Both the Bucs and the Dolphins are coming off preseason Week 1 losses by identical scores. The Bucs lost 16-10 to the Jacksonville Jaguars while the Dolphins dropped their opener, also 16-10, to the Atlanta Falcons.
Despite a disappointing outcome last week, Smith expects improved harmony on offense and an overall better performance tonight from the Bucs.
“The process doesn’t stop you from playing good football or looking good for our fans, we wanted to do that last week, and we want to do that this week,” said Smith. “It’s not like we’re handcuffing our players or anything like that. Again, we’ll have a game plan in place for us to be able to have success and if that doesn’t happen, that has nothing to do with us trying to slow them down or anything like that, but yes we want to play well for our opening home game of the season in Raymond James and we expect to.”
Somewhat overshadowed by a poor offensive performance in last week’s loss was the dominant play of the Bucs defense. The first-team, led by Gerald McCoy, allowed just 18 yards in 13 plays on the field.
McCoy, Lavonte David, Dashon Goldson and company should give the Dolphins offense all it can handle. The Dolphins’ offensive front struggled a year ago, allowing a league-high 58 sacks.
The Dolphins addressed the situation bringing in expensive left tackle Branden Albert from the Kansas City Chiefs and by selecting tackle Ja’Wuan James out of Tennessee in the first-round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The moves appear to be paying dividends as the line showed improvement last week in the loss to the Falcons, allowing only one sack.
McCoy, for one, is eager to get back on the field, play in front of the home fans and erase the memory of last week’s game.
“First outing at home, new regime, new uniforms, new logo, new everything,” McCoy said. “All we have of what people think about the Bucs is from game one [of the preseason]. So we know we have to come out better, we have to come out and start a lot faster, and give the hometown fans something to hope for. All people want is hope. You don’t have to win the Super Bowl on Saturday – people just want hope, and we want to be able to give them that.”
While the Bucs’ defensive unit impressed against the Jaguars last week, the offense struggled mightily. A shaky performance from the offensive line allowed pressure on starting quarterback Josh McCown early in the game. Penalties also plagued the offense, negating big plays on more than one occasion.
With more effective protection, McCown and Mike Glennon can take advantage of their big targets—Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Tommy Streeter—all who stand 6’5” and pose matchup problems for most defensive backs. The Dolphins don’t have a defensive back listed taller than 6’1” and the Bucs offense will need to exploit that advantage to sustain drives, something it failed to do enough of in the first game of the preseason.
McCown believes the offense has made forward strides throughout training camp.
“I think for every training camp, it’s just a discovery process for every team to see – especially when it’s a new staff or new players – just who we are and what we’re going to be, and on each side of the ball, what your identity is going to be,” McCown said. “But also offensively, just figuring out who we’re going to be…Every [day], we get closer to finding those things out, and learning every day at practice too. So it’s been a good camp.”
A 12-year NFL veteran, McCown expressed his appreciation for the support the fans have shown the team and is looking forward to the first game of the season at Raymond James.
“I’m excited about it, just from the feedback that we’ve gotten from the fans – the support that has been here at practice,” McCown said. “I’m excited to play for these fans. Not only myself, but everybody in the locker room is excited about being able to go out and give these fans something they can be proud of so they can rally around.”
The Bucs and Dolphins met in the third week of the preseason last year with the Bucs putting together big plays late in the game to prevail 17-16. The in-state rivals met again during the regular season with the Bucs getting their first win of the season against the Fins, 22-19, on Monday Night Football.
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