NFC South: Heath Miller

TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the traits I admire most about Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is his honesty.

Even if something isn't positive, McCoy's not afraid to say it.

"One of our Achilles heels right now is covering the tight end," McCoy said Thursday. "We have to be better at that."

McCoy simply was stating the obvious. The Bucs are coming off a game in which Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller caught 10 passes. Now, the Bucs have to face New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, who just might be the best tight end in the business -- if you even consider him a tight end.

"There are going to be times when we look at (Graham) as a receiver because they do move him around a lot," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "It's not often that he's a point-of-attack blocker. You see that on tape. He's an outstanding tight end with great pass-receiving skills. You've got to respect that and the way they move him around you have to recognize that he's not always at the tight end position. There are times we're going to treat him as a receiver."

The Bucs likely will use a combination of linebackers and defensive backs to try to slow Graham and quarterback Drew Brees. But there is one other way to prevent Graham from getting the ball.

"The (pass) rush can help that," McCoy said. "Somebody has to win early and we can make the quarterback make a bad throw. Or if the tight end is open, somebody is getting his hands up and getting the quarterback off his spot and making him make a bad throw. And, then, on the back end, guys being in the right spot covering the tight end. What better week to do it than this week. No. 9 and No. 80 over the past five years, that's been a huge combo."

McCoy said the key is to put pressure on Brees.

"Drew Brees is a Hall of Famer, but obviously different defenses get to him and rattle him and make him have a bad day," McCoy said. "You have to do that. It's going to start with us in the middle. He's a shorter guy, so we have to get in his face. We have different packages where we'll have taller guys in the middle and try to get our hands up and pressure him.

"Really, the big thing is to get him off his spot and it's a rush and coverage combo after that. But we definitely have to get him off his spot. He likes to throw from a certain spot. He has a certain step-up spot he likes. We have to get him off of that and get him uncomfortable."

Frazier was quick to point out the Saints have plenty of other offensive weapons besides Graham.

"You have to make a decision on what you've got to take away," Frazier said. "We have a plan for this week and hopefully we can execute it."

The Film Don't Lie: Buccaneers

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
A weekly look at what the Buccaneers must fix:

Even after the first win of the season, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

No area stands out more than covering the tight end. That’s hugely significant because on Sunday, the Bucs have to face New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, who might be the best receiving tight end in the NFL.

If recent history is any indication, the Bucs will have their hands full with Graham. In Sunday’s victory at Pittsburgh, the Bucs allowed Steelers tight end Heath Miller to catch a career-high 10 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.

The Bucs played a soft zone on Miller, and he did a nice job of finding the weak spots. They were lucky Miller is not much of a threat after the catch, or his numbers would have been even bigger.

Graham has the athleticism to make things happen after the catch, however. The Bucs can’t use soft coverage on him or else they’ll pay a steep price. Against Pittsburgh, it seemed like every Miller reception was capped by a first down with safety Dashon Goldson making the tackle.

Goldson left the game with an ankle injury, and replacement Major Wright didn’t fare much better. Whether it’s Goldson or Wright playing against the Saints, the Bucs need to let their safeties be more aggressive.

Rapid Reaction: Saints 20, Steelers 10

October, 31, 2010
NEW ORLEANS -- I’m heading downstairs for postgame interviews and will be back with a full column as quickly as possible.

But, first, here’s the Rapid Reaction for the Saints’ victory over Pittsburgh.

What it means: The Saints are alive. One week after a humiliating home loss to Cleveland, they bounced back with a victory against one of the best teams in the league. There’s still work to be done, and some injured guys need to get healthy for the Saints to have a true shot at repeating as the Super Bowl champions, but this game served as a reminder that the Saints still can play with anyone. At 5-3, they’re only one loss behind Atlanta and Tampa Bay in the NFC South.

What’s next: The Saints travel to Carolina next Sunday. That game may look easy on the surface, but the Panthers usually play the Saints well. New Orleans defeated Carolina by two points in the Superdome earlier this season. The Saints have their bye after the Carolina game.

Unsung heroes: New Orleans’ defense. Even when the Saints were winning big last year, they weren’t doing it with dominant defense. They won a championship with an opportunistic defense. Against the Steelers, the New Orleans defense was dominant most of the game, holding Pittsburgh to only one touchdown. But the defense also was opportunistic when it mattered most. With Pittsburgh driving in the fourth quarter, linebacker Marvin Mitchell forced a fumble by Heath Miller. Safety Darren Sharper grabbed it and that pretty much wrapped up the game.