Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Tennessee Titans: 5 Things to Watch

Tom EdringtonSenior Writer IAugust 17, 2012

Can the Buccaneer defense handle Chris Johnson?
Can the Buccaneer defense handle Chris Johnson?Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Game day. Greg Schiano's favorite day. Our favorite day.

The Buccaneers take on the Tennessee Titans tonight at Raymond James Stadium in the preseason home opener. Here are some things to keep an eye on.


Punt Returns

This has been a problem area in camp. It's been sloppy at times and Preston Parker mucked it up last week with a fumbled punt. The biggest question is, who will emerge as the team's reliable, effective punt returner? We don't know yet. 

One huge development for the punt return game could be the signing of free-agent speedster Jeff Demps. Something could be decided as early as today. Teams now vying for Demps, along with the Bucs, are the New York Jets and New England Patriots. Demps worked out for the Patriots on Thursday and was still in New England on Friday, perhaps leaning toward signing with the P-Men. Later Friday, the local TV hacks at Fox 13 were reporting that Demps was signing with New England.


Josh Freeman

Freeman needs to continue to improve. He looked good last week in limited action. We want to see him under pressure. How is his decision-making? Can he find Vincent Jackson? The Dolphins doubled up on Jackson last week and took him out of the game early. 



Dallas Clark

Clark gets his first game action tonight. Will he be an effective option for Freeman?


Mark Barron

Barron was out last week. How will he look? Will he hammer someone?



Defensive line

Keep a close eye on the defensive line. The Titans may want to try and get Chris Johnson going. He did nothing last week and is coming off a sub-par season. Can the Bucs stop him? The Titans are also starting the inexperienced Jake Locker. Can they put pressure on the youngster and make him look bad?

Once again, Schiano's main objective is to get the team through this one with no injuries. They are starting to crop up all over the league. Also, he needs to play accountant on the sidelines and make sure that reps are distributed so that his staff can make fair evaluations of players battling for jobs on the final 53-man roster.

Time is getting short. Next week the New England Patriots come to town for at least two team practice sessions before the Friday night preseason contest.

That third preseason game is the most important for the starters; it is the dress rehearsal for the regular season.

Look for improvement tonight on those special teams. One question mark surrounds Parker, who was simply awful last week: Can he bounce back?

The Titans are a step up in quality of competition and next week, it doesn't get much better than New England.

Take notes tonight. We'll check in Saturday with our postgame thoughts.


Read more Buccaneer news and views at OneBucSite.com.