The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are having huge issues defending the slot. The Chicago Bears have to expose their defense over the middle of the field
Lost in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive success has been that they come into Week Four as one of the worst defensive groups in the NFL as well. The Bucs currently rank 29th in yards per play allowed and in defensive DVOA (The Chicago Bears rank eight and first respectively in these stats).
When looking at the Bucs through three weeks, they have been a team that lives and dies by the pass. There is a glaring weakness when looking at three performers who have completely torched this defense. Michael Thomas, Nelson Agholor, and JuJu Smith-Schuster have 33 receptions for 384 yards and two touchdowns combined against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When looking at the route charts from all three of these performances, it becomes somewhat clear where the Buccaneers are being beaten.
Michael Thomas worked over the middle for 16 receptions.
Nelson Agholor was running crossers over the middle of the field.
Teams are beating the Tampa Bay with quick passes over the short middle of the field. All three have taken those short passes and added yards after the catch to increase their totals.
This is because M.J. Stewart is currently playing in the slot for the Bucs. Stewart is a rookie from UNC who the Bucs drafted in the second round. However, standing at 5’10”, he is a bit undersized, and all three of these receivers have taken advantage of the rookie in coverage.
This should set up well for another big Allen Robinson game. Robinson is not known as a slot wide receiver, but the Chicago Bears have shuffled him into the slot when the matchup dictates it.
In Week One, against a rookie first-round pick, Jaire Alexander, Matt Nagy wanted to test him with Robinson and did. In the play linked, Robinson beats the rookie for a big catch from the slot.
In Week Two, Robinson saw more work in the slot.
The Chicago Bears will line Allen Robinson up in the slot and will attack that spot if the matchup calls for it. On Sunday, it should call for similarly picking on M.J. Stewart to Thomas, Agholor, and Smith-Schuster.
We will see if the Chicago Bears can follow up on it.