The obvious question: How are you feeling about Jameis Winston so far? Is he the franchise QB the Bucs have been looking for?
Jameis Winston has looked basically like the player the Bucs thought they'd drafted: an accurate pocket passer with a good feel for the game, who can be a little erratic and overly aggressive at times. The fact that he's been under pressure a lot this preseason kind of skewed his play, but overall I think it was positive. He threw two bad interceptions, but that's to be expected of a rookie who's not afraid to make some tough throws. He balanced those picks with some big throws and two touchdown runs, and he looked good managing the offense and distributing the ball. There will be some rookie struggles and it's tough to say this early whether he'll definitely be a good quarterback, but he's shown all of the traits that got him drafted number one overall and there's plenty of reason for optimism.
Doug Martin is one of the more polarizing players in fantasy football. Will his play in 2015 be closer to his play in 2012 or his play in the last 2 seasons?
I'd say his play will be closer to 2012 than to the past two seasons. Martin wasn't helped by poor offensive line play and injuries the past two years, but a large part of the decline was on him: his vision seemed to have declined and he was no longer capable of making players miss in space. Those ailments have disappeared this offseason, as he looked explosive and consistent as a runner in the preseason. Most impressively, his lateral agility appears to be back and he was consistently making people miss, as well as squeezing through small holes in the blocking that he'd get stuck in the past two years. He may not make it all the way back to his rookie form, but the Martin I saw this preseason can definitely be the foundation of a strong running game.
Give us a player that could have a big impact on this game that we have never heard.
Kwon Alexander is a name you're probably not too familiar with, but he's going to be crucial for the Bucs in this game. Alexander's a rookie fourth-round pick out of LSU who was so impressive that he won the starting middle linebacker over free agent addition Bruce Carter, who's now being paid $4 million to sit on the bench instead. Alexander was a dynamo in the preseason, showing off consistent sideline-to-sideline speed and looking pretty solid in coverage while he's at it. Also, he did this.
The middle linebacker is crucial in Lovie Smith's scheme, and he has a lot of responsibilities both in the running game and in the passing game. His preseason performance is encouraging, but he's still just a rookie, and there was some evidence of poor run fits among his standout plays. If Alexander can live up to his considerable promise and consistently play well, he can have massive impact on the defense -- but if he struggles to adjust, as rookies do, he could be the weak spot on this defense too.
Ken Whisenhunt and Lovie Smith were both on a list yesterday of odds to get fired first in 2015. How secure is Lovie Smith in Tampa? Do you think there is a minimum win number he needs to hit to keep his job?
I don't think there's a minimum number of wins exactly, though obviously another 2-14 season would probably guarantee his firing. Rather, the Bucs will be looking for consistent improvement in those areas Lovie Smith actually controls. If Jameis Winston struggles and that's the main reason the team loses games, I think Smith could survive with as poor a performance as 4-12. On the other hand, if Jameis Winston looks stellar but the defense completely collapses, we could see Lovie Smith losing his job with as many as eight wins. Overall, though, I think Lovie Smith's job is relatively safe. The Glazers like him, and so do the media and fans. Barring a catastrophe, he should be back in 2016.
Write the headline in Monday morning's Tennessean.
"False start for rookie QBs in defense-dominated Titans loss"