By Evan Winkofsky
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will kickoff their 2014 NFL campaign versus the Carolina Panthers in just six days.
As the season draws near major questions, from fans and pundits alike, are still left unanswered. Will guard Logan Mankins solidify an under performing offensive line? Just how dominant can the defense be under Head Coach Lovie Smith's Tampa Two scheme? To name a few.
The only concern that players answered with unquestioned certainty was the expectations within the organization.
"The possibilities are endless on defense," said corner back Alterraun Verner. "Why not top 5? I don't like to put statistical numbers on it but when teams look at us on film they're going to be worried about us."
The season begins against the reigning divisional champions but after an off season that saw key parts such as wide receiver Steve Smith and corner back Captain Munnerlyn jettisoned, the Panthers may replace the Bucs in the bottom of the divisional rankings.
"We want to go undefeated at home. You want to go undefeated against divisional opponents. It's a goal for us and we are going to put in the necessary work to get it done," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
Quarterback Cam Newton presents a difficult set of circumstances for a Buccaneers first team defense that has only spent one quarter on the field together as a group. But week 1 is less about what the Panthers can do and more about what the Buccaneers can be.
"Potential is nothing. You could say anybody has potential to do something. It's about getting it done," said McCoy. "Defense is going to be huge this year. We can definitely get it done."
This game is unique because it's not just opening day but it's a game against a divisional rival.
"Everyone's excited not only ourselves but the fans," said rookie tight end Austin Seferian Jenkins. "But it's just any other week and you have to attack it like any other week."
As practice resumed Monday Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy, Javorskie Lane, Rashaan Melvin, William Gholston, Da'Quan Bowers and Bradley McDougald did not participate.
Despite all the questions that surround this team kicker Patrick Murray is confident in the Bucs' chances against Carolina. "It's just a normal game week for me. I'm going to approach it just like I approached preseason 1 through 4. We are going to beat Carolina and I'm excited to be a part of it."
Photo Courtesy Of Jay Recher