The Dolphins and Buccaneers are set to kickoff from Raymond James stadium in a couple of hours and with the preseason in its third week fans are preparing to get their best glimpse of their teams yet. Starters will play through halftime, teams will use more of their playbooks and tonight might actually resemble a real football game. The Bucs enter tonight eager to get the taste out of their mouths after a trouncing at the hands of New England last Thursday.
I expect the effort on the field to be a lot better than what we saw last week, so with that in mind, here’s what to watch for against the Dolphins.
Consistency from the offensive line
I don’t think the Bucs will have another debacle like they did against the Patriots defensive front seven last week. The Dolphins run a similar defense and send a lot of pressure but I expect the Buccaneers have worked on protections a lot in the past few days. As I mentioned during the breakdown of the Pats game, the Bucs didn’t lose a numbers game they just didn’t know who to block. That should be rectified this week, and if it isn’t, start looking for the Bucs to make some changes along the offensive line. The guy who most concerns me tonight is Donald Penn. I’m very curious how he looks against one of the leagues elite pass rushers, Cameron Wake.
I’m really excited to see Aqib Talib and Kellen Winslow back in action. Defensively the Bucs secondary is vastly improved just by inserting Talib into the action. Offensively, defenses now have to respect the tight end releasing again, last week the Patriots really didn’t care what the Buccaneers tight ends did. The Dolphins struggle to cover the big men though, so expect them to pay plenty of attention to Winslow.
Also, this may be the only shot to see Talib play for a few weeks. So enjoy it.
The Buccaneers defensive line will face Dolphins offensive line that is without it’s best player. Jake Long is on the PUP list and will not be in action, meaning the Bucs ends will get to square off against Lydon Murtha, and that should favor the Buccaneers young line. If the Bucs can put pressure on Chad Henne he will mistakes, if they can’t, it will be a long day for the defense once again. I mentioned last week that part of the performance against Tom Brady was forgivable simply because it’s Tom Brady. Henne went to Michigan too but if he has a good day throwing the ball it may be time to worry in the bay area.
The Bucs have been fairly fortunate thus far to have avoided a bunch of injuries, I’d like to see that continue. There’s not a lot in the way of proven depth on the Buccaneer roster, any injury will be felt. Hopefully the Bucs can make it out of tonight, and out of the preseason, as healthy as possible. It’s a long season and the team needs all hands on deck. That’s why I don’t expect to see much of guys like Kellen Winslow and Arrelious Benn, they’ll each get a few series, but it’s far more important to get them into the start of the season healthy than to push it in the preseason and risk injuring anything.
This last one is simple, how fired up are the Bucs tonight? Last week a cocky young team got punched right in the mouth, how do they respond? If they come out flat it’s not the end of the world, but you want to see this team come out raring to hit someone and to put points on the board their very first drive. I would like Tampa to treat this like a statement game, they have something to prove to the NFL and also probably to themselves. Even in the preseason, getting handled like the Bucs did on Thursday still stays with a team. Hopefully the lingering effects translate into motivation and not a hangover.