The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially wrapped up the training camp portion of their preseason and now will begin to focus on the regular season.
Before the team begins to prepare for the season opener at New Orleans on Sept. 9, there is still a little business to take care of, beginning with the first home preseason game on Friday against the Detroit Lions. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa won its first two preseason games, winning a contest against the Dolphins before following that up with a win last week at Tennessee.
The third game of the preseason typically serves as a final dress rehearsal for the starters, who are expected to play into the second half. That’s not all the Bucs’ coaching staff is looking to see on Friday, as plenty of questions still loom for a team that must set its roster by the end of next week.
“Cuts are coming, we’ve got guys fighting for jobs, guys trying to make those last spots,” said Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter. “I love how these guys are working. Even though training camp is over, evaluation is not over. For guys that are not in that top 22-to-30 players, evaluation these last two preseason games matters, a lot.”
About the Opponent
The Detroit Lions are under new leadership this season, with former New England Patriot defensive coordinator Matt Patricia taking over as the team’s head coach. Patricia and the Lions are looking for their first win of the preseason after suffering losses to the Raiders and Giants.
Despite the defensive presence that Patricia is trying to bring to the Lions – which ranked 27th in total defense last season – the Lions are the only team in the NFL without a sack this preseason.
Matthew Stafford leads the offensive attack once again this year for Detroit. The former first overall draft pick in the NFL threw for more than 4,400 yards last season, leading the sixth-ranked passing offense in the league.
With the passing game firmly intact, Detroit is looking to improve upon a rushing attack that ranked dead last in the NFL last season.
About the Buccaneers
While Detroit is firmly set with its quarterback situation, it’s not clear how the Bucs will proceed on Friday night. Under normal circumstances, the starting quarterback would likely lead the team through the first half and possibly come out for a series to start the second half.
Thanks to a three-game suspension at the beginning of the regular season levied on No. 1 starter Jameis Winston, normal circumstances likely will not apply Friday.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has started the first two preseason games and will fill in for Winston in his absence. Patrick has thrown for 101 yards in the first two preseason games, but it has been Winston who has shined, throwing for 328 yards while completing 77.4 percent of his passing attempts (24-for-31).
As a unit, Buccaneer quarterbacks have thrown four touchdown passes and have not had a pass intercepted in the preseason.
Behind the quarterbacks, Tampa will take on the Lions with one less man after running back Charles Simms was placed on the injured reserve list this week due to a knee injury he suffered against the Titans. The injury to the former 1,000-yard rusher opens up room for rookie Ronald Jones II and Jacquizz Rodgers to compete for the No. 2 running back position behind Peyton Barber.
That will be one of the bigger battles to watch the remainder of preseason. Other position battles include the starting middle linebacker spot and wide receiver spots behind Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.
“Linebacker is a lot like wide receiver,” Koetter said. “We have really good competition. All of those guys are doing some good things. They all show up at different times. When you’re a backup at either wide receiver or linebacker, special teams is going to factor in as well.”
Did You Know?
This is the first ever preseason meeting between the Bucs and Lions.
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