Tampa Bay fans will once again get to see how their young talent is developing, and when a team like the New England Patriots come to town, there are no shortages of player battles worth keeping an eye on.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked nearly flawless in their first preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, and they will look to keep that momentum rolling against the New England Patriots Thursday night.
If Tampa Bay looked good in their preseason opener, the New England Patriots looked great.
With the Patriots playing their typical dominating style of football, Tampa Bay will have a great chance to show the NFL that last year was no fluke, and the 2011 season will be more of the same.
Josh Freeman is on the verge of becoming an elite quarterback in the NFL, so when one of the best to ever play the position in Tom Brady comes to town, you can't help but want to see how Freeman stacks up against him.
Freeman took the NFL by surprise last year, throwing for more than 3,400 yards and 25 touchdowns while only tossing six interceptions in his first full NFL season. Freeman's touchdown to interception ratio was second to only one quarterback in the NFL—Tom Brady.
It is unknown whether Brady will even play in the game, but whether he plays for one series—or one quarter—it will be a fun quarterback battle to watch while it lasts.
Praise from head coach Raheem Morris toward rookie first-round pick Adrian Clayborn has been nothing short of exceptional.
Clayborn will get the first big test of his young career as he will be lining up against New England's Matt Light. Light is one of the most seasoned veteran left tackles in the entire NFL, having played in 140 career NFL games (and starting 138 of them).
Clayborn has been virtually unblockable in camp, and after a solid showing against the Kansas City Chiefs, No. 94 will be one of the top players to monitor against the Patriots.
This should be a good barometer to see how Clayborn fares against top-tier offensive tackles. A good showing Thursday night could foreshadow things to come during the upcoming season for Clayborn.
When Mike Williams takes on defensive back Devin McCourty Thursday night, it should be an exciting battle of two players who dominated at their respective positions in their rookie seasons.
Williams put together a stellar rookie campaign, catching 11 touchdown passes and nearly hitting the 1,000-yard mark for receiving.
McCourty, like Williams, impressed many with his play on the defensive side of the ball for the New England Patriots. McCourty snagged seven interceptions and accounted for 82 tackles on his way to being named to the Pro Bowl in just his rookie season.
It should be fun to watch two of the best young players at their positions battle it out Thursday and see which player gets the better of the other.
If this matchup does indeed end up happening (Talib has been nursing a sore hamstring), what a fun one it would be to watch.
Chad Ochocinco was the talk of the NFL when he landed in New England, and if he does take his first live snap with the Patriots on Thursday, he will have his work cut out for him against Tampa Bay's Aquib Talib.
All eyes and cameras will be on No. 85, and what a sight it would be for Tampa Bay fans if Talib could spoil Ochocinco's first outing in a uniform that doesn't have orange and black stripes on it.
Gerald McCoy would love to get to Tom Brady once or twice come Thursday night, but he'll have to go through second team All-Pro offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer to do so.
McCoy is a Brady admirer, though that does not mean the second-year defensive tackle does not want to put some dirt on Brady's jersey.
"I'm a fan of his. But that's until Thursday comes." Mcoy said. "You grow up and see guys like that. It's like, 'Man, that's Tom Brady. He's winning Super Bowls.' Now, he's still there and I have an opportunity to chase him down."
Tampa Bay would love to see McCoy "chase him down," and if he can do so—and get past Sebastian Vollmer in the process—what a confidence booster that would be moving forward for the sophomore defensive tackle who struggled during his rookie season.