Quarterback: Josh Freeman
Freeman is coming off of a breakout 2010 campaign where he threw for 3,451 yards, 25 TDs and just 6 INTs. He engineered a number of fourth-quarter comebacks, showing precocious poise for just a second-year player. Yet this year, he's regressed some and has been very inconsistent. He's thrown just 5 TDs and has already equaled his interception total from last year. His 78.2 QB rating is 26th in the league. Freeman is an accurate passer that does not typically take too many chances trying to fit balls into tight windows. He's prone to the check down pass and likes to move his offense in small chunks. He's a weapon outside the pocket – he rushed for 364 yards last season – and can keep plays alive with his feet. His size (6-6, 248) makes him hard to bring down as well.
Running back: Earnest Graham
The Bucs' starting rusher, LaGarrette Blount, will sit for the second game in a row with a knee injury. Graham, the team's third-down back, will start in his place. He's a downhill runner who is just as comfortable as a receiver as he is a ball carrier – he's second on the team in receptions. Last week, he rushed for 109 on 17 carries against the New Orleans Saints.
WR Preston Parker
Tight end: Kellen Winslow
Winslow leads the team in receptions (27) and is second in targets (46). Knee surgeries have sapped him of most of his speed but he's still a solid route runner with great hands. He's more of a receiver than a tight end and struggles as a blocker. Yet he can hurt defenses over the middle and is a mismatch nightmare for linebackers and safeties.
Offensive line: LT Donald Penn, LG Ted Larsen, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Davin Joseph, RT Jeremy Trueblood
The Bucs will be without center Jeff Faine, which thrusts Zuttah into the starting role. Zuttah is more experienced at guard and has trouble with powerful nose tackles inside. Larsen, in his second season, is a backup with little experience at guard – he played center in college. Penn is a solid backside protector who doesn't give up a lot of sacks. On the right side, Joseph and Trueblood are a formidable duo. Both are aggressive and nasty as run blockers. Tampa Bay ranks 15th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, with most of that production coming from behind these two maulers. Joseph, especially, is a beast inside. Trueblood is massive (6-8, 320) but very agile and quick, though he can struggle at times with quicker defensive ends when out on an island.
Defensive line: DE Michael Bennett, DT Brian Price, DT Gerald McCoy, RDE Adrian Clayborn. Backups - DT Frank Okam, DE Da'Quan Bowers, NT Roy Miller, DE Tim Crowder
Bennett appears to be breaking out in his third NFL season. He leads the team in sacks (2.0), is fifth in tackles, has forced a fumble and recovered two more. He's been very disruptive off the edge so far this year. McCoy is the team's under tackle and is explosive off the ball. He has exceptional initial quickness and uses his hands well to shed blockers. He missed last week's contest with an ankle injury but is expected to play against the Bears. Clayborn is the first-round rookie who already has earned 2.0 sacks, although he's been pushed around when defending the run. Price and Miller rotate at nose tackle. Bowers rotates at end but hasn't had much of an impact so far his rookie season.
Linebacker: WLB Geno Hayes, MLB Mason Foster, SLB Quincy Black
Hayes is an undersized linebacker that plays with excellent instincts and athleticism. He's second on the team in tackles (34), four of those for a loss, and has one forced fumble. Foster is a rookie who took over for Barrett Ruud, the team's leading tackler last season. He has shown good instincts and speed and has been very disruptive as a blitzer – he has 2.0 sacks already. The leader of this trio is Black, a four-year starter for Tampa on the strong side. He's stout against the run and a good open-field tackler. He understands his duties in zone coverage very well. This year, he's been relatively quiet, yet he's already forced a fumble and picked up an interception. He must be accounted for on every play.
CB Aqib Talib
Secondary: LCB Ronde Barber, RCB Aqib Talib, SS Corey Lynch, SS Sean Jones, NB E.J. Biggers
Talib is a playmaker that has already defended five passes and returned his only interception for a touchdown. He's aggressive in run support but isn't the best tackler. On the other side, Barber, a 15-year veteran, has obviously lost a step but his knowledge of the Cover 2 provides stability on the outside. He's savvy and uses his intelligence and experience to his advantage. Biggers serves as the nickel back and excels in press coverage. He leads the team in passes defended (7) and also has an interception. Jones is tops on the team in tackles and has done a little bit of everything for the Bucs. He's earned a sack, has defended two passes, has forced a fumbled and recovered another. In the box, he's more of a linebacker, yet he has the awareness and athleticism to get back and cover the deep half. Lynch has been OK so far but he's easily the weak link in the secondary. He can be taken advantage of in zone coverage. The unit ranks 27th overall against the pass, allowing 276 yards per game through the air.
SPECIAL TEAMS: P Michael Koenen, K Connor Barth, KR/PR Preston Parker
Koenen is averaging 46.0 yards per punt, good for 11th in the league, while his 12 punts inside the 20 is second overall. He has a decent leg and very good accuracy. Barth is 12/14 in field goal attempts this year with a long of 49. He doesn't have a big leg, converting just four 50-plus attempts in his four NFL seasons. Parker handles punt and kick return duties almost exclusively. He's shifty and has outstanding speed but the second-year player is still learning the intricacies of being a returner. That said, he's explosive enough to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.