Philadelphia Eagles preseason football is just one day away! With the Eagles and Buccaneers scheduled to face off on Thursday evening, I reached out to our friends over at Bucs Nation. The great Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming preseason game. Let's take a look at the answers. Also don't forget to check out my Q&A exchange over at Bucs Nation.
1) A lot has changed for the Eagles and the Bucs since Tampa Bay blew out the Birds in Philly last year. The Bucs obviously looked good in that game before fizzling down the stretch. Then Lovie Smith got fired and was replaced by Dirk Koetter. Did the Bucs make the right call with the coaching change?
I'm not sure whether they made the right call, that really depends on how well Lovie Smith would have been able to put together a defense this offseason, and how much better Mike Smith is at it. But I will say that it doesn't look like they made the wrong call -- firing Lovie Smith after going 8-24 over two seasons was entirely justifiable, especially given the lack of progress on defense in his second year. It's hard to call firing a coach and then replacing him with a successful offensive coordinator the wrong move under any circumstances, really.
2) How do fans feel about the Bucs’ outlook this year? Playoffs?
Fans are mostly optimistic, though perhaps not 'playoffs' optimistic -- the Bucs haven't been there in almost a decade now, and that doesn't make for optimistic readings of what's about to happen. Certainly, though, everyone's expecting an improvement over last season's 6-10 record. Mostly, people hope Jameis Winston will steadily improve, and the defense will manage to get back to being at least average. That should be enough to contend for a playoff spot, at least.
3) How is second year quarterback Jameis Winston progressing? What are the expectations for him this season?
He seems to be doing well in training camp, though it's always hard to tell what exactly is going on before the regular season starts. The expectations are mostly what you'd expect out of any second-year quarterback: better accuracy, especially on the deep ball in his case, a better understanding of his offensive scheme and NFL defenses, and a slightly better feel for timing and the pass rush. I wouldn't expect to turn into a top five quarterback, but a bottom-of-the-top-ten kind of performance should be within reach this season.
4) Speaking of Winston, is it at least a little weird to Bucs fans how he often talks about he’s such a big Eagles fan?
I don't feel like he talks about it that much, honestly. But I haven't seen any Bucs fans really complain about it, or get hung up over his childhood allegiance. He's a Bucs player now, and that's what matters to everyone.
5) Who are some lesser known Bucs backups that could stand out in this game?
Look for Jude Adjei-Barimah at cornerback. He was an undrafted free agent last year and had a decent if inconsistent rookie season, and he's now mostly running with the first as the slot cornerback. He'll eventually be permanently overtaken by Vernon Hargreaves in that role, but he's stood out in training camp and is already ahead of some veterans like Johnthan Banks and Josh Robinson. On offense, pay attention to Cameron Brate -- he's moved ahead of Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end, and proved to be a useful underneath target for Jameis Winston last season. He's looked especially good in red zone drills, so he should show up there in this game.
Bonus: Score prediction? It's only preseason but why not.
Bonus: It's a preseason game, so this means nothing, but I'm going to say a 19-17 Bucs win.