Ah… It’s finally here.
Buccaneers preseason Game 1 at the Minnesota Vikings will feature several story lines with the obvious: The debut of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. Now of course the game “doesn’t count” but from an evaluation standpoint it most certainly does. And the Buccaneers coaching staff have lots of that to do.
Here are some things to keep an eye on Saturday night.
It’s not important for rookie quarterback Jameis Winston to try and light up the stat sheet, but it would be cool to see. More importantly, he has to show he is comfortable. He has talked about his comfort level in the Bucs’ offensive playbook as it has similarities to that of Florida State’s so not is the time to prove that. Don’t be cute.
The Front Lines
The Buccaneers offensive and defensive lines struggled in their own ways last season. The team addressed the needs across each one but there are still several question marks surrounding them.
Names to watch on the offensive line are, well, everyone (especially rookies Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith). They need to be one sound unit because if not then Winston will be retiring early.
On the defensive line, new additions George Johnson and Tony McDaniel are veterans with good experience. With the lackluster performance throughout all of 2014, they need to play big roles this season and push everyone else along the defensive line. Saturday night could give a glimpse on how they can contribute.
Undrafted rookie defensive end Ryan Delaire is a player to watch. The Bucs need lots of help off the edge and if he shows anything after a quiet camp so far, he could have some promise.
The Wrath of Kwon
Rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander has been impressing many throughout camp. The fourth-round pick out of LSU has been making a case for starting come the regular season and has convincingly done so. While I initially assumed the starting linebackers group would look like Lavonte David, Bruce Carter and Alexander, it could very well be David, Carter and Danny Lansanah with Alexander splitting significant time with Carter during the regular season.
Watch the play of Alexander against Minnesota.
Kenny “Afro Thunder” Bell has been such a refreshing story throughout camp. The kid has practically caught everything thrown his way. As he continues to build chemistry with Winston, he continues to make a name for himself. The Vikings secondary will be a nice test for Bell. If he is successful, he may very well already have guaranteed the third/slot receiver spot.