Undeterred by a pair of preseason loses to begin his tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coach Lovie Smith saw progress in Saturday's loss to the Miami Dolphins and views the upcoming third game at the Buffalo Bills this Saturday as the most important time of the preseason.
For the first time, Smith's coaching staff will game plan for the Bills and attempt to mimic what a routine week during the regular season will be like.
"It's critical to do that, once the regular season comes you want guys to know what they're doing every second and just a routine instead of wondering what this is like," Smith said. "It's not like we're going to run all of the defenses, offenses and special teams plays we're going to run during the season, but just how we group things when - a regular week - we install all of our different game plans, whether it be red zone, two-minute drill or whatever.
"That's always good for the players to see when we lift, when you have to get your lifts in through the week, it's a little bit different training and working out in the offseason as opposed to the regular season. There are a lot things for us to go over."
The Bucs spent time Monday going over film from the Dolphins game before turning their attention to the Bills. The starters are expected to play into the second half in Buffalo.
"It's been called the 'dress rehearsal,' the real dress rehearsal for the season," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said of the third preseason game. "Starters get anywhere from two and a half to three quarters of play time, and then you've got the younger guys coming in. Just to see where your guys are at, how much have they progressed, how much has our team collectively progressed as a unit, and move forward from preseason (games) one and two."
The first-team offense showed progress against the Dolphins, including some no-huddle looks. Smith said the intent is to keep the defense off-balance more than it is to score quickly, which just puts your own defense back on the field.
"We'll no-huddle a little bit, if you just say you should get more plays if you're snapping it fairly quick, but it's about positive plays for me, keeping the chains moving," Smith said. "I still believe in controlling the clock though."
One of the positives to come out of the Dolphins game was the improved play of the offensive line, including in no-huddle formations.
"It's faster actually in practice; then when you get to the game, it's a little slower for us," running back Doug Martin said of the up-tempo looks. "We did a good job at executing the high tempo and you could tell that the defense was a little gassed."
--RB Mike James (shoulder) was injured against Miami, and Smith did not provide a timetable for his return.
--LB Brandon Magee will be out "a while," according to Smith, who did not provide further details.