If you ask old school scouts what is required to field a championship contender, they will quickly tell you that it takes eight to twelve blue-chip players to compete for a title. This premise has been the standard for general managers around the league and I rely on it to help me identify the players to watch on game day.
With that in mind, let's identify the players to watch on the Cowboys' next opponent. As we enter the Wild Card round of the playoffs, here's a quick report on the current blue-chip players for the Bucs.
Tom Brady, QB: The seven-time Super Bowl champion continues to flourish as a passer as a forty-something-year-old starter in the twilight of his career. Brady surpassed the 4,000-yard mark for the 14th time in his career while also showing his trademark clutch skills late in games. Although the veteran posted the second-lowest yards per pass attempt (6.4) of his career, he is still good enough to pose a threat as a gunslinger in a single-elimination tournament.
Mike Evans, WR: The big-bodied playmaker notched the ninth 1,000-yard season of his career as the Buccaneers' No.1 receiver. Evans' big play potential and vertical route running skills make him a dangerous weapon worthy of commanding double coverage on critical downs. if the Cowboys elect to play Evans "straight up" on the perimeter without help from a safety, the Bucs' WR1 could go bonkers in the Wild Card Round.
Chris Godwin, WR: The Buccaneers' co-No.1 wideout is a dangerous playmaker with the size, strength, and leaping ability to overwhelm defensive backs in space. Godwin's superior physical traits make him a hard matchup for opponents unwilling to utilize loaded coverage to slow down a dependable "chain mover" on the perimeter.
Vita Vea, DT: The super-sized defensive tackle is a rare find as a 350-plus pound run stopper with heavy hands and ballerina-like feet. Vea destroys blocking schemes at the point of attack with his combination of strength, power, and explosion, overwhelming single and double teams at the line of scrimmage. If the Cowboys cannot control the monstrous defender at the point of attack, Vea could tip the game in the Buccaneers' favor with his dominance in the trenches.
Akiem Hicks, DT: The massive interior defender crushes opponents at the line of scrimmage with his explosive strength and power. Although his numbers do not speak to his disruptiveness at the point of attack, Hicks demands extra attention or he could single-handedly destroy the Cowboys' game plan as a big-bodied penetrator. Given the importance of establishing the running game in a playoff contest, Hicks' impact as a defender could play a significant role in the game's outcome.
Devin White, LB:The ultra-productive tackling machine sets the tone for the Buccaneers' defense with is a violent game. White's toughness and tenacity appear whenever he takes on runners between the tackles or pass catchers venturing over the middle. In addition, the fourth-year pro enhances the Buccaneers' pass rush as a blitz specialist with a knack for getting home. With 5.5 sacks to go with 124 total stops, White is the defender who routinely starts the party for the Buccaneers' defense.
Lavonte David, LB: The undersized linebacker is a tackling specialist with exceptional instincts and awareness. David's uncanny ability to slither around blockers makes him a nightmare at the point of attack. If the Cowboys want to establish the running game to control the clock and dictate the terms to the Buccaneers' defense, the offensive line will need to keep No.54 under wraps to get it done.
Antoine Winfield, S: As an instinctive defender with A-plus tackling ability, pass rush talent, and ball skills, Winfield is an X-factor on the second level as a Swiss Army knife-like playmaker in Todd Bowles' scheme. With the defensive mastermind adept at putting the third-year pro in prime positions to make a play, Winfield can wreck a game plan with his versatility and big play potential.