The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Cleveland Browns on Friday night, in a game that will be nationally televised. This is the biggest game of preseason, the one where the starters on both sides of the ball are likely to play an entire half and the team is basically preparing for the start of the regular season more than just evaluating players.
So let's discuss a few of the players and positions we should look out for on Friday night.
The Buccaneers' quarterback has been inconsistent this preseason, which is not out of line with his performance last year. His mechanics and footwork have looked a little better, and he's looked a little sharper overall, but he hasn't displayed big improvements -- and those improvements are likely needed if the Bucs want to compete for a playoff spot this year. This would be a good game to display those improvements -- he'll have about one half to do it. Preferably, he'll do so without the slow starts that have become characteristic of the Bucs offense over the years.
Well, this is a thing now. Aguayo has missed three kicks this preseason, which is not good. He hasn't stood out on kickoffs, which isn't good either. And then he bombed in practice this week, which drew a lot of publicity. It's not time to push the panic button yet, but if Aguayo doesn't get better the Bucs are going to have to contemplate cutting him loose at some point this season. Now that'd be one massive indictment of the Bucs' decision to draft him. And also of the whole concept of drafting kickers before the fourth round, for those who weren't already convinced that was a bad idea.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Cameron Brate
The Bucs' tight end saga has been one of the big stories this offseason, and we should get something resembling a final resolution in the team's third preseason game. Seferian-Jenkins has worked his way up from the second team to sharing first-team reps with Brate, and a good performance in this game could see him surging ahead in this competition -- especially if Brate once again fails to catch any of his targets.
Evan Smith and Kevin Pamphile
The Bucs are having some injury issues along the offensive line. Kevin Pamphile has been filling in at left guard for J.R. Sweezy, who's expected to miss the first five games of the regular season. Evan Smith was playing right guard in Ali Marpet's place, who was spotted with a boot on his -- likely sprained -- ankle in yesterday's practice. Every team will suffer some offensive injuries in any given season, so this is nothing to be too worried about, but the backups do have to hold up well.
Peyton Barber and Mike James
It's not all starters, though it mostly is, really. But a few players can still earn roster spots, and one spot where that could happen is at running back. Both James and Barber have looked good this preseason, and they're both similar players: bigger, steady running backs who can be all-around workmanlike runners and receivers. The Bucs could opt to keep both of them, but if they're in need of a roster spot, keeping four running backs in total would be a bit much -- especially given the fact that the Bucs barely gave any playing time to any backs not named Doug Martin or Charles Sims last year.
Russell Shepard, Donteea Dye, and Kenny Bell
Kenny Bell is increasingly likely to lose his roster spot, as he's now a third-string receiver who's lost most of the special teams playing time he was getting before. But for that to happen, someone else is going to have to stand out. My money is on Russell Shepard, who had a very good first preseason game, and Donteea Dye. But Bernard Reedy might have a shot by virtue of his speed, and Jonathan Krause, Andre Davis and Evan Spencer can't be counted out entirely either.