Commentary | Visit to Miami not typical preseason game for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

adell@bradenton.comAugust 10, 2012 

For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, tonight's encounter at Miami is not your typical mundane preseason affair.

The potential starters for Tampa Bay might play just long enough to work up a sweat.

But for a franchise trying to get out of the intensive care unit, their work will be scrutinized.

The Bucs' coaching staff will be under the microscope.

How it functions could be more revealing than whether Doug Martin outshines LeGarrette Blount at running back, which won't matter because from all indications Martin is going to get the bulk of the touches.

Those handling the headsets might answer some of the questions regarding a coaching staff that lacks experience.

All we know at the moment is that the head coach has never been an NFL head coach, the offensive coordinator has never been an NFL offensive coordinator and the defensive coordinator has one year of experience in that role.

From an historical perspective, new Bucs head coach Greg Schiano is a long shot to be successful this year.

In recent times, only San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh has succeeded quickly in making the switch from college, and he was an NFL quarterback for 15 years, coached quarterbacks two years for the Raiders and comes from a football family.

But Schiano has some things going for him that might get him over that roadblock, and it's more than his friend Bill Belichick recommending him for the Bucs job.

Since training camp began, Schiano has looked calm, in control and not overwhelmed, which should keep the players from running over him as they did Raheem Morris last year.

Schiano has some history on his side that could bring him good fortune.

With a minus-16, the Bucs had the worst turnover ratio in the NFL last season. and if Schiano can improve that to a plus-something the world could turn for the better at One Buc Place.

San Francisco went from 6-10 to 13-3 in 2011 and had an NFL-high plus-28 turnover ratio, while Detroit (6-10 to 10-6) had a plus-11, and Green Bay (10-6 to 15-1) was second at plus-24.

It’s one reason Martin will be the primary running back and quarterback Josh Freeman will likely be kept under wraps against Miami because the coaches don’t want to damage a psyche that suffered through 22 interceptions last year. Eliminating turnovers tonight is sure to be a big confidence booster.

With Schiano instilling into his players the mindset that they are holding a piece of Fort Knox when they carry the ball, expect a significant improvement.

Though receiver Vincent Jackson may make only a cameo appearance, how the coaches use the most highly touted free agent at his position also should be revealing.

Bucs offensive coordinator (Mike Sullivan) and defensive coordinator (Bill Sheridan) spent the bulk of their careers with the New York Giants, and you can expect to see versions of their offense and defense.

Sheridan has the biggest challenge in trying to mold a defense that allowed opponents to outscore the Bucs by 11 points in the first half last season and ranked 30th in forcing three-and-and out drives with only 31.

An intriguing battle to watch tonight is the competition at safety.

Fans want top draft pick Mark Barron to show he was worth passing on cornerback Morris Claiborne.

How comfortable Ronde Barber looks in moving to safety after 15 years as a cornerback should give a glimpse into what could be in store for this unit that was so maligned last year.

Among the group campaigning for playing time is rookie Keith Tandy from West Virginia, who is switching from corner to safety. Fighting him will be Florida's Ahmad Black and Larry Asante.

Fans will be looking to see if strongside linebacker Quincy Black is no longer indifferent to tackling and whether MLB Mason Foster has finally grasped the nuances of his position. Rookie WLB Lavonte David, who finished as the fourth-leading tackler at Nebraska despite only playing two years there, is supposedly the perfect fit for Schiano's style of play.

We will get a clearer picture of that tonight.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.

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