge to the Chargers here. If there’s a clear weakness on the Buccaneers roster, it’s the cornerback position. Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting are much closer to Michael Davis territory than they are Casey Hayward territory. The Harris injury hurts, but Desmond King now gets the opportunity to prove 2019 was an outlier.
Safeties: Edge, Buccaneers
Jordan Whitehead and Nasir Adderley are very similar players at the free safety position. To Adderley’s credit, he did take a nice step forward this past week and had his best game against the Panthers. If he can keep improving each week, the Chargers will be in good shape back there.
This comparison ultimately comes down to Rayshawn Jenkins and Antoine Winfield. Jenkins has been improving as well, but Winfield has already shown the type of playmaking ability that Jenkins simply cannot reach.
Winfield might be the defensive steal of the draft, and he fits perfectly into the Buccaneers roster and scheme. Between him, David and White the Buccaneers have three stellar playmakers in the middle of their defense.
As much as I would love to see the Chargers go into Tampa Bay and win, I just don’t see it happening this week. This Buccaneers defense scares me. They are loaded with talented playmakers and they are hyper-aggressive, which is a tough combination for a young quarterback and struggling offensive line. But who knows, anything is possible in 2020 I guess.