Preseason Week 2: Tampa Bay vs. Tennessee - What to look for
Last week, the Titans Preseason kicked off against the Packers in historic Green Bay. They have now shifted their focus to the Buccaneers in their 1st home game of the year.
Tampa Bay is coming off a disappointing season that saw their franchise Quarterback on the shelf for most of it. The Buccaneers started the year off 2-6 in the first half and capped it by losing 5 out of their last 6 games. Adding to the turmoil was the devastating hurricane that postponed their week one matchup against Miami and essentially left the team without a bye week. Some of challenges they faced were laid squarely at the feet of their coaching staff. Much like Mularkey in Tennessee, fans questioned the direction the team was headed and if Head Coach Dirk Koetter was the right hire for the job.
Coming into the season expectations were high for the Buccaneers, but they fell short in what is considered one of the toughest divisions in football. The NFC South includes three teams that employ MVP Quarterbacks. One of those being Drew Brees that is Canton bound. Even though Tampa Bay lost 5 out of their last 6 games, Winston did finish strong. He showed growth and became a more efficient Quarterback. Jameis Winston had a QB rating over 112 in 3 out of the last 5 games. In those 3 games he had zero interceptions.
With Winston facing a 4 week suspension, Tennessee will most likely see a familiar face in Ryan Fitzpatrick more than Winston. Despite failing to throw a touchdown last week, Jameis played well. He completed 11 of 13 for 102 yards with a 99.4 quarterback rating. It will be a good matchup between the Titans secondary and Tampa Bay's trio of Wide Receivers that features Mike Evans, Desean Jackson and Chris Godwin. It will also be interesting to see how their Tight End group matches up with Tennessee’s safeties and linebackers. Another thing worth keeping an eye on is how they use last year’s first round draft pick OJ Howard. He was not targeted in their first preseason game. Tight End Cameron Brate had a solid performance in Week 1 and should still get plenty of looks.
Tampa’s backfield struggled last year and features Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones. In a loaded 2018 running back draft class, Jones was selected in the second round out of USC. It is only preseason but neither had a notable game. Their rushing attack was an Achilles’ heel for Tampa last year, so I expect them to focus on getting that going in week 2. Tennessee is a tough matchup on the ground. The Titans ranked top 5 in 2017 for run defense. A large part of the Buccaneer’s struggles are attributed to their offensive line which doesn’t appear to have been addressed over the offseason.
Titans Week One Depth Chart
Pay close attention to this week's depth chart to see if anything changes.
Tennessee played well in Week 1 despite coming up short against Green Bay. Titans highs included a first team offense march down the field for an opening drive touchdown without Rishard Matthews or Corey Davis. Marcus Mariota connected with second teamer Darius Jennings for the first touchdown of the year. The drive featured a good mix of run and pass. It utilized starting back Derick Henry with Dion Lewis also featured for a 7-yard gain on the drive. The Titans offensive line has a big challenge ahead of them against the revamped Buccaneers defensive line. It is loaded with talent, featuring Pro Bowlers Gerald McCoy and newly acquired Jean Pierre-Paul. In addition to JPP, Tampa selected Vita Vea in the 1st round out of the University of Washington.
Buccaneers 2018 Draft Picks
The Tennessee Wide Receivers going against the Tampa Bay secondary will be interesting to watch. Tampa lacked a solid defense in 2017 and the secondary was particularly weak. The Bucs ranked dead last in passing yards given up. Tampa used three draft picks on addressing their secondary; two Cornerbacks and a Safety. Needless to say, they are a young group and it will be worth noting if the new OC will hold true to their word in testing opponent’s weaknesses. The Tampa Bay secondary is extremely aggressive and I expect to see the Titans use more screen passes.
The Titans pass rush looked promising in week one. Watch to see if the pass rushers will be able to build on their success from week one. Brian Orakpo still has not practiced since an early training camp injury, so I am expecting to see more Harold Landry. Two others to watch on the edge will be Sherif Finch and Aaron Wallace, who missed all of 2017 with a back injury. I'm particularly interested in seeing the depth of the interior defensive line and how they rotate. Jurrell Casey said that he will be used strictly at the 3 technique this year. Daquan Jones had a strong showing along with surprise Julius Warmesly. Watch for third year player Austin Johnson and free agent signing Bennie Logan to see how they perform.
Tampa will be in Nashville for joint practices all week, just as the Carolina Panthers were visitors in 2017. We all remember how that ended.