Today the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. It will be the official kickoff to the Buccaneers 2011 campaign, and despite being the preseason, it’s going to be a sight for sore eyes. The Bucs have high hopes this season and it all starts here. Though the results don’t count, the games still matter to the players fighting for roster spots and in many cases their NFL futures. I hate to admit it, but I love the preseason because I’m also a huge fan of the college game and oftentimes the players fighting to make teams are guys I watched on Saturdays.
Still, I’ll spare you the duller back-roster talk and focus on the big things, here’s what I’ll be looking for tonight.
The Bucs First Drive
Sure the games don’t count, but the first offensive drive of the Buccaneers season is still something I’ll be paying close attention to. How polished do they look? It’s not bad if they come out and they’re out of whack, but if they come out with a crisp, tight opening drive and score, it’s going to be a nice way to set the tone for the season. This may be the first time in Buccaneers history that the offense may actually be the engine that propels the team. The Bucs think they have a nice group of offensive weapons and it would really be a strong statement if they came out poised and punched one in right off the bat. It’s not really an issue if they don’t, but I’d like to see them come out sharp.
No Injuries, Please
It’s the first time the players have been able to hit someone else. So far in camp the Bucs have had to grind against one another, fortunately there have been no reports of high tensions or any camp-fights (though some coaches love that sort of thing), but every team certainly relishes the first chance to turn their aggression towards someone else besides their teammates. That, coupled with the questions about lockout conditioning could lend itself to a few injuries. You see it in the first preseason game every season, some defender gets overzealous and tries to blow a guy up, his fundamentals go out the window and he ends up ending his own season. Or a guy tries to make a competitive cut for the first time in game conditions and blows his knee out because he wasn’t in game shape.
I want to see the Bucs avoid that bug and make it out healthy. It’s unlikely they can make it out of the preseason without any casualties, but given the huge number of players that landed on IR last season, it’d be nice to get a break.
How Do the Ends Look?
Raheem Morris says he’ll only play Da’Quan Bowers for a 15-20 plays, but I’m anxious to see what the young guy does. He has a huge chip on his shoulder after plummeting from the top five picks of the draft to 51st. This will be his first chance to make a statement to teams that he is indeed healthy and raring to go. It may not mean much to most, but this game means something to Mr. Bowers. He wants to make a statement and I’ll be looking forward to the limited action he does see.
I also want to see Adrian Clayborn. There’s been little word on his planned playing time, but I want to see the Bucs first rounder in action as well. This will be the first chance for Bucs fans to get a glimpse of the presumed pass-rushing tandem of the future. Who knows how much of them we’ll see but it’s certainly something I’m eager for.
Chances are the Buccaneers are going to play Josh Johnson a lot this preseason. Johnson is in his walk year and could garner the Buccaneers a draft pick should another team see enough of him in the preseason to want to make a deal. That means Johnson will be showcased while the Bucs safeguard Josh Freeman. While that’s no fun to fans of Freeman, Josh Johnson is the type of quarterback that typically enjoys a good preseason. He’s fast, he’s got a good arm and he will have no problem squaring off against two’s and three’s in the second and third quarter of tonight’s game. I look for him to have a nice evening and hopefully get Tampa a win. Yeah, a win doesn’t count for much in the preseason, but it doesn’t hurt much either.