Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans have been full of questions all preseason, as the team has struggled to impress in their exhibition games. A team that seemed to have a positive offseason lost all positive mind share among its supporters with turnovers, mistakes, and a lack of defensive improvement in the preseason.
So in Week 1 against the New York Jets, the Buccaneers have questions that need to be answered. Every fan has their own concerns, but here are three questions that almost every fan can agree they’re looking for answers to this weekend against the Jets.
Will there be a pass rush from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
The drama surrounding Da’Quan Bowers and his status as a backup who was “disappointing” head coach Greg Schiano has been the source of tremendous doubt about the Buccaneers’ ability to get after the quarterback in the upcoming season. Leading sacker Michael Bennett has left town, so the now healthy Adrian Clayborn and apparently disappointing Bowers will have to pick up the slack.
The Buccaneers added a duo of young defensive ends in the draft, and both have different skillsets (and seem at least a year away from being regular contributors). They also brought in veteran Trevor Scott to complement Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, but there’s no obvious pass rush specialist waiting in the wings.
The scheme for the defense doesn’t often call for many linebacker blitzes, but Dekoda Watson has the potential to be a decent pass rusher. Veteran corner Ronde Barber is gone, and with him has gone his occasional ability to earn sacks as a blitzer from the defensive backfield. Mark Barron and Johnthan Banks would be the most obvious choices to contribute on this kind of blitz, but there’s no track record of success in the NFL for either young player.
The New York Jets don’t have a fantastic offensive line, so this first game will be a great test for the Tampa Bay pass rushers. If there’s no consistent pressure on Geno Smith, the Buccaneers will likely struggle all season to get after the opposing signal caller.
Will Darrelle Revis be the same Darrelle Revis we remember?
The Bucs put a hefty amount of money and draft pick value into acquiring Darrelle Revis, and have since seen role players at corner drop like flies. Revis will be relied upon to be the top cover corner for a team that was badly in need of talent at the position last season.
But there’s still a lingering doubt as to the health of Darrelle. He’s not played in a preseason game, and the coaching staff and player still refuse to declare him back to health and back to his old self.
ACL injuries often involve struggles to regain confidence in the athlete’s ability to use his repaired knee and avoid re-injury. Seeing Revis on the field and playing a full set of snaps in a real NFL game would go a long way towards the fans believing in his status as a healthy contributor to the defense.
Will Josh Freeman be “God awful” as Fran Tarkenton suggested?
Remember when Fran Tarkenton told a local radio station in Tampa that he thought Josh Freeman couldn’t play, and was “God awful?”
Of course you do, and you’ve probably heard yourself, or many of your friends talking negatively about the Buccaneers’ polarizing signal caller. Josh Freeman has been inconsistent throughout his career, but he showed improvement in 2012, setting team records and earning some national recognition after a string of good performances.
But the preseason erased any good will that Freeman might have kept from those good 2012 performances, as the late season collapse last season combined with ineffective preseason play to create more doubt about Freeman’s ability to handle pressure and throw accurately.
Josh Freeman has no room for error in the court of public opinion, and even though the Jets have a decent defense, he can’t afford a bad game to start off 2013. Avoiding mistakes, not taking sacks for “holding the ball too long” (whether it’s actually his fault or not) and not missing easy throws will go a long way towards earning the trust of the fanbase. It will also help him regain confidence as he faces tougher opposition in Weeks 2 and 3.