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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Dirk Koetter- “Did you see him throw that 60 yarder to DeSean?”

Florida Football Insiders

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Day two of Buccaneers training camp concluded Friday morning, and a question that everyone around the NFL is waiting for the answer is: can the Bucs QBs get the ball deep to speedy veteran WR DeSean Jackson?”

Well, even though it’s a training camp practice, veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick launched a ball late in the workout and take a look who was racing under it:

Naturally, there are going to be concerns and questions surrounding the 14 year veteran Fitzpatrick and his arm strength. And, heck, there will likely be some doubt as to how long Jackson, who turns 32 in December, can keep burning defenses deep?

Nevertheless, it’s a huge part of what Tampa Bay wants to do on offense to loosen up the opposing secondary.

And when someone in the press conference with coach Dirk Koetter Friday brought up Fitzpatrick’s arm, the third year head coach quickly quipped:

We have written previously that Tampa Bay struggled to find their high priced free agent last season with the 40+ yard over the top type passes that were his trademark in both Philadelphia and Washington. And, that was part of the offensive struggles, as the season wore on and finished at 5-11.

Even more frustration was that unlike last off season when Jackson did not sign with the Bucs until March, he did not work with quarterback Jameis Winston nearly enough in the off season to get timing down on the long balls. Jackson, Winston and teammate Mike Evans had been doing that off season work together both in Los Angeles and at Texas A&M’s campus in College Station, TX. That’s where Evans played, and Winston’s former FSU coach Jimbo Fisher is now.

Alas, Winston is suspended for the first three games this year, so all of the timing work, etc. won’t mean much in the preseason and then, Winston goes away from everything and everyone for three weeks in September.

That’s where Fitzpatrick and backup Ryan Griffin come in for this 2018 camp and preseason, and then the start of the year.

Again, it’s practice and not even an exhibition game, but still there will be scrutiny on everything, including “going deep to DeSean.”

Friday was proof that it can still happen.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs are on a roll starting 2-0

Roy Cummings

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Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Chris Conte (23) tries to break away from a blocker for a tackle on Tennessee Titans wide receiver Taywan Taylor (13) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers are on a roll. They improved to 2-0 this preseason with a 30-14 victory over the Titans on Saturday, which prompts the question, are they peaking too soon?

The answer is hardly.

No, preseason games don’t count, but when you haven’t made the playoffs in a decade, any win helps you to develop a culture of winning, and that is job one for the Bucs right now.

What was encouraging about the Bucs victory Saturday is that it came despite the fact the Bucs struggled in the red zone early on and with penalties (10 for 100 yards) all throughout.

Those are the kinds of problems that have long derailed this team and kept it from winning consistently, but not on this night. With that in mind, here are a few observations to consider going forward:

Not that we needed it but we were reminded in this one of why the loss of quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games of the regular season is so worrisome. After a strong performance in Week 1 of the preseason last week, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was quite ordinary during his one quarter of play against Tennessee.

Fitzpatrick failed to hit on two deep balls early and failed to connect on two short passes in the red zone during the second of his three series under center. For the night, Fitz completed just five of 13 passes for 46 yards, producing a 48.9 passer rating.

Winston, on the other hand, was spectacular. He played the second quarter again, just as he did last week, and completed 13 of 18 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns for a 151.4 passer rating.

The first of Winston’s two touchdown passes came on a throw he never should have made (he was being tackled and threw a ball up for grabs on third down), but that’s Jameis being Jameis.

Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) escapes pressure during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 18, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) escapes pressure during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In this case, however, Jameis was also quick to make mostly sound decisions and he was accurate both on the deep ball (he hit Mike Evans on a 38-yarder and Dexter Jackson on a 54-yarder) and the shorter throws.

Big game for rookie corner M.J. Stewart. He started at the slot corner spot on Saturday and before leaving the game early in the second half with a sore foot, he forced two fumbles, including one that set up the Bucs second touchdown drive. Stewart was one of the more impressive players on defense in the Week 1 game victory over Miami, too. If he can stay healthy and keep this up he’ll start the season as the Bucs nickel corner.

While the first teamers were in the game, the Bucs defense did a great job against the run. Jason Pierre Paul and Kwon Alexanders both had big stops early on and through the first quarter, the Bucs limited the Titans to just eight yards rushing. That’s what you call, getting the job done.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter walked away from this one bemoaning all the penalties the Bucs committed, particularly in the first half, and rightly so. The Bucs were penalized seven times for 45 yards, and most of those penalties were committed by offensive and defensive linemen.

One of those penalties, a Brad Seton holding penalty, wiped out a touchdown pass on third down from the Tennessee 12 and forced the Bucs to settle for a 39-yard first-quarter field-goal attempt. That also got wiped out by – wait for it – a penalty. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro saved the moment by making the subsequent 44-yarder, but this was a sloppy effort that will have to be cleaned up.

