Kevin Nogle, The Phinsider (KN): What's the biggest change you have seen for the Buccaneers with Lovie Smith at the helm?
Sander Philipse, Bucs Nation (SP): The atmosphere around the team and among the fans. Players like Lovie Smith. Fans like Lovie Smith. Every player is happy and working hard. Every player talks about the respect they have for Lovie Smith. About how he treats them like adults. About how he knows what he's doing, brings a focus to the team, brings a calm to the team. That's a massive difference from the hectic, disciplinarian days of Greg Schiano.
KN: There are a lot of questions surrounding the Dolphins' offensive line this year, but the Buccaneers' front five are not doing much better. What's going on up front for the offense, and will the guard swap this week make a difference?
SP: The Bucs actually have three good starters: Anthony Collins at left tackle, Demar Dotson at right tackle, and Evan Dietrich-Smith at center. They also have a group of six guards, none of whom should probably be starting for any NFL team. And yet the Bucs are holding a competition to see which two of that group will get the honor of playing a traffic cone in front of a national audience every week.
I don't expect the swap at guard to make a difference, really. We don't even know who exactly they're going to be starting, but none of these players are good enough to do it. Oniel Cousins was just as bad against the Jaguars as Jamon Meredith was, but only the latter was demoted to second-string tackle. It's just a mess right now.
KN: On that note, and knowing how a Lovie Smith defense typically looks, what should the Dolphins offensive line expect tonight? Where are the Buccaneers generating pressure, and how well can Miami run on the defense?
SP: The Jaguars couldn't get anything done against the Bucs' first-string offense, and it really did look like a very good unit. The pass rush revolves around Gerald McCoy, who is the best three-technique defensive tackle in the NFL right now. He's a monster of a pass rusher, who drives this defense. Michael Johnson's the next-best pass rusher at right defensive end, but he can't drive the rush by himself. Still, the Bucs have a decent amount of talent there.
As a run defense the Bucs will be slightly more vulnerable, but gaining yards consistently on that group won't be all too easy, either. Lavonte David is a vacuum cleaner behind the defensive line, which has a real knack for disrupting outside zone runs before they can get going. If you want to run against the Bucs, you'll want to run power and overwhelm one point on the defensive line.
KN: With this game being the second preseason game, we should see the starters a little longer tonight, but still get a healthy dose of second- and third-string players. Who should Dolphins fans be watching late in this game that could have an impact for the Buccaneers this season?
SP: I'd keep an eye on Robert Herron, and everyone who suits up at left or right guard. The guard spot is an open competition and even the third-stringers have a shot, here. Don't be surprised if you see some guy who lines up in the fourth quarter turn into the starter come the regular season.
Robert Herron is a little more interesting. He was the team's sixth-round pick this year and has a good chance of contributing as a slot receiver and returner this season. He's undersized but really fast, just what you want in the slot. Unfortunately, he's struggled to catch the ball both on punt returns and in the game. If he can display some good hands today he should earn some more playing time going forward.
KN: Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins were two players many Dolphins fans wanted to see in South Florida this year. Since their trip through the Sunshine State stopped in Central Florida, can you tell us how they have looked early in their rookie year?
SP: Austin Seferian-Jenkins has looked great. He missed most of the offseason with a foot injury and due to the academic schedule at the University of Washington, but has stood out as a receiver nearly every day in training camp and in the first preseason game. He has to work on his blocking, but he has the size to turn into a very good player in that area as well -- and he's displayed great work ethic throughout training camp, so there's good reason to believe he'll fix that.
Mike Evans has not looked as good. He's certainly flashed in training camp, but he hasn't been a dominant factor over the offseason. That's to be expected: he was fairly raw and came out of a very limited offensive system, while Jeff Tedford places high demands on his route-running and asks him to line up all over the formation. Evans will probably contribute early, but I would be surprised if he turns in a Pro Bowl season as a rookie.