Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Tennessee Titans: Week 1 Preview


It’s finally here! The moment where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their fans can officially lay the heartbreak and disappointment of the 2014 campaign to rest. Now, it’s time to focus on steering the ship in the right direction this year.

Following an up-and-down preseason, the Buccaneers head into their season opener against the Tennessee Titans at nearly full strength. After missing the first two practices leading up to the Bucs’ Week 1 contest, Mike Evans—the team’s leader in receiving yards (1,051) and touchdowns (12) last season—returned on Friday. There is still some uncertainty regarding his availability on Sunday.

Evans’ absence could be a big blow to the Buccaneers’ offense. However, head coach Lovie Smith believes that, if called upon, Louis Murphy can be a serviceable fill-in. While that mindset doesn’t appear to be beyond the realm of possibility, it’s incredibly difficult to have a backup come in and replicate what Evans can do for this offense.

Regardless of whether the former Texas A&M wideout is on the field or not, the Bucs are focused on creating a balanced attack on offense, which means using Doug Martin early and often.

Over the last two years, Martin has either battled one setback after another, or appeared to be a shell of his rookie self. This preseason, though, the man formerly known as the Muscle Hamster is quick, decisive, strong and sharp. It still remains to be seen if the 26-year-old running back can sustain this level of play for an entire season.

A decent running game will help Jameis Winston in his first NFL regular season game. Throughout the week, the media has painted Sunday’s game as Winston vs. Mariota, but the former Seminoles quarterback has repeatedly rejected the notion. Much like the Buccaneers team as a whole, Famous Jameis has shown flashes of excellence and imperfection. Basically, he’s been a rookie.

Next: Analyzing every Monday Night Football pass attempt by Jameis Winston

Winston and the two starting rookie offensive linemen, right guard Ali Marpet and left tackle Donovan Smith, will be thoroughly tested by Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who has over 40 years of NFL coaching under his belt. It’s going to be a challenge, but Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter should have his troops prepared for the task at hand.

Of course, offense is only half the battle. After watching the Buccaneers go through a roller coaster ride of sorts last season, getting acclimated to the new style of play, the defense spent the entire offseason acquiring players, like Chris Conte, Sterling Moore, Bruce Carter and Tim Jennings, who knew how to run the Tampa 2 scheme.

Will a stronger, more unified knowledge of the system lead to success? It will need to because, the Bucs can’t afford to have another poor season. Lovie’s job could be in jeopardy.

But let’s put that conversation on the back burner for now. The Buccaneers will be at the Ray Jay tomorrow, attempting to do something they couldn’t do all of last season: get a win at home.

Injury Report

  • Mike Evans, WR: Hamstring (Questionable)
  • T.J. Fatinikun, DE: Shoulder (OUT)
  • Mike Jenkins, CB: Hamstring (Questionable)
  • George Johnson, DE: Illness (Probable)

Game Info

  • Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
  • When: 4:25 PM
  • How To Watch: CBS (Steve Beuerlein, Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker), NFL Game Pass
  • Where To Listen: Buccaneers.com, 103.5 WFUS & 620 WDAE