The Buccaneers are headed to Nashville for a pair of joint practices with the Titans before they square off in Saturday’s preseason contest. Here are a few things to watch for.
Typically, joint practices bring their fair share of headlines. Potential scuffles and reports about how the offense or defense looks against another team are sure to create buzz over the next few days.
Just a year ago, Tampa Bay made noise for having three separate fights on one day of practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars. While head coach Dirk Koetter has enacted a zero tolerance policy for fighting, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles a possible exchange this week.
As reports come out of the practices, it will be another chance to see how the Buccaneers match up against a playoff team. News out of the practices could be a hint towards how the Bucs will fare in Saturday’s contest.
While fans won’t be able to catch every play on video, There are plenty of storylines to follow over the course of the two practice days.
Mariota v. Winston
This one is obvious. Although Jameis Winston won’t be spending much time with the first team, both quarterbacks will have extra motivation on Wednesday and Thursday. The top picks of the 2015 Draft will forever be linked.
Fair or not, whenever the two quarterbacks are on the field at the same time, they get compared. As this meeting begins, although meaningless in the long run, it will cause people to look back at the 2015 Draft.
As Winston faces a three-game suspension, Mariota will try to make the postseason for the second straight year. While most won’t be on Winston’s side, he could do plenty of talking with his performance on the field.
A scuffle is bound to break out. This week’s battle took place in Washington between the New York Jets and Washington Redskins.
The Titans feature a nasty offensive line and the hardnosed tackle Taylor Lewan. With the no-nonsense attitude of the Buccaneers front seven, tensions may boil over.
Titans offensive line v. Buccaneers defensive line
As the Tampa Bay front seven continues to gel, they will face a tough Tennessee offensive line. It may not be actual game reps, but the new look defensive front will get valuable time together at practice.
Veterans like Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul will look to make a statement against some fierce competition. Again, the Titans were a playoff team last year and featured some tough running backs. This will be an excellent test for the defensive line.
If the Bucs begin to struggle, expect new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner will be all over his guys if they start to falter.
Wideouts v. Titans cornerbacks
This will be a fun one. Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan headline the Tennessee cornerback group. It will be a fun matchup to see them try and slow down Mike Evans and the rest of the Tampa Bay receivers.
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This is the time for the biggest Bucs’ greatest strength to shine. The depth and skill at wideout should cause trouble for Tennessee this week.
In practice, DeSean Jackson has a knack for making his matchup look silly. His speed and quickness are tough to cover one-on-one, and there will be plenty of opportunities to make highlight plays. Keep an eye on Adoree Jackson and Chris Godwin in the slot as well.
Safeties v. Delanie Walker
Delanie Walker is a problem. While the Tampa Bay’s starting linebackers may be able to contain him, the safeties haven’t proven they can stop opposing tight ends.
Chris Conte and Justin Evans will get plenty of reps against one of the best tight ends in the league. This will be a big test for Evans in particular. As he looks to take the next step in his game, being able to battle Walker will be a significant milestone in his development.
One step forward, two steps back. Brent Grimes made his long-awaited return to practice on Tuesday, but Carlton Davis missed practice. The cornerback position is one of the biggest question marks for the Buccaneers and injuries don’t help.
For Davis, even a minor injury makes him lose valuable reps, especially in a joint practice where he will get a chance to cover dynamic receivers like Corey Dais and Taywan Taylor.
M.J. Stewart could also separate himself from the pack with some reps in the slot. As Vernon Hargreaves sits out with an injury, Stewart will get plenty of time with the first team defense.