Which players should you watch in tonight's preseason game between the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers? It's the second preseason game, and that usually means a little increased playing time for the starters. Who has to shine tonight?
The seventh overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft debuts tonight, after missing last week's game with a toe injury. The Bucs drafted Barron to be a physical, in-the-box safety who can stop the run, but still run in coverage. Barron's presence should be felt in the box, but the most interesting aspect will be his performance in coverage. Can he hang with tight ends and how will he do when asked to play deep coverage? Watch for the matchup with Titans tight end Jared Cook, which should be particularly interesting.
QB Josh Freeman
We saw Freeman for all of one drive last week, and he did well - he looked poised, his footwork was clean and he threw the ball accurately. The question is, can he continue to look good? How is his decision making? What happens when he inevitably feels some pressure? Freeman has a lot to prove this year, and this week's game should give us another glimpse of the future for the team's franchise QB.
Dotson gets the start at left tackle for the second consecutive week, taking over for the injured Donald Penn. He's not going up against distinguished pass rushers, but the Titans do have a decent run defense. Dotson should be able to demonstrate some run-blocking ability as well as the agility needed to be a quality pass blocker. If he continues to do well in preseason, he may just push Jeremy Trueblood for the starting job at right tackle.
It's not clear if Dallas Clark will play this week: he was purposefully held out of last week's game. If he does, don't look for his blocking - it won't look good. But do look for his ability to gain separation in the passing game: how fast is he, can he still beat a linebacker, and can he catch the ball cleanly? Clark has looked terrible the past two years, so he needs to prove he's up to the task.
If Stocker gets the start instead of Clark, pay attention to his run-blocking. He looked good in that role last week, and if he continues to display the ability to push linebackers and defensive linemen back he should earn the 'starting' job at tight end - which means he gets all the reps on first and second down, because he run block.
Clayborn wasn't very visible last week, despite a reportedly great showing in training camp. Of course, he was up against one of the best offensive tackles in the business in the form of Jake Long. This week he has another tough assignment in Michael Roos. Can Clayborn display his violent edge rush this week? If somehow the defensive end has a sophomore slump, the Bucs' pass rush will suffer greatly.