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Is Buccaneers’ defense up to the challenge vs. 49ers?

Something every Buccaneers’ fan will be wondering, other than about the play of starting quarterback Jameis Winston, is how will Tampa Bay’s defense stack up against the challenge of facing San Francisco’s offense?

Yes, the Buccaneers bested the 49ers at Raymond James Stadium last season in a 27-9 victory. Take into context that San Francisco started rookie Nick Mullens and Tampa Bay’s defense likely had its best performance of the 2018 season and that should equal a win most times.

Lets now fast forward to the present, as San Francisco won’t be trotting out Mullen’s under center but instead Jimmy Garoppolo will make his long awaited return to NFL regular season play. Garoppolo looked shaky in his first preseason action against the Denver Broncos and then returned to the scene of the crime at Kansas City, where he suffered his 2018 season-ending ACL injury, and flashed his old brilliance.

If Garoppolo looks anything likes the guy who showed back up at Arrowhead Stadium and completed 14-of-20 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown, Tampa Bay’s much criticized secondary better be up to the task. The Buccaneers were one of the worst teams against the pass last year, allowing an average of 320 yards a game, good enough for smack dab No. 32.

Thats where defensive guru Todd Bowles comes into play, with the former New York Jets’ head coach is expected to shape up the Buccaneers’ defense into a respectable unit. The work that Bowles has done in past stops at Arizona and New York don’t dispute the notion that he could turnaround Tampa Bay eventually, but is this Buccaneers’ defense ready now?

The pass rush will need to be there and put pressure on Garoppolo and Bowles may not have all of his ingredients to work with. Linebacker LaVonte David is just getting back to practice this week, but unlikely to play is defensive tackle stalwart Vita Vea and out for several games is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

For this particular unit to flourish, they’ll need to put pressure on Garoppolo and the secondary will have to hold up. Players like Justin Evans, Vernon Hargreaves III and others must step up if Tampa Bay looks to start off the season on the right foot. Yes, a lot of attention will be on what the right-arm of Winston does snap to snap, but the microscope will be on the defense just as closely to see if they’ve made any improvement.

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