It’s time to get down to business.
One week from today, the Buccaneers kick off the 2017 season against the Dolphins in Miami. Here are some things I’ll be keeping an eye on as the games begin to count:
THE OFFENSE: by all accounts, the Bucs are loaded. Jameis Winston is starting his third year in Tampa Bay, and does he ever have weapons. The names are many: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Doug Martin (after he finishes serving his suspension.) On that last note, I want to see how they’re going to run the ball in Martin’s absence. It appears Jacquizz Rogers will be the featured back, along with Charles Sims (who I’m not a big fan of.)
Here are two things to look for: can Winston cut down on his mistakes? And perhaps an even bigger question: can this team finish off drives with touchdowns? It’s one thing to move the ball at will down the field, but if you can’t finish it off with six, that’s disappointing.
THE DEFENSE: this is the group I’m most concerned about. I know what you’re thinking – ‘well, they looked great during the preseason.’ The key word there is the last one. This is a unit that gave up a lot of big plays last year, especially in the passing game. The Buccaneers play in a loaded NFC South – with quarterbacks named Ryan, Brees and Newton. The tackling has to be better. The secondary has to be a lot better than it was in 2016. I think the Bucs are going to score a lot of points, but I can also see them giving up a lot as well. We’ll see.
SPECIAL TEAMS: the kicking game was solved during the preseason. Nick Folk is the guy now. Roberto Aguayo was cut, and is now unemployed. He signed on with the Bears, but they let him go, too. Given all of the issues in the kicking game last season, Folk will be under intense scrutiny, and will surely hear about it when he misses a kick.
It’s playoffs or bust for the Bucs. They went 9-7 last year and missed the postseason by one game. There’s only way 2017 will be considered a success is if Dirk Koetter’s guys are still playing football come January.
Until then, it’s on to Miami for the season opener….
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers