Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
The NFL opening weekend has arrived for the league’s 100th season! Outside my ‘Cody Talks NFL’ show and ‘Fantasy Football Hotseat’, I have taken on the role of Bucs beat writer for the 2019 season here at Blitzalytics. Outside Blitz, I worked for the organization for the past four seasons, and now that I’ve taken a step away, I can give my opinion as an analyst on how Tampa is performing throughout the year. With that being said, here are my Top 5 things that I want to see from the Buccaneers in their opening matchup against the San Francisco 49ers:
1. Jameis Winston shows growth from Bruce Arians’ tutelage
The biggest question mark surrounding the Bucs entering the season is: Is Jameis Winston their franchise quarterback? Winston is entering the final year of his contract, so he must prove he’s worthy of an extension, something no other quarterback drafted by Tampa can say. Otherwise, Tampa will be forced to either slap the franchise tag on him or let him walk in free agency. I am looking to see some improvement in his deep ball accuracy, decision-making, and no turnovers in his first action of 2019. It will be a win for Winston if he can finish with 300+ yards and 2+ touchdowns plus no turnovers while leading the team to a victory.
2. Is the young secondary ready to play?
Tampa’s secondary is littered with players that have played for less than three years in the NFL. They have a tough test against the 49ers passing attack that will be schemed up by Kyle Shanahan. Todd Bowles will have his work cut out for him as San Fran will utilize players like George Kittle, Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel, and Jalen Hurd to mix things up. The unit will have their hands full, but if they can give some promise for the season if they can slow them down Sunday afternoon
3. Can the offensive line give Winston time to throw?
The Bucs offensive line gave no hope during the preseason after giving up five sacks to the Cleveland Browns starting defensive front in the dress rehearsal game. Bruce Arians likes to push the ball down the field through the air, so offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich might need to scheme up ways to help the offensive line give Winston more time in the pocket. Winston’s past mistakes usually came when he was under pressure; it will help him cut turnovers down if he has time to make his reads. Let’s see if there has been any improvement since we last saw them.
4. Devin White’s impact on the defensive unit
Tampa used the fifth overall pick on Devin White, which means they expect him to make an immediate impact on their defense. After seeing the effect from Darius Leonard on the Indianapolis Colts defense, I am sure Jason Licht wants to see the same from his unit. White has all the athletic ability to fit the mold of today’s linebackers, and under the leadership of Lavonte David and Todd Bowles, he has a chance to be a playmaker in that defense and make a case to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. For that to happen, I expect a big performance in the rookie’s first game of his NFL career.
5. Which RB will dominate the touches out of the backfield?
We will more than likely see an RBBC on Sunday with Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, and Dare Ogunbowale splitting touches. Barber should see more snaps based on what we’ve seen in the preseason and his pass blocking ability. Jones can be a homerun hitter for Tampa, and if he can find his groove, Arians may want to go with the hot-hand. Ogunbowale had a solid camp and preseason; he may only just see third-down snaps, but he does have an opportunity to carve out a role if he can take advantage of his touches. It will be interesting to see how this plays out against the 49ers, who will be starting former Brooksville (FL) product Matt Breida while also boasting former Falcons back Tevin Coleman to support him.