It's become an annual thing for the Buccaneers during the preseason in recent years. They pack up camp and head to unfamiliar territory for joint practices with another NFL club. This year, the team will head to Nashville, where the Tennessee Titans will play host before the two teams square off on Saturday for Tampa Bay's second preseason game.
It requires a lot to get an entire team to another state. Not only is it because of the inflated roster of 91 men, but there are training camp assistants, extra equipment and of course, a drove of beat reporters that will make the trek. Despite its logistical challenges, both coaches and players see a lot pros in practicing against another team while the roster is being evaluated in advance of the regular season.
"Absolutely, absolutely," Head Coach Dirk Koetter said when asked if he sees value in joint practices with another team. "It's the same thing – these guys say they don't want to hit each other, and it's great work to go practice against someone where I have a script of what we're going to run but I don't know what they're going to run. And same for the players – you're seeing different offenses, different defenses and it's always a challenge for the players and the coaches."
The first preseason game against the Dolphins was a welcomed break for the Bucs, who after two weeks of practices going up against their teammates needed a little variety in their preparation. Not only can you not go full speed against the opponent in those situations because you don't want to risk injury to your teammate, progression can get stagnant once you learn your opponents' tendencies. If you are consistently going up against the same guy, you know what he's going to do in almost every situation.
"I like it," tight end/utility player Alan Cross said. "It's a good thing for rookies. It gives a team another opportunity to see them. We did it Jacksonville and Cleveland my rookie year. Last year we did Jacksonville. It's always good to go against other guys, and not bing and bang on your own guys. That's for sure."
Because there is a game involved, there will be the added challenge of trying to turn around a partial game plan in just a day or so after practices. Preseason games typically don't involve a lot of game planning for the coaches. They are meant more to evaluate a team's roster rather than to size up an opponent who the team likely won't face in the regular season. Going up against a new opponent, especially one you'll be playing a game against presents challenges.
"Typically there would be about the same amount of game-planning, not that much," Koetter said. "But the fact that we're practicing against them, that changes things a little bit because you practice against somebody for two days, then have that one day off and then you play them. You're not going to show them the same exact stuff you just showed them in practice. In the NFL, if you show good NFL players something one time, the next time you come out in that look they'll be calling it out. So we have to game-plan a little bit more when we practice against them."
The team will travel to Nashville on Tuesday of this week, with practices on Wednesday and Thursday before an off day on Friday. The Bucs will then take on the Titans on Saturday in Nashville for their second preseason game and last before they play their final two at home.
View photos from the Buccaneers' 2018 Training Camp practice Saturday at One Buccaneer Place.