The Los Angeles Rams are set to hit the road for their second away game of the season with a matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are coming off a disappointing 40-7 blowout road loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Much of their struggles came on the offensive side of the ball with second-year quarterback Jameis Winston experiencing a largely forgettable performance completing 27 of 52 passes for 243 yards along with one touchdown and tied a career-worst mark of four interceptions. Winston just couldn't get anything going with the Buccaneers stringing together just one scoring drive.
In light of that, Head coach Jeff Fisher isn't underestimating Tampa Bay, especially how they looked in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons with Winston leading the way tossing four touchdown passes. His team also have a familiarity playing against the former first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft last year where he racked up a career-high 363 passing yards and a pair of touchdown passes in a 31-23 loss to the Rams.
"He can push the ball down the field and he’s got outstanding weapons outside, so that’s a concern, Fisher said. "He sees (the field) well, if he needs to pull it down and run, he can, he can extend plays. He’s made some great throws. In our game last year, he just missed a few. And one can only imagine had he hit them. We can’t afford to give him those opportunities. He’s going to be one of the top quarterbacks in this business for a long time.”
Los Angeles is coming off a strong performance against the Seattle Seahawks where they were highly successful in generating consistent pressure on Russell Wilson with nine total hits on him including a pair of sacks and a forced fumble.
In their meeting last season against the Buccaneers, the Rams were able to get 12 hits on Winston but failed to record a single sack which allowed the former Florida State product to move the chains with 21 of the team's 30 first downs coming via the pass. If not for timely stops, the outcome of the game could have been much different with the Buccaneers notching 509 total offensive yards.
This places a huge importance on the play of the secondary, which has been solid averaging the ninth fewest passing yards (204.5) per game through the first two weeks of the season. The Rams were able to get their hands on the ball last Sunday with five deflected passes while limiting Wilson to just 6.5 yards per completion.
“They’ve been battling. They’re tackling well. The safety play has been solid," Fisher said. "‘Tru’ (CB Trumaine Johnson) has played well. We’ve played five or six DBs or three safeties and three corners, we’ve played a lot of DBs. I thought, specifically last weekend against Seattle, I thought they played, they tackled well, all of them were contact players in the game.”
Defensive back Lamarcus Joyner stood out from this group against the Seahawks playing through a broken toe by recording five total tackles, two pass deflections, and one tackle for loss.
“He played really well. He’ll be a little bit limited, I think, this week," Fisher said. "But it was nothing that was going to keep him from playing. You can kind of get an appreciation for his commitment to this game and his teammates – playing through that is not easy.”
Heading into this week's matchup against Tampa Bay, the play of secondary will hold a great significance in another early road test in the 2016 season.