The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went into their August 8 preseason opener in Jacksonville still looking to determine their two starting offensive guards. Even though the Buccaneers' line played poorly as a whole in that contest, left guard candidate Oniel Cousins held on to his spot atop the depth chart because his coaches found enough to like in their video review of his play the next day.
If Lovie Smith and his staff stick with that approach following the Buccaneers' second preseason game, there's a good chance Patrick Omameh will be granted a second straight start at right guard on Sunday in Buffalo. Tampa Bay's front line, while not perfect against Miami this past weekend, did make a noticeable improvement. Omameh, who replaced Game One starter Jamon Meredith at right guard, was the only new starter in that group.
If Omameh does indeed get a second audition for the starting job in Buffalo, he would then seem to have a clear path towards claiming that spot for the regular season. Since the third game of the preseason is the one in which the starters are on the field for the highest percentage of snaps, the former University of Michigan standout would at the very least have gotten the most exposure among the various candidates. And if he makes the most of that opportunity against the Bills strong defensive front, he could take control of the competition.
The Buccaneers nabbed Omameh, a former undrafted free agent, off the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad in the middle of last season. He didn't see any game action after relocating across the country, but he opened some eyes on the team's new coaching staff during the offseason. He has continued to do that now that the preseason is under way.
"He goes about it as a professional," said Smith. "Pat's kind of a quiet guy; he's funny when you get him talking and stuff, but he's a good guy. He's strong; he's a lot more athletic than people probably give him credit for. He does a lot of good things. He's smart out there, doesn't make too many mistakes. But every guy has something individually that we can clean up a little bit and we'll be working on that coming into this third game and go out there and have another good showing."
Omameh's assessment of the Dolphins' game veered more towards the overall improvement of the offensive line's play, rather than his own efforts. Still, he recognized that the start against the Dolphins had offered him a real chance to seize a starting job.
"It was a great opportunity for me and I just wanted to go out there and perform to the best of my ability," said Omameh.
Buccaneer linemen have been quick to praise the teaching of new Offensive Line Coach George Warhop. Omameh has had the advantage of working with several well-respected coaches during his short time in the league, beginning with his six months in San Francisco.
"I had a tremendous offensive line coach in Mike Solari," said Omameh. "I got a real emphasis on detail, how to work. That's a veteran group of linemen, also very elite players you could follow the example of and really show you that you're going in the right direction. So that's just something I try to carry with me now as far as going about things in this league."
Omameh's opportunity wasn't the only topic being discussed at One Buccaneer Place on Monday as the team reconvened after a day off and began preparing for the Bills. Below are additional thoughts from Smith and several Buccaneer players.Head Coach Lovie Smith
"We are moving along right now. It's good to get the players to watch the video, a lot of stuff to learn from the game and for them to see exactly what they did wrong, but more importantly a lot of the things we did right. We did make progress and players feel that way."On mimicking regular season preparations for this week's game:
"It's critical to do that, once the regular season comes you want guys to know what they're doing every second and just a routine instead of wondering what this is like and that's what's so good about this week going through the game week routine with the players. It's not like we're going to run all of the defenses, offenses and special teams plays we're going to run during the season, but just how we group things when – a regular week – we install all of our different game plans, whether it be red zone, two-minute drill or whatever. That's always good for the players to see when we lift, when you have to get your lifts in through the week, it's a little bit different training and working out in the offseason as opposed to the regular season. There are a lot things for us to go over."On what's unique about the offense this season:
"That's hard for me to say. If you look at our offense – as I've looked at what we're going to be as an offense, I went through that progression to come to this conclusion of what we are. As we talked a little bit yesterday, I think you can keep a defense off-balance a little bit with no-huddle, beyond that it's typical football that you get. I mean you huddle up, you have some plays that you like in certain situations and you go with that. Our approach is a little bit as far as how many guys we play and different things like that. Beyond that, I don't think there's anything new that hasn't been done that we're going to do that nobody else is doing. Whether we choose to lean more to the run, of course to the pass and what we want to be, that's what you'll see once we get started.
