Buccaneers vs. Dolphins preseason 2013: Six things to watch when Tampa Bay is on defense


What we'll be watching for on defense tonight, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Miami Dolphins.

Da'Quan Bowers

Da'Quan Bowers has been skewered the past weeks. Greg Schiano questioned his effort (implicitly), his starting position was taken by Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and he was playing with the second team for most of the past two preseason games.

But Bowers played well in the last preseason games, even though the experiment of him playing three-technique appears to be a failure. Will that lead to more snaps? And will he be able to create some pressure on those snaps he does get? He looked fine last week, but can he keep that up? And can he outperform Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, who hasn't done that much to earn the starting left end spot, either?

Adrian Clayborn

The next player to keep an eye on plays on the other side, and hasn't had many preseason snaps himself. Clayborn's returning from a knee injury, and he didn't do much as a pass rusher with limited options last week. Having to run a stunt every other play certainly didn't  help, though.

But the Buccaneers will need Clayborn to provide consistent pressure if their pass defense is to work this season. Clayborn struggled in the three games before he was lost for the season last year, but was pretty decent as a rookie. Can he get back to that form?

Jonathan Casillas vs Dekoda Watson

One of the very few position battles in the starting lineup left, although the winner won't play more than about 50% of the snaps on the season, if that. Both players are likely to have a role on defense, with Watson's pass-rushing skills (?) giving him a heads up in some blitz packages.

But Casillas has been pushing for playing time, and has looked with the time he has received. I would expect both players to get some time with the first-team defense, and it will be interesting to see who performs better. And, of course, how each player is used -- which player will show up as a blitzer, or in coverage?

William Gholston

The fourth-round pick hasn't really stood out so far, although he was fairly raw coming out of college. He's looked like a decent run defender and largely useless as a pass rusher, which makes some sense. Can he carve out a role for himself, or are we looking at a season on the inactive list for Gholston? He'll have to show up either in run defense or as a pass rusher (possibly as a defensive tackle) to get significant playing time this season.

Rashaan Melvin

Melvin has looked okay through two games and is almost guaranteed to make the roster. But I'd like to see him continue to develop -- he has the physical tools to be quite impressive down the line. And he could be useful in some dime packages, this year. Pay special attention to how he does pressing receivers, and playing man coverage in general.

Steven Means (and maybe Aaron Morgan)

The Buccaneers could use a third-down edge rusher this year, and they have yet to find one. Aaron Morgan would be a good bet, as he looked good as a speed rusher late last year. Unfortunately, he has missed all of preseason with an unknown injury. He could miss this game, as well -- we don't know yet.

The next best bet? Fifth-rounder Steven Means. He has the speed to threaten the edge and has the leverage to win some power rushes, too, but he's very raw and needs to improve quickly. He needs to learn how to use his hands, get a little stronger in the upper body and generally develop a pass rushing repertoire. If he can show some glimpses of those developments tonight, he could be a good bet to get some significant snaps this year.

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