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Mike Smith spoke to the media before Wednesday’s practice

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Peyton and Brees propose a tough challenge for week one.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Training Camp Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the middle of preparing for their week one matchup against the New Orleans Saints. The team will have three final practices before heading to the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Last year, the defense struggled mightily in their lone trip to New Orleans. They weren’t the only team that struggled to contain the Saints offense last year and they still have Drew Brees, who historically has had great success against the Buccaneers. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith spoke to the media today before practice and gave praise to the signal caller.

“Definitely a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, he knows how to run the offense with Sean Payton,” Smith said. “He moves the ball around and gets it in different guys hands. You watch the tape and you still see a great player.”

The Buccaneers defense is set to look much different than the one they trotted out in week 17 last season against the Saints. You potentially have five new starters across the board, including former pro-bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre Paul is excited to get his first official game going as a Buccaneer, and Mike Smith has been impressed with Pierre Paul throughout camp.

“Jason has a real drive to be a great football player and a drive to understand what we are doing on defense and that’s been most impressive,” Smith said. “The guy doesn’t want to come off the field. When he is healthy he plays 90% of the snaps and that is unheard of in the NFL.”

It’ll take more than JPP to turn around Tampa Bay’s defense. Another key player in which the Buccaneers need to produce is Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves, is coming off a tough year, but he seems to have grown up a lot during the off season. Maybe the team drafting two corners woke him up, but Smith is noticing a big change is Vernon this year.

“Vernon is very comfortable starting the season off playing both inside and outside. He is going to be counted on to be a leader and I think he really worked hard during the off season in terms of changing his body,” Smith said. “He works hard in the classroom and I think he has a very good understanding. We are expecting him to have a much better season than he had last year,and I know he is as well.”

Tampa Bay did split the two meetings with New Orleans last season, but their defensive performance in New Orleans was pretty disgraceful. The defense did perform much better in week 17, and Mike Smith gave some insight on why in today’s press conference..

“The difference in the two games was that we had a stretch in the game in New Orleans where for about 15 or 20 plays was just horrid football defensively,” Smith said. “We really did some nice things here at home, everytime you play the Saints it’s going to be a different game and have a different dynamic. It’s always fun to prepare to play against a Sean Payton coached team.”

Week one match ups are always fun, but the Buccaneers seem to have a little bit more energy to them this year then in years past. We will find out Sunday if that is the case.