7 biggest changes for Rams and Bucs since last year’s matchup

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For the third year in a row, the Rams and Buccaneers will meet in the regular season. They’ve split the last two, but both of these teams looked very different when Jameis Winston led the Bucs to a wild win in 2019.

There have even been some changes since last year’s meeting, too. Looking back at each team’s rosters from Week 11 last season when the Rams beat Tampa Bay 27-24, there are some noticeable differences.

Here are seven of the biggest changes since their showdown in 2020.

Matthew Stafford has taken over at QB

There’s quite a difference at quarterback for the Rams, which is the biggest change from last season’s meeting. Jared Goff threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns on 39-for-51 passing, so he didn’t play poorly. But Stafford has been lighting it up for the Rams thus far and looks like an upgrade at the sport’s most important position. He should get plenty of opportunities to throw the ball against this Buccaneers defense, which is much more susceptible to the pass than it is to the run. Stafford gives the Rams a great chance to win this game at home.

Vita Vea is healthy

The Rams only rushed for 37 yards in last year’s matchup, and that was without Vea clogging up the middle for the Buccaneers. He was out with a leg injury, which was a huge loss for Tampa Bay – not that the defense suddenly fell off without him. Vea is healthy this week and is coming off a game in which he had five tackles, a QB hit and a batted pass against the Falcons. He’s not just a great run stuffer, but he can also rush the passer from that nose-tackle spot thanks to his freakish strength and agility for a man his size.

Andrew Whitworth and Brian Allen are in the starting lineup

Joe Noteboom was thrust into the starting lineup for this game after Andrew Whitworth suffered a knee injury the week prior. Austin Blythe was also the Rams’ starting center at the time, but he has since departed via free agency. Now, that job belongs to Allen, who has held up well through the first two weeks of the season. Whitworth is clearly an upgrade over Noteboom, and Allen has been playing better so far than Blythe did a year ago, especially given the difficult matchups he’s faced with DeForest Buckner and Akiem Hicks. The Rams’ offensive line should hold up well on Sunday.

Rams have five new starters on defense

Michael Brockers, Samson Ebukam, Micah Kiser, Troy Hill and John Johnson all got the start against the Buccaneers last season, and all of them are now gone. Taking their place will be A’Shawn Robinson, Justin Hollins, Kenny Young, David Long Jr. and Taylor Rapp. Hollins and Young look like upgrades, but the other three have yet to prove they’re better than the players they’re replacing. This isn't a reason to believe the Rams defense will play poorly against the Buccaneers or that the newcomers to the starting lineup are weak links, but the entire defense will have its hand full with Tampa Bay’s playmakers on offense.

Brandon Staley is no longer Rams’ DC

Staley left to become the Chargers’ head coach and was replaced by Raheem Morris. So far, the Rams defense has given up some yards, but they’ve hunkered down in the red zone and played well when it’s mattered most. The jury is still out on whether this defense can be as dominant as last year’s group, but that can’t all be pinned on Morris’ scheme (see the losses above). Staley installed a defensive philosophy that the Rams are still modeling their system after this season, but not having the brilliant coordinator on Sean McVay’s staff does hurt.

Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jason Pierre-Paul are injured

Murphy-Bunting dislocated his elbow in the opener and has since landed on injured reserve, costing the Buccaneers one of their starting cornerbacks. Pierre-Paul has a shoulder injury that’s almost certain to keep him out of Sunday’s game, a significant blow to Tampa Bay’s defense – not only the pass rush but the run defense, too. The Rams should be able to take advantage of the Buccaneers’ secondary compared to their run defense. Tampa Bay has been susceptible to the pass, especially with how frequently the first two opponents have thrown the ball against the Bucs.

Buccaneers have won 10 games in a row

This isn't something that’s changed on the field, but the Buccaneers have a very different feel coming into this one than they did last season. They were 7-4 before losing to the Rams in Week 11 last season, and entering this game, they’ve won 10 straight games dating back to 2020, including the Super Bowl over the Chiefs. This team is red hot and looked every bit like a Super Bowl contender in the first two weeks of the season. Now that Tom Brady has gained some comfort in Bruce Arians’ offense, the Bucs are really humming on that side of the ball and lead the NFL in points so far.

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