We have officially reached the one preseason game that will actually look like a regular season game - at least for most of the game. The Preseason Week 3 contest will feature the starters for the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing most of the game, getting their final real tune-up for the regular season. What will we see from the Buccaneers tomorrow night? I asked Sander Philipse from SB Nation's Bucs Nation for a preview of Tampa Bay.
1. How healthy are the Buccaneers? Any major injuries so far? Will we see Darrelle Revis?
Well, that's some nice timing on that question. The Buccaneers have been fairly healthy throughout the offseason, with the only season-ending injury being a torn Achilles for kicker Connor Barth. A shame, but not a huge loss. Now we have bigger problems, though: Carl Nicks, recovering from a plantar plate injury, has contracted MRSA as has Lawrence Tynes. It's not clear how long Nicks will be out, while Tynes is likely to be placed on IR at some point.
Other than, y'know, a serious infection going through the team facilities, the Bucs have few injury problems. Davin Joseph and Adrian Clayborn are returning from knee injuries, but both appear to be progressing well. Darrelle Revis could play against the Dolphins on Saturday but is more likely to be kept under wraps until the season opener. Regardless, he's doing well in his progress.
2. How has Josh Freeman looked in the first two preseason games? This week, Fran Tarkenton (randomly) weighed in with his view of Freeman, saying, "He plays sometimes at a nice level. I've watched him a lot. He just plays God-awful. That's who you are. It's just a player being able to play or not play. Josh Freeman has proven to me that he can't play." Does Mike Glennon have a chance to unseat Freeman?
Josh Freeman got a combined 21 snaps in his first two preseason games. He didn't look bad, and didn't look spectacular, and a shaky offensive line (with two backup guards) didn't give him much time to throw. It's tough to say anything about his play so far based on his very limited preseason time so far.
Mike Glennon has no chance of unseating Freeman this preseason. He played well in his second preseason game, but the Bucs view Josh Freeman as their starter and Mike Glennon as more of an insurance policy. Of course, if the season is lost we might see Mike Glennon play at the end of the season as the Bucs evaluate what they have at quarterback. But you're not going to see Glennon on the field barring injury or catastrophically bad play from Josh Freeman during the regular season.
3. The 2012 Buccaneers were the best in the league against the run last year, but were torched by opposing quarterbacks. This year, they added Revis and drafted Johnthan Banks to shore up that pass defense. Despite Revis's ACL rehab meaning you have yet to see him in a game, will the additions help the Buccaneers defense? Will they be stout against the run again? How many times do you want to put the "a" in Johnthan?
That "a" in Johnthan has been bugging me since before the draft. It's almost as bad as Micheal (yes, really) Spurlock. To the point: yes, the additions will help the Buccaneers. At the end of last season they were dragging guys off the street and starting them. It was just a disaster all around. Having Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis will be a big help, while Banks has looked decent so far in preseason. He's still a rookie, though, and the team's depth at cornerback is questionable -- although they did bring in a lot of competition this offseason. We'll see whether that leads to the cream rising to the top.
As for the run defense, there's little reason to believe it will decline. Gerald McCoy is the key to that defense, but the Bucs play one of their safeties close to the box to help in the run game and they love to send run blitzes. They do appear to be going with rookie Akeem Spence as their starting nose tackle, but he was custom built for the tilted nose technique the Bucs use and he's done well so far. Of course, it's going to be hard to keep up the ridiculous run defense the team had last year -- but it should be good regardless.
4. Obviously, Revis was the big offseason move for Tampa Bay. What under-the-radar move did the team make that excites you heading into 2013?
"Excites" may be a bit strong, but I like the signing of Kevin Ogletree. He's looked good in preseason so far, and should finally give the Bucs a third receiving option they've been lacking these past years. He had that one big game last year for the Cowboys, but he's looked like a solid addition for the Bucs. With him in the fold, they're likely to line up Vincent Jackson in the slot quite a bit, which is what they liked to do last year, too. Hopefully that can compensate a little for the fact that Tom Crabtree was their big addition at the gaping hole that we call the tight end position.
5. With this being the "dress rehearsal" preseason game, how would you game plan to attack the Buccaneers offense? Defense?
I'd blitz Josh Freeman. A lot. According to ESPN, only Mark Sanchez performed worse against five or more rushers last season. That's a bad thing, in case you didn't know. Put an extra safety in the box to help stop Doug Martin, and just blitz relentlessly. You might get burned a few times, but you'll walk away with a bunch of sacks and probably an interception or two, too. Unless, of course, Freeman has improved significantly. There's some reason to believe that: many of the blitz issues were scheme-related, as receivers and quarterback weren't on the same page. That problem should be lessened this year.
As for the defense, I'd start targeting Mark Barron in coverage, as he struggled there last year. He should be improved this season, but I'd make him show that improvement before avoiding him. And, of course, liberally target any and all cornerbacks whose last names aren't "Revis". The Bucs love putting their cornerbacks on islands, and most of them can't handle it all that well. Oh, and stay away from the run. If there's anything the Bucs can do, it's stop the run.
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