On Friday night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take the field for the first time in the Greg Schiano era. The Bucs kick their preseason schedule off against the Dolphins in Miami and Buccaneers101.com is here to tell you what to watch for.
1. Demar Dotson stepping in for Donald Penn at left tackle - With Penn out of shape and nursing a calf injury, Dotson is in charge of protecting quarterback Josh Freeman's blind side. The 6-foot-9, 315-pound Dotson is athletic, but raw and unproven at the pro level. The former basketball player has yet to put it all together and stay healthy. Friday night's test against Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake, who had 14 sacks in 2010, will show whether or not Dotson has improved his game this offseason.
2. The Josh Freeman-to-Vincent Jackson connection – They probably won't see the field for more than a series or two, but Bucs fans will be paying close attention to Jackson, Tampa Bay's new offseason addition. The Bucs spent big bucks to bring Jackson to Tampa and they are hoping he can help turn Freeman into an elite quarterback. Jackson is a huge target with elite downfield speed, and Freeman has the arm to get it to him deep. Friday night should be the first of many games in which these two hookup for big plays so be on the lookout.
3. Ronde Barber at a new position - For 15 years, Barber built a Hall of Fame career at the cornerback position. Now, at 37-years-old, Barber moves over to free safety and will be playing alongside rookie first-round pick Mark Barron. At his age, Barber probably won't play much against Miami, but it will be interesting to see how well he plays his new position during a real game.
4. LeGarrette Blount trying to hold off Doug Martin – Blount was listed ahead of Martin, who was drafted No. 31 overall by Tampa Bay in April's draft, when the first depth chart came out on Monday. However, that could change at any time. The Bucs didn't move up into the first round to pick Martin and have him ride the bench. He is here to play and his broad skill set means he will see the field a lot. How much though depends on Blount. If Blount, who had 1,005 rushing yards as a rookie in 2010, can play well this preseason, he will insure that he gets a larger workload. It all starts against Miami and Blount has to produce when he gets his chances.
5. Can the defensive line get to the quarterback? – The Bucs were dreadful on defense last season. The were even worse at getting to the quarterback, finishing with a league-worst 23 sacks in 2011. But the Bucs are hopeful that things will be much improved this upcoming season and it all starts with the return of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. The 2010 first-round pick missed 10 games last season with a biceps injury, but he is healthy and ready to prove he can be a pass rushing machine. If McCoy and the rest of the D-line can bring down the trio of Miami quarterbacks a few times on Friday night, it will go a long way in helping their confidence level headed into the regular season.
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