The Miami Dolphins will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight in the first week of the 2018 preseason. This week’s game will be about getting the starters a little taste of the game while avoiding injury, then turning over the vast majority of the contest to the depth players. It will at least give us a chance to see the team on the field, even if it is not the bigger named players we will see when the season starts, nor will it be a full use of the playbook or game planning.
Ahead of tonight’s game, I spoke with Gil Arcia from Bucs Nation, SB Nation’s Buccaneers site, to get a better look at Tampa Bay and how he sees the team for the 2018 season.
1. We discussed this briefly here on The Phinsider, and I know you have talked about it as well on Bucs Nation. How do you think the Buccaneers will handle the playing time for Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick this preseason, given Winston’s three-game suspension when the regular season begins?
I’m not totally for what head coach Dirk Koetter is doing with splitting reps during camp. I understand he is trying to get Fitzpatrick as ready as possible for their Week 1 matchup at New Orleans, but you still have a young quarterback in Winston that still needs plenty of reps this preseason because he’ll still be playing in 13 games. His plan is to balance out the reps in these four games. We’ll have to see how that goes.
2. I know you guys had a scare this week with Vita Vea. How has he looked outside of the calf strain, and how is your rookie class as a whole fitting in with the team?
Vea appears to be fine. The team took a precautionary approach with the calf strain but they seem to be ok with limiting him the rest of this month. As for the rest of the class, the rookies defensive backs Carlton Davis and MJ Stewart have really impressed in camp. Running back Ronald Jones has had difficulties in the blocking game, but his running ability is as advertised. Rookie wide receiver Justin Watson has been impressive as well. If he can find a way on to the roster, the team will benefit from his size and speed.
3. The Buccaneers added some potential key free agents this offseason, including defensive end Vinny Curry, Ryan Jensen at center, and defensive tackle Beau Allen, as well as bringing back players like cornerback Brent Grimes. Who has been the biggest addition and - to go with the former Dolphins connection - how healthy is Grimes and is he ready to earn the full $10 million on his incentive-laden contract?
Grimes has been the best player in the Bucs secondary. He’s quick enough and plays very smart and does well against other NFC South receivers. In my opinion, he’s worth every dime. As for the other part of your question, Jason Pierre-Paul has been by far the biggest acquisition from the past offseason. That is no knock on Jensen, Allen, Curry, or Mitch Unrein. But Pierre-Paul has been all over the field in camp and so far the offensive line has struggled against him.
4. Since this is the first game of the preseason, the starters and bigger names will likely see the field very little, if at all, throughout the contest. What players that we may not know should Dolphins fans be watching on Tampa Bay’s offense? And defense?
One word: trenches. It would be curious to see how the Buccaneers offensive line plays. With injuries and pieces moved around, it would be interesting to see how that unit plays. On Defense, the defensive front will be on notice. They have struggled with rushing the quarterback as well as struggled against the run. Tampa Bay made it a point to revamp the defensive line, so now we wait and see if it was worth all the additions.
5. Where are the strengths and weaknesses of the 2018 Buccaneers now that we are starting to get into summer and the team is taking shape?
It’s to get a good feel for those kinds of things in camp, but I have to say that the strength right now is the defensive line while the weakness has to be the running game. The defensive line has been dominating and their hasn’t been much to brag about the ground attack.