A tight end can be a young quarterback's best friend. So look for the Buccaneers to try to do that Sunday with Josh Johnson throwing to pass-catching threat Kellen Winslow.
At 6-4, 240 pounds, Winslow poses a matchup problem for smaller defensive backs and linebackers. He can split out wide like a receiver or line up in the slot.
"Any time you have a guy like that, with athleticism and with speed, you always have to keep your eyes on him.," said Eagles safety Sean Jones, who played with Winslow in Cleveland. "He's a tremendous athlete with great hands. When the ball gets around his area he goes real strong to the ball, very aggressive to the ball. He's definitely a threat."
Since 2006, Winslow ranks third among tight ends with 231 catches. In 2009, he has caught 17 passes for 155 yards (9.1 avg.), with two touchdowns.
Philadelphia comes into Sunday's game boasting the league's second-rated pass defense, yielding an average of 156.0 yards. However, opposing tight ends have had success against the Eagles in recent years.
Winslow has found a home in Tampa after an injury-riddled five seasons with the Browns. In his only two full seasons with Cleveland he averaged 86 receptions. He capped off the 2007 season with a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Jones and Winslow were part of Cleveland's 2004 draft class and remain good friends.
"He's definitely a great competitor," Jones said. "That's the first thing I think of when I think about him."
Martin Rucker, a tight end on the Eagles practice squad, agreed.
"Every time he's out there he's giving it 110 percent," said Rucker, who spent the 2008 season with the Browns.
Rucker played the role of Winslow in practice this week, giving Philadelphia's defense a look at what they're up against Sunday.
"He's a little bit lighter so he moves a lot smoother than a typical tight end would," Rucker said. "He's so fast. He can get out of his breaks very quickly."
It's not unusual for offenses to focus on exploiting the tight end matchup. Jones and Rucker agree that Winslow is a tough test for any defense, but they are confident the Eagles defense will have the right answers for Winslow on Sunday.
"I'm pretty sure he's going to come out there with his 'A' game and we're going to do the same thing," Jones said.
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 7:45 a.m., October 11