It isn’t the regular season, but for the Tampa Bay Bucs, the first preseason game will be a lot closer to a game than a practice.
The Bucs play Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings at 8 p.m.
“We haven’t been able to really finish a lot of plays,” coach Lovie Smith said. “So we see our guys tackle, really, for the first time; for our quarterbacks to throw the ball knowing they can get hit on the other side; running backs taking hits all the way down. There’s a lot we get just seeing guys finish plays.
“We have a tentative depth chart, but once you start going against other competition that’s when it really starts to mean something. We have a rotation that we’re going to use as far as playing time with our players. We want to give everybody an opportunity to prove what they can do early on.”
Smith said that his general rule is that his starters will play a bit more than a quarter of the game.
For the Bucs, of course, the player with the most scrutiny will be quarterback Jameis Winston, the team’s No. 1 draft pick. Winston has drawn rave reviews through most of camp, although he has thrown a few interceptions.
“Yes, there’s a lot of excitement to see Jameis play for the first time, and our football team, hopefully, too. And with good reason.” Smith said. “You had the first pick in the draft and there’s a lot that comes with that, but there are a lot of other things that we’re excited about also. It’s a team sport, and our team has looked good. Four or five positions, I’m anxious to see exactly how they respond.”
Odds are, no one will remember for long. Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck threw for a touchdown on his first pass. Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton threw an interception. But the first preseason game is largely a forgettable affair except to the coaches who measure.
Said Smith: “We get a chance to see where we really are after this first game.”