The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off their season tonight with a preseason matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. The game is scheduled for 8:00pm tonight, and it should make for an exciting game. Both the Bucs and Chiefs finished last season with strong records (10-6) despite preseason concerns about their clubs, so this will be the first chance to see if their success last season was the real deal or not.
So if you’re a Bucs fan, what should you be watching for during tonight’s game? The results to preseason games matter very little, considering teams play backups a large amount of the time in order to get a look at new players and to ensure their stars don’t get injured. Instead, if you want to get a good idea of how good the Bucs will be this season, you should pay attention to some process-oriented details during tonight’s game:
Defensive Line: The Bucs had a notoriously poor pass rush and run defense last season, and they made some large changes to their defense this offseason in an effort to fix these holes. They let Bartlett Ruud go via free agency, and plan to fill his shoes with third-round draft pick Mason Foster. They also drafted Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers, two impressive defensive players that should make an immediate difference on the line. Not only that, but Gerald McCoy (2010 first-round pick) is healthy after missing a large chunk of last season due to injury.
Will all these additions improve the Bucs’ defense? Tonight will be the first test.
Josh Freeman / Jeremy Trueblood: These two players are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Freeman had a spectacular 2010 season, surpassing all expectations, and there have been glowing reports about him coming out of the Bucs’ camp these past few weeks. Can he repeat his success from last year? Will he take his game another step further?
And Jeremy Trueblood…let’s just say he’s faced his share of detractors recently. Trueblood signed an extension with the Bucs this offseason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s guaranteed a starting position. He is a poor pass blocker, and he’ll need to show improvements from last season if he wants to win a starting job.