After two weeks’ worth of practicing against each other, these new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers will finally get to let loose on guys wearing different colors.
Wednesday afternoon marked the team’s final practice leading up to Friday night’s first preseason game at Jacksonville. Following the unpadded session, players and coaches talked about the anticipation leading up to the year’s first live action.
“We’re anxious to play,” head coach Lovie Smith said during his post-practice press conference. “You can only hit your teammates so hard and really let go. I’m anxious to let our defensive linemen go. You haven’t seen us with any live blocks below the waist and just being able to finish plays. We have a depth chart and we think we kind of know, but you need to get to this next step.”
Mason Foster, the Bucs’ fourth-year middle linebacker, shares his head coach’s anxiousness and said he’s interested in seeing how the entire team performs under the bright lights.
“It’s exciting, man,” Foster said from the practice field Wednesday afternoon. “It gets kind of old hitting the same guys you see every day. But it’s going to be fun to go out there and play live football against someone else. This is what you live for right here.”
“When you get out there and stuff starts flying around, it’s not practice anymore,” Foster continued. “So you get a chance to see how people handle themselves and get to take everything you’ve learned over these past couple months and put it to use. We’ve been waiting for this day. We’ve been having good practices in camp, been real competitive, and it’s going to be good to see our offense, defense, special teams and all these young cats go make plays.”
There will definitely be plenty of time to see all those “young cats” and fringe players out on EverBank Field Friday night. Standard procedure for first preseason games is to limit playing time for most starters to only a few series.
“As a general rule, if you’re one of the starters, (you play) about a quarter or so,” Smith said. “Somewhere around there. We have a chart already figured out right now. We’re going to go over that the players tonight and they’ll know tomorrow exactly how much they’ll play.”
Despite the small amount of game time fans will get to see starters mixing it up, there’s still plenty to look forward to: a new offense, the Tampa 2’s return, a new starting quarterback and his band of towering targets, an overhauled offensive line, etc.
The team’s remained tight-lipped about offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford’s intentions, and even though Smith tempered expectations earlier this week in terms of how deep they’ll get into the playbook Friday, even a skeleton draft will be interesting to see in action.
Operating that new scheme in the first quarter will be veteran quarterback Josh McCown, making his first start as a Buccaneer signal caller. He said goals for the first preseason game focus more on the macro than the micro.
“I think it’s a whole new situation for all of us – new system, new players and all that,” McCown said. “I think it’s going out and just executing; being clean with things procedurally, number one. You want to break the huddle and do the things you normally do in a game and feel like the communication is clean and all that. Execution-wise you want to be clean on that as best you can.
“In these games you don’t game-plan for people and obviously you’re not rolling out your best stuff. But within the rules and within the rules and within the framework of your system, you want to try and execute it as best as possible – that’s the key for us Friday.”
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