What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer
Scott Reynolds will be looking for in Tampa Bay’s preseason opener
against Baltimore? Find out in his new weekly column, SR’s Pick 6.
The Buccaneers are set to kick off the 2013 preseason at home against the Baltimore Ravens at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET. What are the six things about the Buccaneers that PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s preseason debut?1. GLENNON’S MOBILITY
Expect rookie quarterback Mike Glennon to see more playing time this August than any Buccaneer signal caller. He is currently entrenched as Josh Freeman's backup and the team wants to get him prepared to play this season in case something happens to Tampa Bay's starter. While Glennon has a big-time arm and a polished game that comes from playing in a pro-style offense at North Carolina State, what I’m looking for is how he handles the speed of the NFL game.
How quickly can Glennon read defenses? How is his anticipation when throwing into tight windows? How quickly can he release the ball? Can he elude the pass rush? Because Glennon is not the fastest or most moblile quarterback, I want to see his escapability and if he takes unnecessary sacks.2. WHICH RB GETS THE MOST CARRIES
Fresh off an outstanding rookie season in which he totaled nearly 2,000 yards and 12 total touchdowns, Doug Martin is Tampa Bay’s unquestioned starter at running back. But which running back becomes the Bucs’ primary backup behind Martin, who figures to only get a handful of touches against the Ravens, remains to be seen.
Brian Leonard might get the first look, but he will be needed to play fullback during the preseason opener due to Erik Lorig’s injury, so that may result in fewer carries against Baltimore. Rookie Mike James has been getting a lot of carries, and the coaches love him. I’m not sold on him, as James is more of a Steady Eddie than a spectacular runner. A poor man’s Earnest Graham is the best way to describe James thus far.
Peyton Hillis has been getting a crash course in Mike Sullivan’s offense and his NFL experience will help him in the preseason. Hillis, a former NFL starting running back, has the power to blast through some sub-par blocking that comes from second- and third-team offensive lines in the preseason, and could do some damage against lesser competition in the third and fourth quarter of the Ravens game. Hillis seems to have pulled ahead of Michael Smith, whose best bet to make the team might be as Tampa Bay’s kick returner unless he opens some eyes on offense with some big runs in the preseason.3. BARRON IN THE DIME
Strong safety Mark Barron played a lot of centerfield as a rookie free safety in 2012, but he will be playing more of his natural position this season. The Bucs want Barron’s physical presence closer to the line of scrimmage more often in 2013. While Barron was occasionally blitzed against the pass and came up into the box to help with run support at times last year, he will be playing in the slot in Tampa Bay’s dime defensive package in 2013, replacing the role played by Ronde Barber, who recently retired.
Barron has the coverage skills to hang with tight ends and receivers in the short area of the middle of the field off the line of scrimmage, but putting him closer to the line in that slot dime spot will allow him to blitz more frequently and make more tackles in the running game. At 213 pounds, Barron gives the Bucs a much bigger body at the line of scrimmage than the 185-pound Barber did last year, too.4. ROOKIE CBs UNDER THE BRIGHT LIGHTS
The Bucs invested a second-round pick in cornerback Johnthan Banks, who has been impressive in training camp and will most likely start opposite Darrelle Revis this year. Banks has played more like a veteran than a rookie and has proven to be a quick learner. The team is also excited about the rapid development of undrafted free agent cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who, like Banks, is a tall, rangy, 6-foot-2 cornerback. Melvin has moved past veteran Danny Gorrer and is seeing action with the second team.
The Bucs are eager to see how they match up against another team’s wide receivers, and I want to see how they handle the pressure of playing in their first NFL game. Can they contest passes and create some turnovers with interceptions? If they give up a big passing play or touchdown, can they quickly forget it and move on, or will they let that crucial catch haunt them the rest of the game?
There are questions about Banks’ and Melvin’s foot speed and whether they can keep up with speed receivers. Banks has first-round talent and ball skills, but a slow 40-yard dash time pushed him to the middle of the second round. Melvin has intriguing size and good college production, but a slower-than-expected 40-time caused him to go undrafted. I want to see if these rookie cornerbacks can hang with receivers on deep routes.5. A BETTER BUCS PASS RUSH
The defensive end position is a bit battered right now with starter Adrian Clayborn dealing with a pulled groin and backup Aaron Morgan recovering from a stinger in his neck. Neither is expected to play, but the Bucs invested three draft picks in defensive linemen this year in nose tackle Akeem Spence and defensive ends William Gholston and Steven Means, and the team would love to see them make an instant impact.
The Bucs only generated three sacks in four preseason games last year, and only one came from a defensive lineman – defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. That’s simply not good enough, and proved to be a precursor for a disappointing year of getting to the quarterback as Tampa Bay only registered 27 sacks – an average of 1.7 per game. I want to see more results from Tampa Bay’s pass rush in the preseason – especially from the defensive line.6. UNHERALDED ROOKIES TO WATCH
Two rookies that have really caught my eye are tight end Tim Wright, a converted Rutgers wide receiver, and center Jace Daniels. Wright, who is more of a receiving tight end, has been taking a few snaps with the starters.
At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Wright needs to add some bulk and learn how to be an in-line blocker. But he has good hands, speed and knows how to get open. I’m interested to see what he can do with his hands on the ball if he gets any opportunities. Wright is ahead of Zach Miller on the depth chart and could be making a move on Nate Byham on the Bucs’ depth chart. I like him and there’s a chance he could stick on Tampa Bay’s practice squad.
Daniels, a former left tackle at a Division II school, has a big jump to make to prove he can belong in the NFL. He is a physical, feisty player with quick feet and good athleticism. His 6-foot-4, 300-pound frame will force him to play inside rather than at tackle in the NFL. The coaches like Daniels’ intelligence and want to see how he can play center against the Ravens after just one week at the position. He’s one of my sleepers and I’m curious to see how this versatile lineman performs against a much higher grade of competition than he’s seen before.
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