Preseason games are a special kind of thing. They don't revolve around whether the team wins or loses: that's largely irrelevant. Instead, they're about evaluating specific players with an eye to determining the best composition of the eventual 53-man roster, and to determining which players can execute which roles best. In short: they're about position battles.
So our preseason previews are not going to be about where the Bucs could win or lose this game, which matchups will be key, which weaknesses they could exploit. Instead, we're going to pick a few players to watch throughout the game with all three units: the first, second and third team, on both sides of the ball. To determine which players fit where, we're just going to go by the team's own depth chart. If you can't identify a player on the field, check out the team's roster.
One key to evaluating players like this is to watch them, and not the result of the play. If you're watching the quarterback and the receiver makes a terrific catch, was that a good throw? If an opponent gets a sack, did that happen because of a blown block, because the quarterback held on to the ball to long, because of a communication error? Was this mistake a physical limitation, a mental error, something that can be fixed or not? This can be very difficult, but it's how teams look at these things.
Players to watch when the starters take the field
QB Josh McCown (#12)
Quarterbacks are important. McCown isn't going to take the field for a very long time and we won't get a great idea of the team's offense, but we can probably judge how he handles pressure, how comfortable he is executing the offense, how quickly he goes through his reads and how accurate he throws the ball.
LG Oniel Cousins (#75)
Oh hi there person who was absolutely disastrous as a starter last year. Can you be not disastrous this year? Watch out for that!
WR Chris Owusu (#80)
I really like Chris Owusu's skill set and he's been pretty good in training camp, but the fourth-year receiver has consistently struggled to translate his skills to the field, possibly because of a history of concussions. Can he play fast, with no communication errors?
LDE Adrian Clayborn (#94)
Clayborn's been 'demoted' to left defensive end, but he's still a starter. The key here will be whether he can still play stout on the left side of the defensive line and whether he can actually beat an offensive tackle in pass rush. Just an offensive tackle, once, would be good enough.
Players to watch with the second team
WR Mike Evans (#13)
You probably won't miss him and there's a solid chance he just suits up with the first team anyway, but there are a few things to watch: how sharp is he in his cuts, how well does he high-point the ball, and how does his speed look compared to NFL cornerbacks.
RG Patrick Omameh (#66) & LG Kadeem Edwards (#71)
Both of these players have seen quite a bit of time with the first-team as offensive guards, but they're listed with the second team on the depth chart. Just look at how they do overall, with pass-blocking being slightly more important than run-blocking.
CB Johnthan Banks (#27)
Yes, Banks is listed with the second team. I doubt he stays there, but it'll be interesting to see how he translates to this new scheme. I think he'll do fine, but look at his fluidity responding to routes, and his break on the ball. The latter is especially important to Lovie Smith.
DT/DE Da'Quan Bowers (#91)
Is this the year he finally translates his significant skills to production? I doubt it, but Lovie Smith's been reasonably positive on Bowers. He'll play defensive tackle and probably defensive end as well, so keep an eye for any flashes at either position.
Players to watch with the third team
WR Tommy Streeter (#85)
Big, tall, fast, and dominant in training camp. What's not to like? Well, the fact that he's now spent two years on practice squads, for one. But maybe he's put it all together and he can be productive. His hands and his ability to use his big body to win down the field will be key for him.
WR Robert Herron (#14)
Herron has speed, but he's struggled to catch the ball both as a receiver and as a returner in training camp. If he can't catch the ball, he'll have a tough time making the roster.
DE Chaz Sutton (#56)
A rookie pass-rusher who's gotten some positive press, Sutton has a long way to go to make the roster -- but that doesn't mean he can't do it. Look out for him as a pass-rusher and special teams player, which is where he'll have to make this roster.
LB Nate Askew (#53)
We haven't heard much of him in training camp, but he has a chance to make the roster and stand out as a special teamer. He's a similar athlete to Lavonte David, but has a long way to go to match his skills, having only been converted to linebacker late in his college career.