On the dialogue between offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford and himself:
"There's been dialogue with that. Did I ever tell you I was off and we were in the basement? We started that dialogue then and that dialogue has continued throughout, all the way up until for us each game to see what we did in every situation and that dialogue will [continue], after we break again. For the coaches early in the week, Monday and Tuesday usually those are big game plans, final game plans you can say a little bit. We've looked at all of our opponents long before now and have an idea of how we're going to attack teams in every situation."On the trend of having more offensive plays:
"That has been a trend that people talk a lot about and we would like to do that if it works out that way, but for us positive plays. We'll no-huddle a little bit, if you just say you should get more plays if you're snapping it fairly quick, but it's about positive plays for me, keeping the chains moving. I still believe in controlling the clock though, I know someone asked the question yesterday about 'Do you score real fast with this quick up-tempo? What is that doing to your defense?' Part of Buc Ball is being able to control the clock on the offensive side of the football. I still think you can do that with no-huddle, it's not like we're snapping the ball with 20 seconds left every play, so that's important."On injury updates:
"We have a lot of them and normally it helps when you ask about someone and I can maybe – throw [some names] out then, I was going to try and start thinking of who all is healthy here, but some of the guys from the game: [Running back] Mike James, nothing will change 24 hours later with him. Like I said you can help me out with some of the players we have. [Linebacker] Brandon Magee, it will be a while for him also, guys from the game nothing will change here within a day. It will go through this week or so with him. Some of our players like [defensive end] Da'Quan Bowers, some them we'll have a better read if they've been out – [defensive end] Steven Means, but we're hopeful but we'll be back out on the practice field tomorrow and we'll be able to tell you a little bit more. I talked about [cornerback] Alterraun Verner [being] able – we think he's good to go tomorrow. [Cornerback] Mike Jenkins, I don't know exactly where he is, but once we get on the field we can give you a little bit more details. I'm going to have to give you a lot of information now, I thought your eyes would be on them if we're in training – we're out of training camp, but we'll try to give you as much information as we possibly can on the injuries. I'm not trying to keep anything secret, really right now with injuries we just don't know. We know [running back] Charles Sims had surgery, beyond that guys are – they're not necessarily – some are a little bit more than day-to-day, but we'll let you know."LB Jonathan Casillas
On how important the third preseason game is:**
"It's very important. It's been called the 'dress rehearsal,' the real dress rehearsal for the season. Starters get anywhere from two and a half to three quarters of play time, and then you've got the younger guys coming in. Just to see where your guys are at, how much have they progressed, how much has our team collectively progressed as a unit, and move forward from preseason [games] one and two."On when the team will start looking at film for Buffalo:
"We'll start taking a look at it now. Haven't taken a look at them yet – we just finished with Miami's film today. I'll start it tonight. Most guys will probably start it tonight. Tomorrow when we come in, I'm pretty sure we'll have a solid introduction to them and we'll get started with them right away.
C Evan Dietrich-SmithOn the progression of the offensive line throughout the preseason:
"We'd like the offense to go as we go, and obviously if we're not doing very well, it's going to affect everyone else. That's kind of the case all across the league. But if you have a good o-line, you're playing good up front, your offense is going to be pretty successful. I thought we did a lot better this week. Obviously still room for improvement – I think every guy can attest to that. But we took a step in the right direction."On how important the offensive line is to have a successful offense:
"We always work together – we have to be five guys as one. Everybody has to know what we're doing, where we're going, how to get there, and then what to do once you get there. And if we're not doing that, one of us messes up, it's going to affect the whole play. So our play directly affects a lot of the things we do on offense and, like I said, we took a step in the right direction. Not quite there, but we're getting there."On how the offensive line handled the new up-tempo offense during the game:
"I've been kind of living in that world my past three years in Green Bay so it wasn't really anything for me. I think the guys, they like it. It's a good thing on offense because the defense has to get their calls in, it kind of shortens their playlist a little bit. Those guys have got to get ready and get set. When you get those guys up front tired, get them on their heels a little bit, it makes your job a little bit easier. You look around the league, that's just kind of the idea of no huddle – to kind of take advantage of it. Make teams have to come out and show you their stuff. It makes it harder on the defense to communicate. They have to be on top of it because, obviously, the offense kind of know where we're going, so they've got to work harder to get up there and get set."On how much of the offensive playbook has been shown so far in the preseason:
"I'd say maybe 20 [percent]. We still have more things. Like I said, I think we did a good job. We moved the ball obviously a lot better. There was a few things we left out there, but once the first group kind of got out, the game plan probably went down a little bit for the second crew. But we're really not giving you everything we've got. There's a ton of stuff we've still got out there. I think a lot of teams have it that way. But Lovie's approach really isn't to go out there and show your hand right off the bat. He kind of wants to give you a taste here and there. But for the most part, we're in that 20-25 percent range.
