The 2013 season has not gotten off to the successful beginning the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had been hoping for.
Shaky quarterback play, an inconsistent defense and an apparent disconnect between head coach Greg Schiano and the players in the locker room have led to an 0-3 start and plenty of issues in need of addressing.
Starting quarterback Josh Freeman has been especially disappointing, completing just 45.7 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and four turnovers while failing to provide the kind of offensive punch the Buccaneers need to win games.
Now that Freeman has been officially benched, it is time to look ahead and see what rookie signal-caller Mike Glennon needs to do to bring home Tampa Bay's first victory of the season.
This should be a winnable game for Tampa Bay and its young quarterback, as the Cardinals currently rank in the bottom third of the league in both scoring offense (25th at 18.7 points per game) and scoring defense (22nd at 26.3 points per game allowed).
However, the Buccaneers do not have the type of talent to overcome multiple mistakes and will have to hit on a few key areas in order to walk away with a victory.
Give Glennon Time in the Pocket
At 6'6" and 225 pounds, Glennon has the size and arm strength to scan the field and deliver the football deep.
Against a talented Cardinals secondary, however, hurried throws are likely to lead to big mistakes for the rookie passer.
Freeman was sacked just seven times through the Buccaneers' first three games, which is fewer than what 18 starting quarterbacks have endured this season.
If the Buccaneers offensive line can provide similar protection for Glennon against the Cardinals, who have notched just five sacks as a team this season, the rookie signal-caller will have an opportunity to make the defense pay.
Establish the Run
A young quarterback's best friend is most often an effective rushing attack.
As a team, the Buccaneers have averaged 107.3 yards per game (15th in the league) on the ground so far this season.
However, Doug Martin and Co. will face a stiff test against a Cardinals defense that currently ranks third (73.3 yards per game) against the run.
Finding a way to remain at least marginally effective on the ground will be critical for the Buccaneers' efforts to control the tempo of the game and to prevent the Arizona defense from keying in on Glennon and the passing game.
Get Creative on Offense
A simple offensive game plan may be the best way to ensure things do not move too quickly for the Buccaneers' rookie quarterback.
Unfortunately, coordinator Mike Sullivan might not have the luxury of installing a simple game plan on Sunday, as two of the team's biggest offensive weapons may not be available.
According to Jenna Laine of Sports Talk Florida, top wideouts Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams both missed practice on Thursday, which raises serious doubt as to their availability this week.
If Williams and Jackson are unavailable, Sullivan will be forced to devise a plan the utilizes lesser-known pass-catchers like Eric Page, Kevin Ogletree and tight end Nate Byham.
Slow Larry Fitzgerald on Defense
Despite the presence of strong-armed quarterback Carson Palmer, Fitzgerald has not been as dominant as in years past.
Through three weeks of play, Fitzgerald has just 15 receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
However, he is still the most dangerous weapon on the Cardinals offense, and preventing him from running wild in the secondary will go a long way toward keeping the score close and preventing Glennon from having to play catch-up later in the game.
Ignore the Distractions
Speaking of Palmer, does anyone else find it interesting that the former Raiders and Bengals quarterback chose this week (in a team conference call with the media) to talk about the interest the Buccaneers had in acquiring him during the offseason?
The players in the Tampa locker room cannot allow the quarterback change to occupy their attention leading up to this game.
They also cannot allow the fact—at least as Palmer presents it—that the Buccaneers' distrust in Freeman dates to before the season to cause any further rift with the front office and coaching staff.
The Cardinals are a vastly underrated opponent, but the Buccaneers do have a legitimate chance of coming away victorious in this game.
However, to do so, Tampa Bay will have to play a smart, disciplined brand of football, control the tempo and minimize mistakes from the man who may be under center for the rest of the 2013 season.