In addition to being the first game of the 2016 regular season, the Buccaneers' game against Atlanta on Sunday holds extra significance for Head Coach Dirk Koetter and Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith. Koetter and Smith spent several years together on the Falcons' staff, leading the team to a division title and the NFC Championship game in 2012.
Sunday's game will be Koetter's first as an NFL Head Coach and Smith's first since leaving the Falcons in 2014. But since both coaches left Atlanta in 2014, a lot has changed.
Pictures of the Buccaneers during the 2016 preseason games.
"Obviously for me and Mike, we're both two years removed so there's less and less guys that they've kept," Koetter said in a press conference on Monday. "There's some guys that are the same, but I think my emotional time with that is passed. We have to look at this as a football team. This is a divisional game on the road to open the season, so huge game and the league wants it that way.
"You've got these divisional games and everyone knows that they count double, especially on the road. So you'll have to ask Mike, his was a different situation because he was a head coach and had a great run there, longer than I did and he drafted some of those guys, so it might be different for him. For me, I'm just worried about what our team does."
The Buccaneers' 53-Man roster.
While some players are new, many are the same. Koetter, who got his start in coaching as a quarterbacks coach and played quarterback himself, is more than familiar with Matt Ryan. He's also spent time drawing up plays for Juilo Jones, who has established himself as one of the best wide receivers in the league. It will be a challenge to slow his former players down, but Koetter is excited for the challenge.
"Well I think they really have a big three right now," Koetter said, "in Matt and Julio and then the tailback [Devonta Freeman]. They have three really, really fine football players – 'game wreckers' as we like to call them - on offense. What they do in their running game fits him a lot and then Julio's a threat to score from anywhere on the field at anytime and obviously I'm very fond of Matt Ryan as a quarterback. So those three guys will be the guys we need to stop."