LB Mason Foster
On how the cornerbacks are adjusting to the league's emphasis on illegal touching:** "I think we've got a lot of good corners – Alterraun [Verner], Mike [Jenkins], Johnthan [Banks]. They're really good at pressing at the line of scrimmage. They know the rule – they've been playing corner for a long time. So they'll get it done."On how the team is progressing through the preseason: "Playing a lot harder, being physical, just everything you want to see. The first game, it's always tough to tell – you're really not out there that long. Second game, we took the correct steps to get better. I'm excited for this upcoming week to get up there and really get a chance to play some football."On if defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's level of play surprises him anymore: "Not anymore. He does it every day. You see him do it at practice – he carries himself like that. So I would expect nothing less than him to go out there and make plays like that. I thought he was going to get another [sack]. He's just that type of player. Good luck to those guards: he's tough. He's making a lot of plays."On if he is anxious to game plan for the final two preseason games: "Playing linebacker, playing Mike, it's always a little bit awkward going into a game without really game planning that much, not watching too much on film. So it's going to be good to actually scheme a team and see what they're running, be able to sit down and watch film on them. You get into the groove of things of how you're going to do it during the year. It's going to be a good week."RB Doug MartinOn the performance of the offense on Saturday:"I think we took another step – a step up – with the last game. The line did a good job protecting the quarterback and creating lanes for us running backs. I felt like it was the key to the offense doing better than the first week [of the preseason]."
Behind-the-scenes photos from the Buccaneers' first home preseason game vs. the Dolphins.
On if he thinks he is where he needs to be as the season nears:
"There's always room for improvement. These live reps have definitely been useful to me. It's been since November that I've seen a lot of reps. So these preseason games have definitely helped me get back into the flow with game speed."On what he is looking forward to for the third preseason game:
"The starters will get three quarters in. I'm excited to play for that long and we'll see what happens. I'm pretty excited."On how balanced the offense will be between the run and the pass:
"We haven't played the game, so I'm not sure. But it's definitely a balanced offense from what I've seen and what I've played in so far. [Coach] Tedford is a great offensive coordinator."On how well the offense handled the new up tempo system:
"Oh yeah, we handled it pretty well. It's faster actually in practice; then when you get to the game, it's a little slower for us. We did a good job at executing the high tempo and you could tell that the defense was a little gassed."DT Clinton McDonald
On preparation this week for Buffalo on Saturday:**
"We're getting prepared for the game week. We're going through a normal game routine this week. Watching film, getting ready, prepare for our opponent like we do in a normal week. [We have] got to improve in areas that coach put emphasis on this week and actually apply it to the game."On if this third preseason game will foretell how the team will perform during the season:
"It really doesn't foretell, but it's really more like an actual game situation. Starters are going to play a lot more, you're going to get more of your rotations as far as who is going to be in there, mixing it up a bit, and gives you a feel of where you're at early on in the season."On what the defense needs to improve on:
"We definitely want to get more turnovers as a defense. It's good stopping the run – we put an emphasis on that. Rushing the quarterback – we always put emphasis on that. Getting takeaways and getting strips, things like that we always want to improve on. You can never be too good on that."On how the defense is progressing throughout the preseason:
"We got a while to go. Coach Smith is right: we're not there yet. We're working hard. Everybody is encouraging each other. And that's the thing about a great defense: it's not just one person making a lot of plays; it's a lot of guys' collective efforts making a lot of great plays that allow the defense to be a great defense."