Feed the beast
Led by DT Ndamukong Suh, the Lions have one of the most feared and ferocious pass-rush units in the league. The Bucs, however, have a great neutralizer in RB LeGarrette Blount, who is as much a problem for defensive linemen as Suh is for offensive linemen. Blount is a powerful runner who can break tackles and wear down defenses, and that's why the Bucs have to ride the B-Train today. If Blount can make good yards on early downs — Detroit ranked 24th against the run last season — it will create manageable third-down situations and limit Suh's impact.
The Bucs were outscored 73-43 in the first quarter last season and 35-10 this preseason. That trend cannot continue. If the Bucs have to play from behind, Detroit will be able to dictate the pace. Worst of all, it will allow the Lions to unleash their pass rushers. Playing the Lions even in the opening quarter would be a small victory, but the Bucs really need to find a way to get over their early-game jitters and take control early. Then, they can dictate the pace and unleash their young pass rushers.
Give Freeman a chance
Ndamukong Suh is not the only defensive lineman the Bucs have to worry about. DT Corey Williams and RDE Kyle Vanden Bosch create problems, too. So, does LDE Cliff Avril. The Bucs can't leave it to RT Jeremy Trueblood to take on Avril by himself. Whether it's with a chip blocker, a tight end or an offensive lineman such as Jeremy Zuttah working at tight end, the Bucs have to give Trueblood some help, especially in the red zone. And if Trueblood struggles out of the gate, the Bucs can't hesitate to use their depth at right tackle.
Bucs CB Aqib Talib vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson
Johnson ate up the Bucs defense last year, catching 10 passes for 152 yards in Detroit's 23-20 overtime victory. But the Bucs didn't have Talib, who will spend most of today shadowing Johnson. To really slow Johnson, however, Tampa Bay will need to throw some double coverage at him. That means playing a lot of Cover 2 and having the deep safeties come up and make plays, while also preventing big plays in the back third of the defense.