TAMPA,FL — Training camp came to an end Thursday afternoon for the Buccaneers at One Buc Place, tuning up for their second preseason game against the Miami Dolphins this Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.
It will be the first home game of the 2014 season, and Lovie Smith recognized the importance of playing well in front of the home crowd for the first time.
“I feel like we’ve had a good camp, we realize what’s at stake this week; we want to play better,” Coach Smith said following practice. “Anytime you open up the season, regular season, preseason or whatever, anytime you get a chance to start off in front of your fans at home, it’s kind of special.”
Typically, the third preseason game is when the starters will get significantly more playing time, going into the third quarter in some cases. Last week, Bucs starters only played a few series in the first quarter. This week, they will get around double that amount.
“They will play into the second quarter, maybe twice as much as so,” Lovie Smith revealed. “We’ll see how the game goes, but we’re going to play a lot longer than we played last time. That’s our normal schedule that we use through the preseason.”
Three players have already been ruled out for Saturday’s game. Cornerbacks Alterraun Verner (hamstring) and Mike Jenkins (groin) are still not game ready as they continue to recover from leg injuries. Running back Charles Sims will also be out. He suffered an ankle injury in practice Tuesday and was in a walking boot today.
A starter who will return to the field Saturday night will be safety Dashon Goldson. Goldson practiced on a limited basis last week, and did not play against the Jaguars in the preseason opener. Coming off ankle surgery in the offseason, Goldson is looking forward to making his return and working in the Tampa 2 scheme.
“I’m a little anxious, but at the same time, I’m trying to control those emotions,” Goldson said. “New scheme, new faces, and it’s a new attitude for the most part. So I’m excited to be out here and see what my new role is.”
A guy who knows his role very well is Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. His of course is to be a disruptive force in the backfield where the defense can create sacks and cause more turnovers. McCoy says Lovie Smith has stressed taking the ball away more than any other coach he’s been around.
“He’s emphasizing it all day at practice, we do drills for it. Everything is about taking the ball away,” McCoy said. “We want to score touchdowns on defense too. Not just about the offense, we want to do everything to help them out.”
An element that has McCoy and the defense excited is the freedom the coaching staff will give the players to call their own plays and stunts.
“It’s great. It’s great from a player standpoint, and then the coaches too,” McCoy explains. “They’re ‘hands-on’ coaches, but they don’t have to be pointing fingers and ‘do this, do that.’ They give me my assignment and they say ‘Hey, the rest is on you.’ You make your adjustments from there and just make us right.”
With that kind of freedom, a lot of responsibility and expectations come with it. Linebacker Lavonte David has his sights on being the best.
“Every year, you want to improve on what you did last year,” says David. “So for the defense as a whole, we want to top that number in all categories. At the end of the year, we want to be the No. 1 defense.”
As for the offense, there is still a lot to improve on from the first preseason game. From poor pass protection, to first down killing penalties, the spotlight will be on the starting offense in hopes of making process in Game 2. Quarterback Josh McCown believes that the work ethic to get better is there.
“We came out every day and really put the time in and got quality work when we’re out here,” said McCown. “I think that’s the most encouraging thing because when you’re starting out in a new system and a new organization and new head coach and all those things, that’s the main thing you want to make sure you have is guys that will put the work in and I think we set that standard.”
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