The Bucs’ game Thursday night against the Eagles won’t count in the win-loss column, but at least it provides a chance to hit someone on another team.
After 11 days of training camp – in which the level of intensity has seemed to increase every practice – players are ready to face an actual opponent and see if they’re confidence is deserved.
“We’re tired of hitting each other, so it’s good to get out there and start hitting some other people and try our offense and defense against another team,” running back Doug Martin said Tuesday. “Preseason is a time to get better.”
But it’s mostly a time to evaluate players, as coach Dirk Koetter said Monday, as well as a chance for veterans to get their feet wet before the regular season. Martin and the rest of the locked-in starters will have limited action Thursday, to be sure, but he’s excited to get a “few touches” against the Eagles. It’s been a while since he’s played competitive football, he noted, so this is his first chance to hit the ground running in 2016.
Martin, who rushed for the NFL’s second most yards (1402) in 2015, with 39 less carries than the leader, Adrian Peterson, said the team’s efficiency and execution has improved since the start of camp. The high energy and competitive nature in practice, meanwhile, has remained consistent.
“I like what we’ve done on the practice field,” said Martin, who runs to the end zone on every carry as if it were his first camp. “I like the energy that we’ve showcased, and I’m pretty excited with what we’re going to do.”
As for coaches, if priority No. 1 this Thursday is to evaluate young newcomers and get a better handle on position battles, priority No. 2 is to iron out the kinks with coach-to-player communication.
The NFL has a new coach-to-quarterback headset this year. Koetter said this game is an opportunity to test out the new setup, as well as good practice for Mike Smith, who’s used to coaching from the sideline, to call games from the press box.
“For our staff, this is our first time working with the headsets and Smitty (defensive coordinator Mike Smith) calling the defense from upstairs – so it’ll be good practice,” Koetter said. “I’m not sure why, but they’re saying how much better (the headsets are). They’re saying you can be anywhere in the field and have great communication. They’re saying it’s a really good system.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
“We took a look at it at the owner’s meetings and we’ve had our headphone guy come in and do a little demo. But unless we practice in the stadium we wouldn’t have a chance to demo it, so it’ll be good Thursday night.”
It’s ironic the Bucs will test the new headsets for the first time in Philly. Many would remember the Week 11 road game against the Eagles last season – a 45-17 beat-down that featured the Bucs most complete performance – where the communication between Koetter and Jameis Winston was cut off during the first few series of the game.
The technical difficulties underscored Winston’s rapid development and command of the offense, as the rookie quarterback led Tampa Bay on two scoring drives in the first to two series despite shoddy communication. He opened the game 5-for-7 for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
“That’s just a testament to (Winston) knowing what the openers are,” Koetter said last November. “He knew based on the personnel we had in the game. We only had one run and one pass in that set of plays for the openers. Leave it to the quarterback to pick the pass over the run play (Winston had two-option packages and picked the passing play). It worked out well.”
Like all other aspects of football during the preseason, it’s good that teams have a trial run with the new headset system. Because like turnovers in the red zone and drive-stalling penalties, technical malfunctions can give a coach chest pains.
“When the coach to quarterback system works, it’s the greatest invention in the world,” Koetter said then. “When it doesn’t work, it’s heart attack time.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
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