Each week, the PFF analysis team will bring you break downs of the most important matchups for each game of the NFL season.
Coverage by: Lorin Cox
Matchup: Chicago Bears offense vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense
- C Cody Whitehair vs. DI Chris Baker– Whitehair was the sixth-highest graded center in the NFL last season with a very good 85.9 overall, but in Week 1, he was the league’s lowest graded center at just 28.0, allowing two hits and one hurry in pass protection to go with two penalties. He’ll have to block Baker, whose 2016 overall grade of 84.2 ranked 18th out of 126 defensive linemen. He generated six sacks, six hits and 30 hurries last season with Washington, and his 42 total pressures was tied for eighth among all 3-4 defensive ends. Baker was the only defensive lineman in the NFL last season to play more than 750 snaps without being flagged.
- RB Tarik Cohen vs. LB Kwon Alexander – Cohen had a breakout NFL debut last week, earning an 82.5 overall grade that was third among all running backs. He forced three missed tackles on five carries and another three missed tackles on eight catches, the only running back to force at least three on both rushes and receptions last week. He’ll inevitably face Alexander, who missed 22 tackles last season, the third most of any linebacker. However, he also had the sixth most total stops of any linebacker, and his 87.7 coverage grade was 12th best at his position.
- TE Zach Miller vs. S Keith Tandy – The Bears wide receiver position has been hit hard by injures, so Miller blurred positional lines in Week 1, lining up at wide receiver on 55 percent of his snaps. He was targeted six times last week with four of them coming when he lined up in the slot, so he should draw Tandy in coverage this week more than a few times. Tandy was the 15th-highest graded safety in the NFL last season at 84.7 overall, and on his 21 total targets in 2016, he allowed a passer rating of 52.4, the seventh-highest out of 91 safeties. He missed only two tackles in coverage, while Miller forced seven missed tackles after the catch last season.
Coverage by: Bill O’Brien
Matchup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense vs. Chicago Bears defense
- WR Mike Evans vs. CB Marcus Cooper Sr. – 2016 second-team all-pro wide receiver Mike Evans comes into the 2017 season looking to build on his breakout season from a year ago. Evans earned his highest graded season in 2016 by registering an overall grade of 93.7. Now entering his fourth season in the NFL, the elite receiver ranked sixth among receivers in yards per route run at a rate of 2.28 YPRR in 2016. Cornerback Marcus Cooper was featured in last week’s Bears game preview as a player to watch as he had his hands full with Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver Julio Jones. Cooper played well despite matching up with a receiver of Jones’ caliber, as Cooper registered a game grade of 74.2 while yielding just 1.00 yards per coverage snap.
- RB Jacquizz Rodgers vs. LB Danny Trevathan – With starting running back Doug Martin suspended for the first three games of 2017, seven-year veteran Jacquizz Rodgers will assume the starting role after winning the job through the preseason. Rodgers was effective while filling in as the starter during the eight games that Martin missed last season by registering a team-high 2.74 yards after contact per attempt average. Fellow Bears’ starting linebacker Jerrell Freeman was lost to the injured reserve after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in Week 1. Danny Trevathan will take over the lead linebacker spot. Trevathan is capable of taking over that role on the Bears and played well last week by not missing a tackle while playing 42 defensive snaps.
- T Demar Dotson vs. EDGE Leonard Floyd – Right tackle Demar Dotson is entering his ninth season in the NFL and is a reliable tackle up front for the Bucs. Dotson has earned an overall grade of at least 80.3 in each of the past four seasons, including a 2016 team-best 95.3 Pass Blocking Efficiency rating. Second-year pro Leonard Floyd played the fifth-most defensive snaps and struggled a bit by earning an overall grade of 65.3 in Week 1. Floyd ran the majority of his pass-rush snaps from the defense’s left side and generated one pressure on 17 pass rush snaps from the left side.