TAMPA, Fla. – Lovie Smith believes NFL teams typically show significant improvement from the first to the second preseason game.
The coach and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers certainly are counting on that, especially on offense, when they face the Miami Dolphins on Saturday night.
Little went right for Josh McCown and the remainder of the first team offense during last week's 16-10 at Jacksonville. The 35-year-old quarterback had an interception returned for a touchdown, lost one of his two fumbles, was sacked twice and also took a hard hit at the end of a scramble.
To put it mildly, the Bucs look bad. But Smith isn't concerned.
"This is how I look at it. It's the first preseason game," said Smith, who replaced Greg Schiano after last season, inheriting a team that went 4-12 in 2013.
"Like I look at practices, you want to have a good one each day, but it doesn't work out that way always. ... What you can't do after the first preseason game" is over-react," the coach added. "If we had scored 100 points, I would come in the same way. Don't look into it too much, good or bad. It was just a starting spot."
Smith expects his starters to play into the second quarter against the Dolphins, who also expect to play their regulars more than they did during a 16-10 loss at Atlanta.
Receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline are expected to get some playing time while Ryan Tannehill is running the offense. Brady Quinn likely will get some snaps in the race with Matt Moore for the No. 2 quarterback job.
Coach Joe Philbin hasn't determined if running back Knowshon Moreno will play.
"The first three practices of the week were really focused on our own improvement, our own football team. But, we've got our game plan in and guys are excited about playing," Philbin said. "They're a good football team. They played well the other night. Their defense looked extremely good and we're going to have to play well."
Jacksonville's starting offense produced little in five possessions against the Gerald McCoy-led Bucs defense. Still, the two-time Pro Bowl tackle said it's important to take another step forward against Miami as Tampa Bay tries to win back fan support that's eroded during a stretch in which the team has missed the playoffs six consecutive seasons.
"First outing at home. New regime, new uniforms, new logo, new everything," McCoy said.
"All we have of what people think about the Bucs is from game one (of the preseason). So we know we have to come out better, we have to come out and start a lot faster, and give the hometown fans something to hope for," the fifth-year pro added. "All people want is hope. You don't have to win the Super Bowl on Saturday. People just want hope, and we want to be able to give them that."
Philbin expects the Dolphins to look better, too.
"We want to see our team tackle better and we want to get off the field better on third down," the coach said. "Offensively, it's really consistency. Again, our first group only had one drive and it was a good drive. But they didn't play a ton of football. So we're going to get them on the field a little bit more and we're looking to see consistent production."
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