It is another season and we are back with our “Inside The Enemy Camp” series. Each week, we’ll tallk with the FanSided editor who covers the Chiefs’ next opponent to get a better understanding of the enemy.
This week we are talking with Patrik Nohe of The Pewter Plank.
Last year the Bucs were one of the NFL’s top turn-around stories, improving by seven games and finishing 10-6. How do you expect the team to look this season? Improve or regress?
I think the Bucs will be a better team this season but I don’t necessarily know that their record will indicate that. A lot of factors went against the Bucs last year, but a lot of things fell their way too. This year things get tougher schedule-wise, and they aren’t sneaking up on anyone anymore. I do really think they’re going to be much improved along the defensive line, their offensive line is healthy again and their players are a year older and more experienced, but I don’t know that they’ll be better than 10-6 playing in a tough division and having to square off against the NFC North inter-divisionally. This is a good team though, I don’t expect them to be too far off 10-6 either.
More after the jump.
Who is the biggest divisional threat to the Bucs?
The Saints and Falcons are both very good teams. I’m partial to the Saints when it comes to who I think wins the South this year, but I think the Falcons give the Bucs more trouble. Atlanta and Tampa share a fairly interesting, underrated rivalry. Those two teams do not get on well, they play extremely rough, competitive games and there is animosity between fanbases over the fact Warren Sapp and the Bucs used to call Atlanta Tampa-North because Bucs fans would outnumber Falcons fans when Tampa used to travel up there (those days are long gone). Last year Atlanta dealt the Bucs two very tough defeats and really put a damper on the Bucs playoff chances. It seemed every time the Bucs would get on a two or three game run, Atlanta was there to stop their momentum. This year, with both teams improved, the games should be even better.
What were key areas of concern the Bucs addressed during the offseason?
The defensive end and middle linebacker positions. Last year the Bucs were amongst the worst defenses in rush defense and sacks, that essentially comes down to failures from the front seven and Tampa addressed those needs with their first three draft picks. The Bucs grabbed former Iowa Hawkeye Adrian Clayborn in round one and then snagged Da’Quan Bowers and Mason Foster in the next two rounds. Foster has caught the attention of Mark Dominik and seems to be the heir apparent to the MLB job, something I’m apprehensive of because the Buccaneers’ MLB position is quite nuanced and it’s a lot to ask a rookie to grab all of that in an abbreviated preseason period.
Bowers on the other hand is a guy I expect to have a great rookie season. He was once considered a top-5 pick before questions about the health of his knee sent him plummeting down draftboards. He landed in Tampa and believe me, he has a huge bone to pick with the NFL. Also, it seems as though the Bucs may have gotten a steal because early indications are his knee is fine. The Bucs have quite a bit of experience dealing with complications from knee injuries, after handling Cadillac Williams and Kellen Winslow (who hasn’t missed a game in two years) the last few years. If Bowers can stay healthy, I look for him to have a lot to prove this season.
Is there anything the team didn’t address that could come back to haunt them?
I would have liked to see the Bucs get a compliment to LeGarrette Blount, right now they’re considering using the big man as an every down back, which could work, but more likely will just fatigue Blount quicker and be a liability on passing downs. Blount has caught 7 passes in games during his college and the pro career, combined. I’m not saying he can’t, just saying he’s a downhill power runner and that’s not the best use of his abilities. The problem is the Bucs don’t have a solid third down/scat back type that can be relied on. Earnest Graham seems like the best guy to fill the role but he’s slated to start at fullback right now. Granted, the Bucs didn’t get Blount last year until the last round of training camp cuts, so they could still find someone. But ultimately I think they’ll wish they had found a back to better accent Blount.
How much can we expect to see the starters play tonight?
I think two-three series tops. I don’t think Raheem Morris needs to see Josh Freeman too much or Mike Williams or many of the Bucs frontline players, I expect rookies like Foster and Clayborn to get some extra time, but I don’t think the first team will be out there long. Da’Quan Bowers is expect to play 15-20 plays, the Bucs are being extremely cautious with him. I still am looking forward to seeing if he comes out fiery tonight. The preseason opener may not mean much to a lot of guys, but it definitely means a lot to him.
Obviously it’s meaningless, but your prediction for the game?
I’m going to be honest, Josh Johnson is a really underrated quarterback. He should see a lot of action tomorrow as the Buccaneers don’t want to get Freeman hurt, and frankly they’re probably going to try and showcase JJ because this is his walk year and he could potentially return a mid-round draft pick. Johnson is the kind of quarterback who typically looks solid in the preseason, he’s very fleet-footed, has a lively arm and can really have a field day playing against 2′s and 3′s. I think Josh Johnson has a nice evening tonight and the Bucs win.
Bucs 27 Chiefs 20