If there is one preseason game that is worth a casual Buccaneers fan’s time, it is the third. This is the game that’s treated most like a regular-season game, in which coaches actually game plan for the opponent and starters play into the third quarter.
The outcome, however, still doesn’t matter all that much. Sure, the Bucs want to win, but more important is how certain units and individuals perform.
With that in mind, we urge you to ignore the scoreboard and focus instead on these five areas of play or individual players.
Pressure from defensive line
This unit is responsible for generating the bulk of the pressure the Bucs apply to the opposing quarterback. So far, though, it hasn’t played up to expectations. Tampa Bay has just two sacks this preseason, only one generated by a first-team lineman. The Bucs need these players to start playing like the maulers they’re designed to be, and fast.
Take that ball away
The version of the Tampa 2 defense the Bucs will play this year is designed specifically to create takeaways. So far, though, the Bucs have forced just one turnover, a fumble forced by DT Gerald McCoy and recovered by DE Michael Johnson last week against Miami. It’s not necessarily a lack of takeaway opportunities that has the Bucs concerned. It’s their failure to capitalize on a bevy of those opportunities.
Move the chains
The Josh McCown-led offense has really struggled to move the chains this preseason. That unit is averaging four plays and 15 yards gained per possession, and the fact that one of those possessions resulted in a touchdown hasn’t alleviated any concerns. With a game plan in place for today’s encounter with the Bills and an opportunity at hand to make legitimate in-game adjustments, the Bucs will be looking for a few extended drives.
The tight ends
This has become one of the more intriguing position groups to watch. Luke Stocker is having his best preseason ever, Austin Seferian-Jenkins looks like a game-changer and Brandon Myers has done nothing to warrant losing the starter’s job he was given when he signed as a free agent in the spring. The race for game-day snaps is so tight here that Tim Wright needs to bounce back from an off week just to keep pace.
McCoy has been an absolute pleasure to watch this preseason. With four tackles, including two for a loss, a sack, two quarterback pressures and a forced fumble, he has easily been the Bucs’ most dominant player. It will be worth the time today to simply focus in on him for a few plays. The Bucs believe McCoy has developed into the game’s best under tackle, one who is starting to draw a lot of legitimate comparisons to his mentor, Warren Sapp.