As fans, we obsess about our teams. Who they’re signing, what they’re planning, how they’re playing. But we often overlook other teams, specifically, how it affects the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Here are some of the bigger story lines worth keeping an eye on for the Buccaneers faithful.
Trouble in the trenches
The Panthers may have a legitimate problem on their offensive line. After losing Andrew Norwell, one of the better guards in the league, during free agency and with second team all pro right tackle Daryl Williams going down earlier in camp with a torn MCL, Carolina’s offensive line just took another hit. Left tackle Matt Kalil has been having ongoing knee problems through camp. As a result, he met with renowned surgeon James Andrews and had arthroscopic surgery on his knee. This procedure won’t keep him out an extended period of time, but it will be an ongoing issue. He will be evaluated on a week to week basis and will likely have issues with it over the course of the year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t play Carolina until the 4th of November, but with Bucs bolstered defensive line, they might have the advantage.
It’s worth noting that Kalil is far from the best left tackle in the league and the issue seems like more of an issue of pain rather than something that will keep him on the sideline. However, as Bucs fans have recently learned, any kind of injury to a key position like left tackle is significant. This is just one more addition to a growing list of of problems that are starting to add up in Carolina. If they can overcome them is yet to be seen.
Saints go marching on
New Orleans lost their latest preseason game 20-15 to the Arizona Cardinals. Don’t let that fool you though, their key players all dominated. They ran the ball down the Cardinals throats and were extremely efficient. Mark Ingram, who will miss the season opener vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to a suspension, averaged more than five yards per carry. It was an extremely impressive showing in every aspect except the passing offense.
The reason the passing attack struggled was because future hall of fame quarterback Drew Brees didn’t play. In fact, Brees hasn’t played yet this preseason. Now this isn’t a big deal for someone as experienced as he is, but it does lead me to question how sharp he will be against the Bucs. He will likely play for at least a half in the upcoming third preseason game, but I wouldn’t expect him to play in the final game. That’s only one half of game like action since last season. If nothing else this could throw off his timing in the first game, particularly with the new targets he has to throw to.
Rising star in Atlanta
The Falcons had their first round pick Calvin Ridley on full display in their latest game versus the Chiefs. The rookie led the team in catches and yards and had one of Atlanta’s two touchdowns on the night. Additionally he returned a pair of kicks for a total of 52 yards. This is a massive step up from his debut where he had just one catch for negative two yards.
Now I don’t want to overreact to one preseason game, but I believe Ridley is going to be a problem for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the next decade. He was my top rated wide receiver in the latest NFL draft; even above Panthers rookie receiver who went two picks ahead of Ridley. This is just one more piece to the puzzle for the Falcons high flying offense and one more reason I view them as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers main competition in winning the NFC South.