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Browns vs. Buccaneers: Five things to watch for Tampa Bay on defense

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The first-team pass rush

The Bucs need a pass rush, and they finally seemed to get one last week when they notched four sacks in the game, along with a few more hurries. Those sacks all happened because of one reason: Gerald McCoy wreaking havoc, and other defensive linemen taking advantage of the holes that created. That seems to be the formula the Bucs are going to adhere to this year, because none of their edge rusher are capable of consistently creating pressure on their own. But it's a risky formula: it's difficult to get the timing right on pass-rush games and bltizes, which is why Tampa Bay hasn't been good at them since Monte Kiffin left.

The slot cornerback position

Leonard Johnson got most of the snaps at slot cornerback last week, but he's sidelined with an ankle injury that could take quite some time to heal. That means Sterling Moore and Isaiah Frey are going to get some extended time at that position, and the winner is likely to be the starting nickel cornerback at least at the start of the season -- and probably beyond that, because Leonard Johnson just isn't very good.

Danny Lansanah vs. Bruce Carter

The Bucs are spending $4 million on Bruce Carter this season, and they really don't want to spend that money on a backup. That's why he's getting an extended look at strongside linebacker, splitting reps with Danny Lansanah in last week's game. Lansanah keeps making plays, while Carter keeps being nondescript. That's going to lend Carter on the bench, with a likely wasted $4 million salary. A strong performance tonight could change all that.

The backup cornerbacks

The Bucs don't have a lot of depth at cornerback, and no one's really stood out this preseason either. Alterraun Verner, Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins are basically guaranteed roster spot, while Sterling Moore and Isaiah Frey should get the look in the slot now that Leonard Johnson's sidelined with an injury. But the team has more talent at cornerback most notably in the form of Al-Hajj Shabazz and Jude Adjei-Barimah, while last year's holdover Brandon Dixon has the talent to make an impact too. Look for whoever of those three stands out tonight to earn himself an opening day roster spot.

Chris Conte, Chris Hackett, Kimario McFadden and Keith Tandy

Given the way the preseason's planned out, you'd think that Bradley McDougald, Major Wright and D.J. Swearinger are likely to make the roster at safety. That leaves one or at most two more spots for the rest of the group, and it's anybody's game at this point. None of those three players have stood out. Chris Conte has the excuse of having missed both games with an injury, while Tandy missed one because of a tragic death in the family. Someone's going to have step up to earn that roster spot and give the team some depth -- and if none of them do, Conte's likely to earn it by default.