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Buccaneers vs. Ravens Preview: Players on defense to watch

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have plenty of intriguing talent, but very little production on defense. Can anyone stand out?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens square off tomorrow. So which players should you watch? Who can grab a starting role? Who can hang on to his roster spot by virtue of his special teams play? Where will the pass rush and coverage come from?

We looked at offense earlier today, so now it's time for defense!


Who lines up at cornerback?

Darrelle Revis won't play against the Baltimore Ravens, but who will? Leonard Johnson and Johnthan Banks seem to have their mitts on the starting job, but they could do with some extended playing time, too. Danny Gorrer and Michael Adams may have a shot at the nickel job -- or does Rashaan Melvin grab that? We really don't know. And then there's the chance that we'll see a lot of big nickel with three safeties instead of three cornerbacks.

How do Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers look?

Clayborn and Bowers will have to lead the Bucs' pass rush, though it's not entirely clear whether Clayborn will suit up tomorrow or how much he'll play. Bowers will be especially interesting to walk. His job is getting expanded this year, after he played in a rotation last season. Can he take the next step and be the quality pass rusher the Bucs think he can be?

Akeem Spence or Gary Gibson

Gibson has been struggling with an injury throughout training camp, so it's not certain he'll play tomorrow. If he doesn't, rookie Akeem Spence is likely to start at nose tackle. He seems like a natural fit for the titled nose tackle position -- but he'll have to start showing up early and often to really take over.

Second Team

Who lines up at three-technique?

Gerald McCoy is a top-notch starter, but who's his backup? The official depth chart says it's Derek Landri, but those things are about as reliable American Airlines. William Gholston may get a shot here, or Lazarius Levingston, the best name on the roster, might grab his chance. Or will the Bucs try Da'Quan Bowers or Daniel Te'o-Nesheim on the inside?

Cornerbacks, cornerbacks, cornerbacks

This is really where undrafted rookie Rashaan Melvin could show up, but all of the names are worth keeping an eye on. The Bucs just need depth at cornerback, and anyone who lines up on second team should stand out if they want to make the roster. Whether it's Danny Gorrer, Rashaan Melvin, Johnthan Banks, Michael Adams or someone else -- a cornerback has to make a play.

Third Team

Special teams demons

For many defenders, especially linebackers and safeties, this is the key to making the roster. Can Jacob Cutrera hang on to his job with a quality special teams performance? Will Keith Tandy demand a place on the active roster? Can Najee Goode show anything after spending most of last year inactive? Whoever does well is likely to make the roster.

More defensive backs

I'm going to keep hammering this point because it's important, but also because we don't really know who's going to come out on top here. Even the dreaded Myron Lewis has a chance if he can play well, which seems unlikely -- but stranger things have happened. Branden Smith's a tenacious rookie who had a similar reputation to Leonard Johnson last year. Sean Baker had three turnovers in his final preseason game last year -- can he stand out again?

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