In the early days of the NFC South, there was once a man who stalked opposing defenses and scared the absolute daylights out of Defensive Coordinators. His name was Michael Vick. He was a different player revered to this day for his on-field exploits. However, twice a year, there was another man who you could call the “Equalizer”. His name was Derrick Brooks. Monte Kiffin, at the time, would use Brooks to shadow Vick and keep him in check on the ground, forcing him to become more of a pocket passer. It has always been the case with mobile quarterbacks from Fran Tarkenton, Randall Cunningham to today as there are increasingly more mobile quarterbacks. All of this leads us to this week’s Thursday Night Football.
IN THE GREEN CORNER: QUARTERBACK JALEN HURTS
Since taking the reigns from Carson Wentz late last season, Jalen Hurts has become a bit of an offensive nightmare. The one thing that has excited fans, coaches, and analysts; is the dual-threat capability of Jalen Hurts. So far this season, Hurts is the leading rusher on the Philadelphia Eagles — over third-year back Miles Sanders and rookie Kenneth Gainwell. While close in actual yardage, his yards per attempt are a yard higher than Sanders, and Gainwell has lost traction in the pecking order, leaving Jalen Hurts as the de facto second running back after Sanders. Also, he has been, at times, able to extend plays in the passing game using his legs and getting balls to his rookie wide receiver Devonta Smith or up the seams to tight ends Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz. So far this year, those types of things have wreaked a bit of havoc for the injury-riddled Buccaneers defense.
IN THE PEWTER CORNER: MIDDLE LINEBACKER DEVIN WHITE
Last week, Bucs Nation held their collective breaths, when after a play, number fifty-four was lying face down on the turf and not getting back up. I, for one, was very relieved when Lavonte David was helped off of the field without the need for a cart. I had feared the worst. His partner in crime, Devin White, will be partnered with Kevin Minter this week versus the Eagles. All of us Bucs fans are filled with excitement whenever Devin White comes screaming through the ‘A’ gap behind Vita Vea on blitzes because when that happens, chaos on the field will ensue. Getting after the quarterback, after all, is a strong suit of Devin White. However, this week, with the depleted linebacking corps and secondary, possibly the Buccaneers should take a page out of the Monte Kiffin Playbook and use the White as more of a shadow this week versus Hurts to make sure he stays in the pocket the way Derrick Brooks was used against Michael Vick. The more you can contain Hurts, the more you force him to go through his progressions and the throw from the pocket. I am not suggesting a straight-up shadow, exactly how Brooks was used against Vick, but I could see White faking, showing blitz, and then pulling out of it at the last second as the blitz will come from a different angle for Jalen Hurts as he tries to scramble. This rope-a-dope style angle could pay big dividends when it comes to the outcome of the game.
AND THE WINNER IS?
Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles could very well use a tactic like this to contain Jalen Hurts on Thursday. He is going to want to try and cover up as much as he can for his depleted secondary, forcing Hurts into quicker decisions. This fight will go on for the full four quarters, trying to keep Jalen Hurts on his spot Thursday night, and Devin White could be that equalizer. Now, this match-up is not the fight card that Derrick Brooks versus Michael Vick once was, but the same ideas from those battles could be an inspiration in another ‘W’ for the Buccaneers.