Speaking of Catanzaro, he had a nice bounce back game in this one. Catanzaro missed a PAT and a field goal try in his first game in a Bucs uniform last week, but he was on the mark in this one, hitting on all of his field goals tries and PAT attempts.

The Bucs defense had little or no answer for the Titans short passing game earl on Saturday. A missed tackle by S Chris Conte and a key Titans block at the point of attack on Taywan Taylor’s 47-yard catch and run for a touchdown allowed Tennessee to move the ball 75 yards, including 73 through the air, on its second possession.

Another disappointing outing for rookie running back Ronald Jones. He ran four times for just 2 yards, all of which came on one carry, and failed to secure the only pass thrown his way.

Jones’ role may have to be increased if the injury that knocked Charles Sims out of game on the opening kickoff is serious, but you really have to wonder if Jones is capable of handling a bigger role.

Is it too soon to worry about the Bucs pass rush?

Probably, but the largely revamped first-team D-line has played the equivalent of a full game through two practice games now and has just one sack to show for it.

That unit would have two sacks but a penalty wiped out a takedown that Gerald McCoy started and Vinny Curry finished after Marcus Mariota left the game for the Titans.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Three things to watch as Bucs travel take on Titans

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs and the Titans got to know each other over two days of practice this week and now, both are prepared to play in preseason game number two.

Here are three things we are looking at for tonight’s match-up.

Will Bucs receiving weapons have a big night?

Tampa Bay intends to start veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for at least a couple of series and then, Jameis Winston will likely play the rest of the first half. And, the Buccaneer receivers are anxious for the chance to show what they can do in this second preseason game.

We wrote earlier this week about how Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin had a great practice on Wednesday against the Titans and specifically, going against former Pats Superbowl hero DB Malcom Butler.

Now, they get a chance to display that in a game.

Of course the Titans also have second year CB Adoree’ Jackson, who more than held his own against those guys above in practice action on Thursday.

How will it all translate tonight?

Titans One-Two Punch of Mariota and Henry

There aren’t many teams that can boast a pair of young talented Heisman Trophy winners in the same backfield like Tennessee can. QB Marcus Mariota and RB Derrick Henry however, have the hardware and are poised to lead the Titans bigger things in 2018.

Henry split time with now departed DeMarco Murray the last two years, but had 744 yards and five TD’s in 2017.

Mariota is as explosive a runner, as he is thrower, and has a new offensive system and coordinator this year, to.

And, the Mariota-Henry tandem already helped the Titans make the playoffs and pull an upset of the Chiefs in the Wildcard game last year.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has fortified their defensive line with Jason Pierre-Paul, Beau Allen, Vinny Curry, etc. coming into the fold. And two excellent tackling linebackers are there in LaVonte David and Kwon Alexander. However, the Bucs front seven will have their hands full with the Titans backfield.

That also includes shifty pass catching RB Dion Lewis,who signed as a free agent from New England like Butler, and is expected to play a bunch Saturday night.

Get a look a young guys

From backup QB Ryan Griffin (above), who rallied the team with a last second FG drive last week, to rookies RB Ronald Jones, DB’s MJ Stewart and Carlton Davis and offensive lineman Alex Cappa, the Bucs have a chance to get some young guys some more live action.

Tampa Bay also has young reserve players from last year like LB Riley Bullough, CB Ryan Smith and OL Caleb Benenoch, who need some playing time, too.

So, it’s a night to get a good look at them under live fire in a preseason game and let the coaches evaluate them against a real opponent.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Centerpiece of Bucs offseason?

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s early, in fact the Bucs only play their second preseason game Saturday night in Nashville against the Titans, but already there is a large buzz around one acquisition for Tampa Bay that makes you wonder if he’s the key to their off season.

So far, Jason Pierre-Paul is drawing rave reviews not only for his abilities beyond rushing the passer, but also for his leadership and work ethic.

The Buccaneers acquired Pierre-Paul in March from the Giants in exchange for a third round pick, and have high hopes for the veteran who is entering his 10th season.

A year ago in New York, JPP finished with 8.5 sacks and that gives him 58.5 sacks in his career. He was a first round pick by New York in 2010 (15th overall) out of USF, where in college he had terrorized offensive lines in the Big East for former coach Jim Leavitt’s defense in his lone season 2009. Pierre Paul had 6.5  sacks and 16 tackles for loss that year.

We wrote just a few weeks ago at the beginning of Bucs camp that Pierre-Paul was already demonstrating versatility and our Roy Cummings gave his first hand assessment:

Pierre-Paul has continued to show flashes of what Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith and new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner hope to see starting in September. That includes the two practices this week in Nashville against the Titans.

Take a look at this example against Titans LT Taylor Lewan:

And it continued during the Thursday workout, when JPP was repeatedly disrupting the Titans backfield to the point that the media continued to take note:

Again, these are practices and it’s only been one preseason game. However, Pierre-Paul has Pro Bowl and even Superbowl caliber play in his background from New York. And if he can bring most or all of that, when the regular season starts?

There will be even bigger smiles in “Bucs-land.”

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