Tampa Bay's preseason opener, a 20-7 win over Miami, was seen by most observers as a resounding success. Can the Buccaneers follow up that performance with another impressive showing against the Titans?
Tennessee visits Raymond James Stadium on Friday night for the Buccaneers' second preseason game, and their preseason home opener. While the win over the Dolphins gave a few hints as to what the Bucs might look like in their first season under coach Greg Schiano, there are still several question marks. Indeed, there are no less than three differing lists of “what to watch for” against the Titans.
Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune offers a strong list of five things worth watching, including a trio of offseason acquisitions who weren't heard from in the win over Miami: receiver Vincent Jackson, tight end Dallas Clark and safety Mark Barron. The latter two players sat out against the Dolphins due to minor injury concerns, but both are expected to play Friday night. Jackson was bracketed by the Miami secondary, making it tough for quarterback Josh Freeman to even target him.
Cummings also says to closely watch the Bucs' discipline (procedure penalties have been a problem this preseason) and the team's pass rush (no sacks in the Miami game after finishing last in the NFL in that category a season ago).
Like Cummings, Stephen F. Holder of the Tampa Bay Times also puts Barron, Clark and Jackson among his players to watch, but Holder also adds receiver Preston Parker and running back Moasis Madu to the list.
Parker had a rough outing in the preseason opener, muffing a punt and committing a costly personal foul penalty. Parker's job at receiver is safe, but he could lose his return duties to rookie running back Michael Smith or receiver Tiquan Underwood, according to Holder.
Madu has gotten lost in the shuffle at running back, where LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin are battling for the starting job and the aforementioned Smith has turned a few heads with his raw speed. Could Madu wind up on the wrong side of the cut line if the Bucs only go with three running backs? He finished with only six yards on five carries against Miami.
A third list of players to watch comes from the Buccaneers' official web site, and mostly is comprised of players a bit further down the depth chart.
- Addition of WR Jackson helping Mike Williams: As previously mentioned, Jackson didn't have a catch in the preseason opener, but that doesn't mean the receiver hasn't already made an impact in Tampa, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Jackson's mere presence has changed things already for fellow receiver Mike Williams, who may get more one-on-one matchups as defenses focus on Jackson. Williams, who had a disappointing 2011 season, sits next to Jackson in meetings, Stroud notes, watching as Jackson takes detailed notes and then attempts to apply those lessons to the field.
- WR Underwood, playing well, could stick around: To this point in his NFL career, Tiquan Underwood has best been known for his hairdo (a prominent high-top fade) and cruelly getting cut on the Saturday before the New England Patriots played in this past season's Super Bowl. But that could change after a strong preseason has Underwood looking good to make the Bucs roster, writes Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. Underwood, who played at Rutgers under Schiano, has reportedly been one of the team's best deep threats in practices and showed off his skills with an impressive grab in the preseason opener.
For more from Tampa Bay Bucs blogger Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsNFLTB on Twitter.