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JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 17: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempts a pass during a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on August 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

By Leo Haggerty Editor – It’s Sports Magazine


Week 3 of the exhibition season. This is the one game, Buccaneers fans, that you need to sit up and take notice. Why? That’s because the Tampa Bay starters will play into the second half for the one, and only, time before the regular season opener in Miami. The group that HC Dirk Koetter plans to trot out against Dolphins on offense and defense will get their most extensive game exposure Saturday night against the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium. This will be the dress rehearsal for when the games count for real plus a little more.

What to look for, you ask? Let’s start with the defense. First, can the Bucs stop the run. DC Mike Smith is no different than any other Defensive Coordinator in the National Football League. He wants to make the Cleveland offense one-dimensional and that starts with shutting down the Browns rushing game. If the Pewter Pirates are successful in that respect, they can turn their defensive lineman loose to rush the quarterback.

That’s leads us right to the next area to observe and that’s can Tampa Bay get pressure on the QB with their front four. The Bucs defense would prefer not to blitz but they’re not afraid to as they showed at Jacksonville last week. Getting four-man sustained pressure on the opposition signal caller is the best friend of a defensive back. Now, you can drop seven into coverage and shrink the zones as well as play press man with a single or double free safety help.

Now, lets go to the other side of the ball and examine what the offense needs to accomplish. The most important goal is to play turnover free football. QB Jameis Winston must make good decisions. Plain and simple. The Bucs signal caller has to take advantage of the mismatches that have been created by either personnel groupings or alignment. Then, the Florida State product has to exploit it and finish the job. Let the game come to him so to speak.

The second facet is that #3 has to realize that there will be a few plays where no one will be open. He has to show the patience to throw the ball to the tuba and not force a throw into coverage. If the play isn’t there, throw it away and come back to fight another day. Simple but effective philosophy.

Finally, the Pewter Pirates want to get through the contest with a minimum of significant injuries or none at all. Don’t make this a Pyrrhic victory where the Bucs win the game but, because of some major injuries, lose the regular season war. Have the starters get acclimated to playing into the second half for a series or two and then get the out.

Bottom line, this game will be the one that will be the best barometer of what to expect in the regular season. Look for a good performance. I am.