One of the toughest tests the loaded Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense will face this year, the Bucs will host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium.
After two down weeks, the Buccaneers offense bounced back with a 544-yard, 46-point outing against the Carolina Panthers. The goings may not be so easy against Los Angeles, who owns the NFL's No. 2 total, No. 3 passing, and No. 5 run defense this season.
"The players haven't changed much [but] the scheme is totally different," Arians said of the Rams defense on Monday. The Bucs faced the Rams in September of the 2019 season, Arians' first as Tampa Bay's head coach.
Defensive linemen Aaron Donald, one of the NFL's most dominant, and fellow DL Michael Brockers are still holding it down up front, according to Arians. Edge rusher Leonard Floyd has tied his career-high with seven sacks this season (in just nine games) after leaving Chicago for Hollywood.
Perhaps the biggest difference-maker, however, is cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Like Floyd, Ramsey wasn't a Ram the last time these two teams met, as Jacksonville traded the disgruntled cornerback out west on Oct. 15, 2019, 17 days later. That time around, the Bucs defeated by the Rams by a score of 55-40, in L.A.
"Jalen is a big addition to the secondary," said Arians. "They're pretty much a zone-coverage team with Jalen playing some man-to-man in zone principles. He gives them flexibility to do a lot of different things defensively. They have a lot of five-man pressures and they're very tough to block."
Since joining the Rams, Ramsey has posted 23 total tackles, including two for loss, two interceptions, seven defended passes, and a forced fumble in 17 games.
While he primarily played boundary cornerback with the Jaguars, Ramsey has seen 374 snaps outside, 113 in the slot, and even 40 in the box like a linebacker for Los Angeles this year (per Pro Football Focus).
That type of versatility, especially when a player like Ramsey is so dominant, can cause plenty of headaches for passing offenses. And while the Bucs are fresh off of a dominant showing through the air, an eight-rushing-yard, three-interception game offensively against the Saints less than two weeks ago should still leave a sour taste in everyone's mouth until Tampa Bay proves it can handle a great defense.
How would Arians and right tackle Tristan Wirfs like to do that? By playing hard-nosed, physical football and establishing the run game.
"I think it's a big thing – establishing the line of scrimmage," Wirfs said on Monday. "Just coming out and getting off to a hot start up front is going to be big."
"When we establish the run – and it doesn't have to be a 200-yard running game – the establishment of the run and the play-action keeps him clean in the pocket," Arians added. "Any defensive lineman when he has two things to think about is not going to tee off like he does when it's just putting your ears back on third down or pass rush the entire time. When his uniform is clean we have a great shot."
Running back Ronald Jones II scampered his way to 192 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers on Sunday. A similar feat won't be easy against a top-tier Rams defense, but a strong showing from Jones and Co. in the running back room could be what the Bucs need to wear down L.A. and create a balanced approach.