The Tampa Bay Buccaneers open the 2018 Regular Season in the Big Easy, facing the defending NFC South Champions, the New Orleans Saints. Are the Bucs what they say they are or are they more? It’s time for them to show us. Here’s What to Watch Out For in Week One.
Can the Bucs Get to Drew Brees?
The last thing Bucs fans want to hear is Gene Deckerhoff getting over excited screaming Drew Brees’ name as “Boo BEES” again. With Brent Grimes out with a groin injury, the Tampa Bay pass rush will be absolutely crucial in this game. Brees is least effective when he’s hit and hit often. Being a quarterback of shorter stature, if Tampa Bay can generate rush up the middle, it would cut down the future Hall-of-Famer’s throwing lanes and allow the ends to close the gap quickly. In addition, it’s less time for Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn, Jr. to test the boat of younguns in the secondary.
So JPP, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Noah Spence and of course Gerald McCoy all need to make their presence felt.
On their way to sacking Drew Brees, the Bucs defense will also need to stop Mr. Everything, Alvin Kamara, who for the first time in his career will be taking on the responsibility of full-time running back. It will be interesting to see if he can handle the load, but for the Bucs, keeping him under control will be job one. Stop Kamara, get to Brees, you stand a good chance of walking out of New Orleans with a huge upset.
All off-season, both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston have worked extensively on getting the ball to Desean Jackson on the deep ball. In addition, the Bucs have devised many more ways to ge the ball to Jackson in space and better utilize his talents. Jackson has been one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league but last season, the adjustment to his new team and the Bucs adjustment to him was a slow process. Jackson seems all-in this season and the Bucs have put in the work to figure out how to get their money’s worth from Jackson.
It needs to translate to the football field on Sunday.
Bleed That Clock
The Bucs are most effective against the Saints when they can keep it a low scoring game. The key to that is controlling the time of possession and not turning over the football. If the Bucs can get any semblance of a running game from Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, Jr, and Jaquizz Rodgers, it could be a big help in keeping the Saints offense off the field.
Take Advantage Of Opportunities
The Bucs were terrible in the red zone last season – it seemed to be fixed in the pre-season and that trend needs to continue in Week One. If the Bucs get it in scoring range, they need to come away with points (specifically touchdowns). No red zone turnovers or botched field goal attempts.
On the flip-side, the Bucs were bad on 3rd down last year. Tampa Bay’s defense needs to get off on the money down. Further, when the Saints penetrate into the red zone, they need to settle for field goals or nothing – no touchdowns.
O.J. In the Middle
There is no shortage of skill players on the Buccaneers offense and the forgotten man is 2017 first round pick, O.J. Howard. Howard has the ability to take advantage of some Saints deficiencies. They can’t stop everything and if the offensive line can give Fitz time, Howard can hurt them.
It’s Time to Show You Belong
We’ve all heard the predictions of gloom and doom. What are you going to be, Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Are you what they say you are or are you better? We’ve all talked about the talent on this football team – for far too long. It’s time to put it on the football field. It’s time to win. If not for your coach, your organization or the fans – how about yourselves? Aren’t you tired of being forgotten? Being the afterthought. The NFC South doesn’t just consist of the Saints, Panthers and Falcons. There’s a fourth team and it’s time to remind them just how good the Buccaneers can be.
We’ve heard the talk from the players. The time for speeches is over. Show us. Win the game. Win another and keep winning until they can’t ignore you anymore.
It starts on Sunday. Prove them wrong.