It’s time…IT’S TIME. IT’S. FOOTBALL. TIME. Not Vader time, as much as I’d like it to be, and not even regular season football time. Regardless, pads are being worn and seats are being filled. On August 15th, the train leaves the station and it won’t stop until 2016! Training camp is hot, damp, and happening. Even if it’s underwater. As preseason nears, I’ll be taking a closer look before and after each game at what can be expected and what has been seen. First, let’s take a brief glance at the preseason schedule and what to expect throughout August.
Preseason Week One
Saturday, August 15th, 8PM EDT
Bucs At Vikings
We’ll get to see Jameis Winston and the boys take the field for competition for the very first time against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings go in with the advantage of having played the Hall of Fame game and already shaking off rust, and Tampa’s obvious focus will be on Jameis Winston and the offensive line. We’ll only get a limited view of the starters in week one, but Minnesota’s young defense could provide a strong, manageable challenge for the Bucs offense. On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay’s secondary has to step up against a Vikings offense bursting at the seams with wide receivers and the defensive line has to show proof of pressure.
Preseason Week Two
Monday, August 24th, 8PM EDT
Bucs vs. Bengals
There’s no denying what the big story for this game will be. Jameis Winston takes the field at Raymond James Stadium for the first time. I doubt we’ll see him for more than one or two series, but it’ll make for a hyped crowd nonetheless. Most important here will be seeing any marked improvement from game one, and watching for position battles. While final roster spots tend to be earned in week four, the brunt of deciding starters will fall on weeks two and three. The goal in week two is making progress and staying healthy.
Preseason Week Three
Saturday, August 29th, 7PM EDT
Bucs vs. Browns
Always remember that, in the preseason, everything is made up and the points don’t matter. However, the only game that comes close to meaning something is week three. Other weeks are more like high-profile practices, but week three tends to be the closest thing to regular season football. Jameis Winston will truly be under fire, and a Browns defense that has managed to hold its own in a tough division will be a very valuable test. By week three, the offensive line needs to be working together properly, and Jameis Winston needs to know how to use his arsenal. Cleveland’s offense will be a mess as always, and this is all the more reason that the defense has to be on lockdown in week three. We need to see pressure, and we need to see takeaways. End of discussion.
Preseason Week Four
Thursday, September 3rd, 7PM EDT
Bucs at Dolphins
As the preseason winds down, this will largely be a week for rest. Some final position battles will be expecting to perform, but don’t plan on seeing many of your favorites for very long in Miami. Winston should be able to run at least one or two productive, clean series. The offensive line should be working as a unit, even if they’re not perfect yet. The defense needs to have the system down, and be making plays. After the early minutes tick by, it’ll be time for the lesser known players to make their mark. Enjoy the opportunity to see youth pouring their heart into things, and keep an eye out for flashes of brilliance. This is where paychecks are earned for the younger guys, and it’ll be a fun conclusion to the preseason.
We’ll get various glances at the team throughout the month, but it all boils down to the true week one against Tennessee. August isn’t about wins and losses, it’s about warming up. Trust me, you’re going to want to stretch your football fan muscles. It’s going to take seeing a lot more for me to be convinced this is going to be a “worst to first” turnaround, but you can absolutely count on a crazy ride in 2015. Hold on tight. It’s football time.