TAMPA — It's Week 2 of the preseason schedule, and the Bucs feel good about much of what they saw in last week's opener.But they are far from a finished product. Here, then, are five Bucs to watch against the Titans Friday night.
WR Vincent Jackson
Yes, the receiver played last week against the Dolphins. But he was easy to miss because he played just one series and wasn't thrown to. Should you be concerned? Hardly. But there is something to be said for Josh Freeman hooking up with Jackson when the bullets are flying. They have been quite the duo during camp, Freeman taking advantage of Jackson's ability to exploit individual matchups with his 6-foot-5 frame. But connecting on game day will only solidify what Freeman and Jackson have established in practice.
WR Preston Parker
Parker is still a valuable member of the receiving corps. And he had an impressive offseason. Still, his preseason couldn't have started worse when he muffed a punt committed a personal foul last week. The penalty, in particular, drew the ire of coach Greg Schiano. Schiano often has lamented the messy and undisciplined play that led to the 10 straight losses in 2011. Parker fumbled eight times in 2011, losing three. Rookie running back Michael Smith, who ripped off a 74-yard punt return against the Dolphins, and receiver Tiquan Underwood are being considered to return punts, meaning Parker has competition.
SS Mark Barron
No, you're not mistaken. Barron was, indeed, on this list last week. But he sat as a precaution because of a toe injury. There are high hopes for the seventh overall pick in April, but he hasn't had the instant impact in practices. That's, in part, because of his injury. But it's also because in the new scheme, the strong safety often plays near the line of scrimmage and, thus, is not involved in pass plays downfield. Not until Barron plays in live action, where he's able to tackle ball carriers all the way to the ground (as opposed to practice, where he can't) will he show his value.
TE Dallas Clark
Clark's reason for being on the list is the same as Barron's. He, too, was held out last week as a precaution. You should not expect the veteran to play long given he's 33 and coming off two injury-filled seasons. But given Clark and Josh Freeman are still developing chemistry, they could benefit from some time on the field together. Clark has been a significant part of the passing game during practice. We'll see if that's the case Friday night.
RB Mossis Madu
There has been much talk about the offensive backfield this preseason, especially the brewing battle to start between veteran LeGarrette Blount and rookie Doug Martin. Beyond them, rookie Michael Smith has created some buzz with his speed. The guy you haven't heard much about is Madu, an undrafted second-year prospect from Oklahoma. Whether or not he makes the team might depend on how many running backs the Bucs keep. If they go with three, preseason games could determine the odd man out. Madu rushed for 6 yards on five carries last week.