Week one of the NFL pre-season is finally upon us. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to the state of Pennsylvania to face off against the Pittsburg Steelers. This week we will look into the keys to getting the Bucs on the board and slowing down the Steelers offensive weapons.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers first team offense will not likely play deep into the first quarter, and may only play two drives in total. That means if Jameis Winston and company want to make a statement early on, they should look to be aggressive. Pittsburg has some strong defensive players to attack the questionable Bucs O-Line. T.J. Watt and Cameron Hayward will be a force against the run and pass. With that said look for Tampa to attack the defense over the middle with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate.
Tampa’s Tight Ends
Pittsburg will be starting smaller inside linebackers in former Buccaneer Mark Barron and 6’1″ Vince Williams. Those players are not known for their coverage and the tight end position is the spot Tampa should have a weekly advantage in. Tampa contains a two headed nightmare of Howard and Brate. Howard alone looks primed to have his breakout season and is to be counted on to win matchups against 90% of the inside linebackers or safties lined across from him.
Jameis Winston has been lights out in the red-zone so far in training camp and will need to capitalize when the Bucs offense in in scoring position. The starting offense has great red-zone targets in both the aforementioned tight ends and star receiver Mike Evans. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have any opportunity to run one in, I would hope to see Peyton Barber get a chance to earn some much needed confidence for the offensive line.
Second Team and Next Men Up
The second team offense should be centered around running the ball with Ronald Jones II as the bell-cow. He will looks to build some confidence in himself and in the organization as a whole as he looked like a bust throughout his rookie season. He has shined in camp at times and now he gets to play against an actual opposing defense. I would be really pleased if offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich gives him a catching opportunity through a screen pass or even a check down option.
Pre-season play gives teams a prime chance to see their young and unproven players a chance to prove their talents on a big stage. Week one looks to be one of the best chances for young guys to get much needed game reps as the starting offense traditionally plays the least amount of plays as in week 4.
Keep an eye on running backs Bruce Anderson, if he’s healthy enough to play, as well as Dare Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale looks to steal the shine that was originally on Anderson but has been making a late push of his own in training camp. Its always next man up in the NFL and with an injured player in front I can see Dare earning some separation if he plays well this Friday.
The starting Pittsburgh offense has been really great throughout Ben Roethlisburger’s career and for a quarter will be a challenge for the new scheme in Tampa. Offensively, the Steelers own one of the best offensive lines in the league and will have James Connor and Jaylen Samuels running behind them. Tampa Bay will look to stop any running lanes with their new aggressive 3-4 front with line backers Deone Buchannon, who is starting for the injured Lavonte David, as well as Devin White. White is looking to get some live action for the first time since becoming the first round pick of the Buccaneers in April.
Juju Smith-Schuster is the star in Pittsburgh now with All-Pro Antonio Brown playing in Oakland. The Bucs will have some new challengers for playing time now with rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting making some noise in camp. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will give the first team chances to Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis with Bunting playing the slot. If the starting corners can makes a splash play in a pass breakup or even an interception that would bode well for the confidence Bruce Arians will have in his young secondary.
Cairo Santos and rookie Matt Gay will look to continue their kicking battle throughout the preseason and will split any opportunities this week. Gay contains one of the biggest legs Tampa has ever seen as a result he’s hitting 60 plus yard kicks in training camp. If Tampa has a late opportunity before halftime or the end of the game I hope the kid gets a chance to hit one.
Week one looks to be more about the young guys and unproven players for most teams in the league. that to me makes it very important as most teams need good depth and would love the players to make any cuts a difficult decision.