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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Buccaneers to Watch vs. Titans

Five players to keep an eye on when the Buccaneers take on the Titans on Sunday.


1. QB Jameis Winston
On Sunday afternoon, Winston will make the first start of his professional career against the Titans at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. It will also mark the first time that Winston's played a four-quarter NFL game. The rookie played 99 snaps in three games during the preseason and could more than half of that number against Tennessee. In the NFL's season-opener on Thursday night, the Steelers took 73 offensive snaps and the Patriots took 61.

2. CB Alterraun Verner
Head Coach Lovie Smith has stressed how important it is for the Bucs to win the turnover battle, not just on Sunday but in every game they play. In order to do that against Tennessee, the Bucs' secondary must capitalize on rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota's mistakes. No Bucs defensive back has intercepted more passes than Verner, who's earned 13 picks in his career.  If he can create a turnover or two, the Bucs are at an advantage off the bat.

3. DT Gerald McCoy
Tennessee knows how important it is to keep Mariota upright. "We don't want him to get touched,'' Titans right tackle Jeremiah Poutasi said. "One time is too many. We can't allow him to be touched." McCoy will be on a mission to de-rail Poutasi's goal. He was the NFL's top-rated pass-rushing defensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus, and continued to be dominant in the preseason. "(We want) impact sacks, man," McCoy said. "Getting the sack is great, getting [the quarterback] on the ground is wonderful, but our job, defensively, is to score and get the ball back."

4. RB Doug Martin
It is imperative for the Bucs to establish the running game on Sunday night in order to open up other areas of the offense. That responsibility will fall largely on Martin, the Bucs' starting running back. "I don't see any reason why we should think we can't run the ball," Coach Smith continued. "Doug has had a great offseason and is ready to go." Offenive Coordinator Dirk Koetter said Martin was the Bucs' "X-factor" for the upcoming season.

5. OT Donovan Smith
There has been no official announcement as to who will be the starter on Sunday, but all signs point to Smith, the second-round pick, protecting Winston's blind side. And he will be challenged right off the bat. Smith could find himself matched up against Brian Orakpo, a three-time Pro Bowler who was one of the Titans' premier free agent signings this offseason.

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