The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a relatively successful preseason so far. Game one could’ve gone better, but the main issues were improved on significantly in game two. With half of the preseason gone, it’s time to prep for arguably the most important game of the preseason.
Game three is often viewed as the closest to regular season competition, and Tampa Bay will be squaring off against 2014’s other Factory of Sadness. The Cleveland Browns are struggling much like the Titans to prove they are actually relevant in an increasingly competitive division. What can we expect from Jameis and company against their AFC North foes?
What to Expect: Bucs vs. Browns Preview
Last week I talked about how important it would be for Jameis Winston to have a fast start. Plenty of fuss has been made over him being a slow starter, but he blew that away against the Bengals. Now, Winston has to repeat this success to continue to inspire confidence in his team and the fans. We want touchdowns, and we want them now.
The patchwork offensive line wasn’t perfect against Cincinnati, but they held their own. If they can cut down on penalties and protect Jameis Winston as least as well as they did last week, it’ll still be a step in the right direction. Center Evan Smith might still be held out due to a groin injury, but Jeremiah Warren proved himself perfectly capable.
The defensive line sent tremors through most of the greater Tampa Bay area by providing a legitimate pass rush and actually getting sacks. Cleveland’s offensive line will be a formidable test, and you can bet your ass that Gerald McCoy and company would love to sack Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown.
The defense will need to continue their momentum of pressure, sacks, and turnovers. Johnny Manziel is likely to be out of the game due to elbow soreness, so the play will largely fall to McCown and recently signed quarterback Pat Devlin. The Tampa Bay defense needs to shut down the run and snatch every ball that whips past them.
Special teams must improve, and penalties have to go away. The low of last week was easily the massive amount of penalties that were racked up by the Buccaneers. A fair chunk of that fell on special teams, and we’ll also be looking at Patrick Murray and Connor Barth competing for kicking duties. Penalties have to be kept to a minimum, and not a single kick should be missed.
Injuries with some key players for Cleveland might make it difficult to evaluate, but this is all the more reason that Tampa Bay needs to play lights out against Cleveland. Jameis Winston will be up against an underrated defense, and the defense will be trying to contain an accurately rated offense. A performance exactly like Monday, with fewer penalties, is exactly what the Bucs need to roll towards Tennessee in week one.