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John DeShazier: Bucs pass rush could pose a problem for New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay had five sacks in week 1 loss to Jets

Tampa Bay didn't win its game in the season opener, but the Buccaneers won a few critical battles.

Among them was this: Tampa Bay got after Jets quarterback Geno Smith, to the tune of registering five sacks.

Granted, Smith, a rookie, wasn't as decisive and knowledgeable about getting rid of the football and avoiding takedowns in his debut game as Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been in his career, and figures to be in Sunday's game against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Brees has been sacked an average of 20 times per season since joining the Saints in 2006.

But Tampa Bay, in its 18-17 loss to the Jets, managed to take down Smith five times, with the three starting linebackers combining for four sacks and defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim registering the other.

If the Buccaneers' defense has any success against the Saints' offense, it likely will be because the rushers created havoc.

"They do generate a lot from their front four," Saints center Brian de la Puente said. "They're a good, athletic defense top to bottom. We're going to have our work cut out for us, (but) I think we'll put ourselves in the right positions to have success."

That was the case last year, as the Saints swept the season series. Brees was sacked once in the two games and threw a combined eight touchdowns, with one interception. New Orleans scored 35 and 41 points in the games and averaged 453 yards of offense.

But it wasn't because Tampa Bay wasn't up for the challenge.

"They had a good front last year," de la Puente said. "We're going to have our work cut out for us. They're a talented, quick, athletic group and we're looking forward to going out there and putting our plan to work.

"Coaches do a great job of putting together a good gameplan to put us in the right position to have success. Then, it's up to us to go out there and execute. That's what the work week is about, getting all that installed and going out there and executing on Sunday."

And doing it against a few different players than last year.

"Last year they didn't have (right defensive end Adrian) Clayborn, and Clayborn is a good player," Saints left tackle Charles Brown said. "That's a big addition."

Clayborn had 7.5 sacks last season.

"And the end on the other side, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, he wasn't a starter last year," Brown said. "And I believe (defensive tackle Gerald) McCoy was injured for one of the games. That's a real good line, they do a lot of movement, they're strong and fast. That's a good bunch of athletes together."

But the Buccaneers' defensive strength will match against one of the Saints' offensive strengths. Brees isn't often sacked and rarely is he harassed as much as was the rookie Smith.

Tampa Bay's willingness to send its linebackers suggest the Bucs will be aggressive. Middle linebacker Mason Foster had two sacks against the Jets and outside linebackers Lavonte David and Dekoda Watson each had one.

"They've shown blitzes," Brown said. "They showed blitzes when we played them last year, so that's what they do."

One of the things that the Saints do well is protect. It's one of several battles New Orleans intends to win Sunday.

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